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Gorman: Steelers fall short of standard

| Sunday, Dec. 20, 2009

In a locker room with too many spokesmen but too few leaders, defensive backs Ryan Clark and Ike Taylor vented this week on the state of the Steelers and the consistency of the media that covers them.

"I'm not going to say it's unfair," Clark said, "but it's just been wrong."

To justify that stance, Clark logged a ridiculous complaint by comparing the coverage in Pittsburgh to that in Philadelphia, where the fans once booed Santa Claus and the media is often just as merciless.

"You watch the Eagles, you watch the big plays given up, and I started checking other media outlets and you don't hear the things about them in their media that you hear about us," Clark said. "So, either we're held to higher standards, or the people that write about us are turds."

What a load of crap.

No question the Steelers are held to higher standards. At last check, the Eagles never have won a Super Bowl, let alone six. That comes as much from within the Steelers' organization as it does outside it. As Steelers coach Mike Tomlin says, the standard is the standard. The expectation of Super Bowl or bust is what has separated the Steelers from the rest of the NFL.

So, 6-7 isn't satisfactory, especially when your soft-serve schedule includes losses to Kansas City, Oakland and Cleveland — teams with a combined 9-30 record — in an 18-day span with the season on the line.

Taylor topped Clark in the absurd analogy department, not once but twice:

"We just don't understand how the national media don't bash us, but our local media do."

Unlike the Steelers, who seem to have a lot to say about their problems but no ability to offer solutions, there's a simple answer to that.

On a national scale, the Steelers are no longer relevant. Not when the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints were undefeated and on a collision course for the first Super Bowl between undefeated teams in NFL history when Clark and Taylor waged a world-is-against-us war of words.

"We feel like if y'all are going to write something, state facts, don't state opinions."

What Taylor doesn't get is that shaping public opinion is the media's job, which is why we pointed out last year the short-yardage shortcomings of the offensive line, that Ben Roethlisberger held the ball too long and took too many sacks, and that the secondary sometimes got scorched.

Even so, we'll stick to the facts.

The Steelers went 12-4 last season, winning six games by seven points or fewer and losing two by the same margin. Four victories — Cleveland, Baltimore, San Diego and Dallas — were decided by defensive turnovers.

Truth is, the Steelers easily could have been in this situation last year. They lost to Philadelphia, the New York Giants, Indianapolis and Tennessee in the regular season but didn't have to face any of them in the postseason. The Steelers also needed two of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history to beat the Arizona Cardinals, who had finished the regular season 9-7.

And that was with Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith both healthy.

This season, the Steelers have lost seven games by seven points or fewer and won another by a field goal. It's more of the same as last season: The secondary is getting scorched for fourth-quarter touchdowns. The patchwork line is so ineffective in short yardage that the Steelers went to the shotgun on a third-and-1 against the worst defense in the NFL. And Roethlisberger continues to hold onto the ball too long and still takes too many sacks.

The only difference is, the special teams have been a disaster.

There's a thin line between 8-8, which was the Steelers' record the year after their previous Super Bowl championship and, perhaps, the best they can expect from this season. One in which they have fallen short of the standard.

To say otherwise wouldn't be unfair.

It would just be wrong.

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