Golf: Are The Good Shots, Just Luck?

We have all had runs of good golf shots. When I hit a few good shots in a row, one of my favorite sayings is ” I don’t know where they come from, and I don’t know where they go. The reason I say this is because good shots seem to come out of nowhere. You can see this on the pro tour. I remember the 1987 Masters when Corey Pavin was in contention after 2 rounds but blew up in the 3rd round, being 10 over for the round, going into the 18th hole. For whatever reason CBS decided to show him playing the last hole of this horrific round. He hit a beautiful drive around the bend, then hit an iron about 5 feet from the pin and make the putt for a final birdie to shoot 81. These good shots can follow any type of pattern or length. They can be at the beginning of the round, the middle of the round or the end. Good shots may last from one good shot, to hitting good shots for up to 5 to 10 holes. Rarely do they last longer than that, never spilling over into the next day. There is no question that something clicks and all of a sudden, we are hitting good shot after good shot. If we are working on something or trying something new, we think that this is it, having found the lifelong swing fix or swing move. But somewhere along the round the good shots disappear quickly, and we are left with that what happened feeling.

Let’s work backwards and see what the reasons are given for why the good shots disappear. I’m not saying that I believe these are all true, but all have been written up in many golf articles. One of the big reasons that good shots end is if you start out a round really well. Then you start to become too aware of your score and the shots become more significant, which causes tension, and the bad shots start to happen. There can be other times when something seems to unclick so to speak due to the circumstances of the shot. This affects your concentration with a bad shot as a result. No one gives a reason why you lose your concentration, you just do. Sometimes the good shots go all the way to the end of the round. You leave the course invigorated and may be playing the next day. You get to the course all fired up and promptly slice your drive right into the woods, starting out 5 over par for 3 holes. Sometimes the good shots may be brief. You play 11 holes lousy but on the 12th you smash a drive and birdie 2 or the next 4 holes. You get to the 16th tee with all the momentum in the world and proceed to go bogey, bogey, double bogey to end a nice 4 hole round. This may be considered letting adrenaline getting the best of you and again losing your concentration. Is any of this really true? Before we draw any final conclusions, let’s take a look at why we start hitting good shots in the first place.

There are again plenty of reasons given why we start hitting good shots during a round. It could be that the new swing thought or supposed fault that we have corrected is now allowing us to strike the ball better. Some people feel that good shots start to flow when we stop caring so much about where the ball is going. This seems to be true concerning putting. If we have more of a devil may care attitude and do not think about making the putt or the significance of the putt, we have more of a chance of making the putt. Sometimes a shot just fits our eye, feels simple and the result is a good shot that can start the flow of good shots. There are thoughts as to why we may find our game during a round, but the bottom line is this, it is always related to some kind of physical move that we are going to control, that is related to a specific skill set. Some of us may have a better skill set than others, but we are controlling the ball to the best of our ability. Could there be another reason why these shots seem to come and go?

Could just plain old luck be the reason that our games just seem to come and go. Earlier in the blog I wrote that something just clicks, and you begin to hit good shots. Could it be that you have a perfect distance for one of your irons? Could it be that the ball is sitting perfectly whether in the fairway or rough? Could it be that you have an easy target for the first time today? Maybe the wind has died down. You could be hitting a club that you really like to hit. Whatever it may be, once you hit the good or great shot, the brain and body have now connected to this feeling of a good shot. Even that swing flaw you have, somehow has compensated in a way that allowed you to pull off the shot. With that feeling of the great shot you go on to play X number of holes really well. Then your luck simply runs out. Is there a way we can figure out when this is going to happen and how we can deal with it. I think we can, and I will deal with that in the next blog. In order to move forward, you must believe that luck is the primary factor here. It is a little hard to swallow considering how much time is spent practicing and working on one’s game. Even though there is the old saying I would rather be lucky than good, luck always seems to get a bad rap. Many players are embarrassed at being “lucky”. But luck is a huge part of golf and not just in bounces and where the ball ends up. You may need luck just to hit the ball with instruments that Winston Churchill said, ” Were singularly ill-designed for the purpose”. I don’t think you are going to get much of argument about golf clubs, even today.

Sports: The Steelers, 2010’s

This was the decade where the Steelers continued to have regular season success but had 6 frustrating playoff failures during this decade. The decade started out fine with the Steelers making it to the Super Bowl, but losing to the Green Bay Packers, in a game that was made close by the Packer receivers’ failure to catch the football. The Steelers were in the same position they were, 2 Super Bowls before, with a chance at a game winning drive late in the 4th quarter, but this time they turned the ball over on downs. Green Bay then ran out the clock to win the game. The Steelers would only get to one Conference Championship game in 5 more playoff tries. Those playoff losses could be attributed to star players not playing, and to some surprise performances from their opponents.

