For much of a lost season, the Steelers looked surprised by the fact they were losing.
And for veteran safety Troy Polamalu, he hopes it was a wake-up call for the team, which can no longer roll out of bed and take a winning season for granted.
“I hope this is a humbling process for a lot of guys here,” Polamalu said, via Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Hopefully it will make us a better team in the future.”
Of course, one of the problems the Steelers had was the simple absence of Polamalu, who missed more than two months with injuries. He wasn’t the only old hand who spent a lot of time watching, either.
“It‘s amazing to me how much little things really matter, the personnel and the personality of the team, how much all that matters in camp and what you put in in the offseason,” Polamalu said, adding, “(It‘s) how you treat your teammates in the offseason, how you prepare them.”
That’s an obvious call for leadership, something the Steelers never lacked in the past.
“James Farrior was a great leader here for a long time. So was Hines [Ward], Jerome [Bettis]; so was Joey [Porter],” he said. “James was not Joey, and Hines was not Jerome, but they definitely led in their own ways. So I think when you look for a leader, there‘s no need to look for the same cast those guys are built out of. You just look for someone who will step up that someone respects, and some of that is really natural.”
“When I look at the personnel that you lose, and I say, ‘Can we actually win a Super Bowl without them? Could we win a Super Bowl without Hines? Could we win a Super Bowl without James Farrior?‘ I think it‘s obvious that we can. But it took us a while to adjust when we lost Jerome. So I think this is kind of that adjustment period.”
Of course, his being healthy and on the field would be a significant part of that. But watching James Harrison struggle this year (5.0 sacks in 12 games) is another sign that the Steelers need new players to step up, because they can no longer assume the old ones are going to get it done.