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JOIHN STEIGERWALD: 0-4 preseason puts Steelers in trouble

on August 31, 2013 10:45 AM

Good NFL teams don’t often go 0-4 in the preseason.

In case you missed it, the Steelers finished their preseason with their fourth straight loss Thursday night. Dismissing the inability to win a game by saying that preseason records are meaningless might be at least bordering on whistling past the graveyard.

The last Steelers team to go 0-4 was in 2006, and the record was universally dismissed as meaningless because the Steelers had won the Super Bowl the previous season. That 2006 team, Bill Cowher’s last, went 8-8.

The 2003 team went 1-3 and had a 6-10 regular season. If you’d like to go back a little further, the 1994 and ’95 teams went 1-3, and both went on to play in the AFC championship game, with the 1995 team going to the Super Bowl.

So, it is possible to make the case that the record in exhibition games doesn’t always predict what’s to come in the regular season.

But, recent history says bad preseasons are followed by mediocre or bad regular seasons. And we’re talking about zero wins here. It’s only happened two previous times since 1965.

Yeah, the starters didn’t play, but it’s still your backups against the other guy’s backups, and you can’t feel good about your backups not being able to win a game because, over the course of a season, lots of backups become starters.

That 1965 team, after an 0-5 preseason, went 2-12. The 1987 team finished 8-7.

No really good or great Steelers team ever lost all its exhibition games.

• Finding a better running back than Ike Redman and Jonathan Dwyer was a priority in the preseason for the Steelers, and that didn’t happen. Losing second-round pick Le’Veon Bell, who had been handed the No. 1 job, didn’t help, and there’s no telling how many games he’ll miss with a foot injury.

Based on the four exhibition games, the best runner on the Steelers roster is LaRod Stephens-Howling, and it’s not close. He’s only 5-foot-7, 185 pounds, so he’ll never be considered as an every-down back, but, until Bell gets a chance to prove otherwise, Stephens-Howling is in a class by himself.

Felix Jones, who was the first-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 2008, and was picked up in a trade with the Eagles two weeks ago, showed really good flashes of mediocrity.

Dwyer seems to have picked up a reputation as a fumbler, but he only fumbled twice last season, and he is a better runner than Redman, who missed most of the preseason with injuries.

The Steelers really need Bell to get healthy in a hurry.

• The TV ratings for the Steelers-Panthers exhibition game Thursday night were almost three times higher than Pirates-Brewers.

• Reggie Dunn took a lot of heat for getting caught for a safety Thursday night after catching a punt inside the 5-yard line. Dunn is 5-10, 178 and undrafted and had little or no chance of making the Steelers.

So why wouldn’t he catch the punt? Everybody on the planet says winning the game is secondary to getting a good look at prospects, so, who cares about the safety? Shouldn’t coaches cut him some slack? He sure shouldn’t be cut based on that.

The NFL’s namby-pamby decision to move kickoffs up has made it tough on kick/punt returners trying to make an impression.

If the coaches were smart, they would tell the return guys not to make fair catches and to forget about touchbacks.

Dunn runs a 4.2 40, and he set an NCAA record with four kickoff returns for touchdowns last year at Utah. Fans are cheated when there’s no place in the game for a player like him.

• Now that the NFL has weaseled out of the concussion lawsuit that some people said might bankrupt the league, any chance we can go back to kicking from the 30?

• Johnny Football was suspended for half a game, and the national media are outraged. When will the national sports media get the clue that it’s the NCAA that should be put on permanent suspension?

• When will humans understand that infants and dogs can’t possibly enjoy a baseball game at PNC or any other park?

• Here’s another great argument for minor league football: 30 percent of the U.S. population have college degrees. Twenty percent of jobs require one.

• Next Sunday, the Pirates and Steelers will be going head to head again. The Titans will be in Pittsburgh for the season opener, and the Pirates will be in St. Louis for a game with the Cardinals that could determine who is in first place in the NL Central. My ratings prediction: Steelers 40-Pirates 10.

On Sept. 29, the Pirates will be in Cincinnati for a game that could have huge ramifications. The Steelers will be playing Minnesota in London. Prediction: Steelers 40-Pirates 10.

Keep in mind that NFL regular-season games have been known to get better national ratings than a World Series game.

• Miley Cyrus has just about eliminated herself from any future Super Bowl halftime shows. She is a wardrobe malfunction.

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