Record For The Decade: 102 Wins 57 Losses 1 Tie

Best Year: 2017 13-3 2010 12-4 Lost Super Bowl.

Worst Year: Three years at 8-8 2012, 2013, and 2019

Why The Steelers Won More Than They Lost: The Decade was built around 3 offensive players who when they were well, were 3 of the best players in franchise history. Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown. Bell played from 2013 to 2017 and in 3 of those years he had around 2000 yards from scrimmage in rushing and receiving. One year he was only able to play 6 games due to suspension and then injury, and his rookie season he put up a little over 1200 yards from the line of scrimmage. Antonio Brown was even more spectacular. For 6 straight seasons Brown caught over 100 passes and gained at least 1200 yards per season with his top year being 2014 when he gained 1698 yards. Ben played for all 10 years, and we know that he is going to the Hall of Fame. The defense had its ups and downs during the decade and also had some bad playoff games. Overall, the defense contributed mightily to the success of the decade.

Significant Games: I always thought the most significant game of the decade was the opening round loss to the Denver Broncos in the 2011 season. We were a wild card team because we had lost the tie breaker to the Baltimore Ravens. The Broncos were 8-8 but that was good enough to win the weak Western Division. We had the no. 1 defense in scoring and total yards in the NFL. We were also no.1 against the pass. This was the game that Tim Tebow decided to have his greatest game, by far, in his NFL career. The next week against New England he would go back to being his mediocre self. He would only start 2 more games for Denver after that playoff loss. On that day against the Steelers, he accounted for 366 yards and 3 TD’s. Denver won 29-23 in overtime and that seemed to set the tone for rest of the Steelers’ playoff runs for the rest of the decade, even continuing into this decade. Tebow had never accounted for 300 yards and 3 TDs in a game before, and he would never do it again. Bell and Brown would only play in 3 full playoff games together winning 2 and losing the 45-42 debacle to the Jacksonville Jaguars where the Steelers played their worst quarter and a half of football in history until the 1st quarter of the 2020 Wild Card game against the Cleveland Browns where they fell behind 28-0.

The Decades Best Player: Ben Roethlisberger was the constant glue that held the team together through thick and thin. According to Pro Football Reference he is the Steelers all-time best player. I could give some argument for that, but certainly for this decade he was by far the best. No question that Bell and Brown had some great stretches during the decade but for various reasons they flamed out quickly and became non-factors for a lot of the decade.

The final full decade that the Steelers’ played football was the decade of playoff frustration. The Steelers have played 3 seasons in the 2020’s and that frustration is continuing. The last 2 years the Steelers have been in the throes of mediocrity. They are having in my view, the most important draft since the early 70’s. They are going to have 3 of the first 51 picks, no. 17, 32, and 51. If the Steelers are going to get out of this rut of playing close to .500 ball but not much better, then these picks better have an immediate impact. I know that is a tall order and a lower pick can always surprise, but if the Steelers are going to get to the next level and finally make a playoff run this needs to happen.

Sport: The NFL Final Four, Finally

We have finally made it to Championship weekend in the NFL. On the NFC side, the Philadelphia Eagles are hosting the San Franscisco 49ers, and in the AFC, the Cincinnati Bengals are traveling to face the Kansas City Chiefs. Despite the NFL’s claim to parody, 3 of the 4 teams were in last year’s title games with Philadelphia the only newcomer. Yes, that salary cap sure keeps things competitive. Don’t you just love sports socialism. Just to get the perfunctory predictions out of the way, I think it will be the Bengals vs. the Eagles in Super Bowl. I considered the conference Championship games to be the last real football games of the season. The Super Bowl to me, is and always will be, a circus that sometimes affects the outcome of the game. I look at the true champions being crowned this week and whoever wins in that sideshow as a bonus victory. What other championship game in any sport is there, where people watch for the commercials and the halftime show, which is about twice as long as the normal halftime. The game almost becomes the most insignificant part of the day. I am not going to go through any type of analysis of the two games coming up or why I think the Bengals and Eagles will win. Today I am going to write about some interesting facts about the participants, which may give a little insight as to why the outcomes will be what they will be.

This will be Andy Reid’s 10th Conference Championship as a head coach. He has lost 6 of the previous Championship games with 4 of those being home games. Many people consider Reid an offensive genius. However, in 2 of those losses his team failed to score more than 10 points. In the last Super Bowl he coached, the Chiefs could only muster 9 points. To be able to take a team to 10 Conference Championship games is quite an accomplishment. For whatever reason it seems very difficult for Reid’s teams to get over the final hump. Nine Conference Championship games and one Super Bowl championship. Doesn’t seem like Reid is one to learn from his mistakes. Will this be his 7th Championship game loss or will he get over the hump this weekend with some new strategy. Thank God he won that one Super Bowl, or we would have an example of big game failures second to none.

