By BOB LABRIOLA Steelers.com "What they don't have is more spiritual than physical, but it has come to be the difference between success and failure in a league where the distribution of talent is more level than in any other professional team sport. Call it an identity, or a chemistry, but for this Steelers team at this time it's more about getting back to a specific style of play, because they will have no chance to contend for anything during the 2004 NFL season unless they manage their talent correctly." In the early months of 2004, that was how Steelers Digest viewed what the Pittsburgh Steelers were as they began the task of picking up the pieces of what had been a 6-10 season. Twenty-four months earlier, the Steelers had hosted the AFC Championship Game as their conference's No. 1 seed in the playoffs, but since then they had lost their way. Their offense had finished 31st in the NFL in rushing in 2003, and their defense had allowed 20 touchdown passes for the first time since 1999, which happened to be the last time they had been 6-10. These Steelers allowed more sacks than they recorded, more touchdowns than they scored, and they threw more interceptions than their defense had. Opponents completed a higher percentage of passes than they did, and they had a higher per carry average in the running game. The Steelers had lost their way. In the immediate aftermath of that 6-10 finish, the normal course of an NFL offseason afforded Coach Bill Cowher the opportunity to re-make his staff of assistants, and he took advantage. When the Buffalo Bills hired Mike Mularkey as their new coach, Cowher promoted tight ends coach Ken Whisenhunt to offensive coordinator and gave Russ Grimm more of a voice as the assistant head coach. Bruce Arians replaced Kenny Jackson as receivers coach, and when Tom Clements went to Buffalo with Mularkey, Mark Whipple was hired as the new quarterbacks coach. In his interview with Whisenhunt, the first question Cowher asked pertained to a philosophy about running the football. When Whisenhunt answered like the Joe Gibbs disciple he was, Cowher knew he had his man.
Jun 10, 2008 at 01:39 AM
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