Power wrap up turbulent season
The players rebelled, threatened to strike and were fired.
From there, believe it or not, the Power's second season in the Arena Football League got worse, almost slipping from the region's consciousness while the team went 2 1⁄2 months between on-field victories.
Yet, coach Derek Stingley claims the team — which finished 4-13, excluding a forfeit win — ended the season with a new attitude and an optimistic outlook despite a 64-39 loss to the Jacksonville Sharks on Friday.
Awarded a contract for 2013 after replacing Chris Siegfried at midseason, Stingley said he is confident he can retain his best players and add enough free agents to a roster in desperate need of rebuilding.
“I am pretty sure I would get 100 percent (of the team's best players) who would say, ‘Yes, Coach, I want to come back and play for this team,' ” Stingley said.
After the Sharks game, defensive back Chris LeFlore said both sides will have options. The recruiting process will begin almost immediately.
“We would have to sign some big-name guys and keep some guys who played pretty well,” Stingley said.
He refused to pinpoint weak links, but the Power have few impact players. Only three rank in the top 10 in 21 AFL statistical categories:
• Wide receiver P.J. Berry, first in average all-purpose yards (196.5 per game).
• LeFlore, tied for fifth in passes defensed (27) and tied for seventh in interceptions (nine).
• Defensive back Bryan Williams, eighth in fumble recoveries (three).
Although the team was No. 1 in the league in total defense, allowing 245 yards per game, it was last in turnover differential (minus-17), partially a product of going through five quarterbacks before settling on Andrico Hines four games ago.
While the team struggled, attendance at Consol Energy Center fell 43.8 percent off last year's average of 9,197. The team's smallest crowd in 2011 (7,333) was more than the largest (7,094) this year.
“We made some mistakes,” co-owner Matt Shaner said. “Maybe we thought more people knew about the Pittsburgh Power than actually knew about them.”
Shaner said he plans to make greater use of Power co-owner and Steelers Hall of Famer Lynn Swann in next year's marketing efforts.
“He is one of the most popular people in Pittsburgh,” Shaner said. “I think it was a mistake not to market Lynn. It was a mistake on my part. He is certainly available and willing to do whatever he can.”
On the field, hard times started when players threatened to strike March 9 before the opener in Orlando, Fla., and Shaner fired every player two hours before kickoff. Most were welcomed back, but among the exceptions was quarterback Kyle Rowley, a labor leader who was perceived as a divisive player by management.
Yet, Shaner now admits, “Labor strife and the dismissal of Kyle Rowley made it more difficult for us this year.”
Siegfried counted on having Rowley run the offense, and without him the team lost 11 of its first 13 games. Rowley, an eight-year indoor football veteran, landed with the Spokane Shock and ranked fifth in the league in average passing yards (293.1) through 17 games.
The players claimed they weren't distracted by the early-season turmoil, but Stingley said the attitude improved in recent weeks.
“They changed the mentality,” he said. “They understand that winning football games is all about just effort.
“I have made them more accountable. But at the same time, I have given them some leeway to say, ‘Hey, if we do it this way, we can be more successful.'
“It wasn't like it was my way or no way. It's our way.”
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7997.