What is it with this Joe Burrows guy? He is the epitome of consistency that is downright freaky. In his first full season, 2021, he completed 70.4% of his passes for 4611 yards, 34 TD’s and 14 INT’s. This past season he completed 68.3% of his passes for 4475 yards, 35TD’s and 12 INT’s. In 6 playoff games over the last 2 years, he has completed 68.1% of his passes for 1556 yards, 8 TD’s and 2 INT’s. In those 6 playoff games he has never thrown less that 32 passes and never more than 38. He has completed between 22 and 28 passes in all 6 games and in 3 of those games he completed 23 passes. Going into this Championship Game do you think he will do all right?

On the NFC side of things, we have 2 quarterbacks who are similar, in that for the NFL they are short, 6’1, have played against each other before, in the Big 12, and have had a lot of negative things said about their ability until this recent surge of success. To me, Jalen Hurts has proven that he is a top of the line NFL quarterback. Even though not tall he is a dynamic player who is a dual running and passing threat. This may seem like a small thing, but I like the way he gets ready to receive the ball from 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage. He is in a crouched position with one foot in front of the other. It just looks like he is ready to move and do some positive things to create some offense. On the other hand, Brock Purdy has started 7 games, and 6 of those were against mediocre to bad football teams. Last week against Dallas, some of his inexperienced showed, and if it wasn’t for a spectacular catch by the tight end and Dak Prescott being Dak Prescott in the playoffs, the 49ers could have easily lost at home to the Cowboys. Brock Purdy has two of the most dynamic players in the NFL in Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel at his disposal. It will be interesting to see if Purdy can have a good game on the big stage, on the road.

I always look forward to Championship weekend in the NFL. Will I be surprised if both my picks lose on Sunday? No, I won’t be. Football is the only sport where one game decides the title. If that were true in the other 3 professional sports, there would be a completely different list of League Champions. Let’s face it, in one game anything can happen, and the NFL wants you to completely forget about that when it comes to Championship games. In my view the 3 quarterbacks and the Chiefs head coach will make this one, of the more memorable Championship weekends.

Sports: The Steelers, The 2000’s

Since 1960, this decade was the 2nd most successful for the franchise. The Steelers won 2 Super Bowls and had only one losing season. The Bill Cowher era came to an end in 2006 and Mike Tomlin took over in 2007. The Super Bowl winning season of 2008 was the most exciting season in Steeler history. There were more big plays in that season than all the other seasons combined. The 2008 group was not the best Steeler team of all time by a long shot. In fact, they may not have been as good as the team that lost the Super Bowl in 95, but they were the most entertaining of all the Super Bowl winning teams. They had a great defense that only gave up 223 points to lead the league. Only the 2001 defense and the defenses of the 70’s gave up fewer points. They also gave up the fewest yards that year. This was the decade that the Steelers solidified themselves as one of the premier franchises in all of sports.

Record For The Decade: 103 Wins 56 Losses 1 Tie

Best Year: 2004 15-1 2008 12-4 Won Super Bowl

Worst Year: 2003 6-10

Why The Steelers Won More Than They Lost: They found a franchise quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger. They had one of their better defensive stretches during this time. They again hired a great coach in Mike Tomlin. They picked up one of the all time great safeties in Troy Polamalu, who became the heart and soul of those great defenses of the 2000’s. The other defensive stalwart on those teams was James Harrison. To this day he has what could be considered the greatest play in Super Bowl history. There weren’t as many Hall of Famers during this decade but the Steelers had many great players that included, Hines Ward, Jerome Bettis, Aaron Smith, Ike Taylor, Joey Porter and Willie Parker, to name just a few.

Significant Games. There was one significant game in each of the two Super Bowl winning years. The first was a 38-31 loss to the Cincinnati Bengels and the game was not as close as the score indicated. This was the Steelers 3rd loss in a row to send their record to 7-5. After the game many of the Bengal players were talking that this was the end of the line for the Steelers, they had no chance of making the playoffs and the Bengals would be dominating the division for the next few years. From that point on, the Steelers won their last 4 games and snuck in as the 6th seed. They beat the Bengals in the opening round and then upset the Indianapolis Colts, who had soundly beaten the Steelers in the regular season. Three weeks later Super Bowl win number 5 would be theirs. In 2008 the Steelers started the season 2-0 but the second win was an ugly 10-6 win over the hapless Cleveland Browns. Then the next week they laid an even bigger egg in Philadelphia losing 15-6 with the offense only gaining a total of 180 yards and Big Ben was sacked 9 times. The next week the Steelers came home to face the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football. The Steelers were behind 13-3 at halftime and looked just as bad as they had for the whole game in Philadelphia. The Monday Night broadcast crew was wondering what Mike Tomlin was going to do and it was going to be a difficult week for the Steelers upcoming. The third quarter did not start any better and the booth was still talking about how much trouble the Steelers were in and the coaching staff had their work cut out for them. Then with 5 minutes to go in the third quarter the Steelers offense moved the ball, got another 15 yards on an unnecessary roughness penalty on the Ravens. Three plays later Ben threw over the middle short to Santonio Holmes, he broke a tackle and scampered 30 yards into the endzone to make the score 13-10. The first play after the kickoff James Harrison stripped the ball from Joe Flacco on a 9 yard sack, and Lamar Woodley pick up the ball and scored a touchdown, to take the lead 17-13. In the span of 13 seconds the Steelers scored 2 touchdowns and went on to win the game in overtime 23-20. The announcers didn’t have any more to say about the Steelers problems. They went on to win Super Bowl number 6 when the defense came up with the play of the year, a 100 yard interception return for a touchdown to end the first half. It was, indeed, the year of the big play for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Decades Best Player: This was another easy choice as Troy Polamalu was the dominant player of the decade. He started playing for the Steelers in 2003 and was the standout defensive player. During those 7 years he had 20 interceptions and made spectacular play after spectacular play. He would have great years going into the other decade, as he was the defensive player of the year in 2010. Without him there would be no Super Bowl victories.

The next and last full decade of Steeler football would be best summed up as a decade of frustration. The Steelers would make the playoffs 6 of those 10 years but would lose every year, and many times in bizarre fashion. There would be no more Super Bowls for the franchise quarterback.

Pirates Morning Report: Mid-January

The last time I wrote about the Pirates in late November there have been two big stories. Bryan Reynolds asked to be traded and the Pirates signed Andrew McCutchen to a one year deal to bring him back to Pittsburgh. The Pirates continued to unload dead wood during this time. The sent Bryce Wilson with his -1.1 WAR and Zach Thompson with his -0.3 WAR, both packing. They got money and a pop machine for Wilson. They picked up a minor league outfielder and 4000 yards of bandage materials for Thompson. They got rid of Diego Castillo and his -0.9 WAR for a minor league pitcher and 49 rosin bags. None of these moves were very surprising. I thought they might try both pitchers in the bullpen but the fact that they are gone is fine with me.

Signing Andrew McCutchen was a great PR move, and the fans seem to love it. Many cynics out there feel this move is going to precede the trading of Reynolds and was done to appease the fans. Many in baseball feel that McCutchen will do little to enhance the Pirates ability to win games. I find it interesting that there were reports that McCutchen was offered similar and even better deals, but took the Pirates offer because it included the opportunity for more playing time. I think coming back to Pittsburgh might give McCutchen a performance boost in all phases of the game. Even if he just performs as he did last year, he would be an average major league hitter, and this is something that the Pirates desperately need. They had only 3 players last year that were above average hitters. I think he still has a lot to offer and if he can stay healthy, he should contribute to a Pirate winning season. He looks in great shape and other than a freak knee injury in 2019 he has played in at least 130 games every year. There is no question he is an outfield upgrade.

It was not a shocker when Bryan Reynolds made public that he wanted to be traded. His name has been part of trade rumors for well over a year now. I have no emotional feeling over a Bryan Reynolds trade. They either trade him, or they don’t, and hopefully they get a return that would have an immediate impact on the club. I stated that if that is what it takes to get him out of centerfield then I am all for it. I felt that the Pirates would not have a winning season with him in centerfield. Since watching the Top Ten Centerfielders Now, on MLB Network, I have changed my mind. On the 6 human ballots and the infamous MLB The Shredder, Reynolds ranked anywhere from third to seventh as one of the best centerfielders in the game. It was brought up on the show how bad his defensive metrics were for 2022 but it was also mentioned that he was about an average fielder in 2021. It looks like the Pirates are not going to get a real centerfielder anyway, so I think the Pirates will do fine with Reynolds in center. Maybe he was just trying to help the Pirates lose games in 2022 like they wanted to. There is no reason to believe that he cannot make a comeback on the fielding side of the ball. Therefore, I no longer think that getting Reynolds out of centerfield is a prerequisite for the Pirates to have a winning season and contend for the division title.

With spring training to begin in earnest in about a month, the Pirates continue to make moves that are improving the ballclub. Although there have been some in the local media that have been putting out some positive vibes on the upcoming Pirate season, I have not seen anyone in the national media saying the Pirates may be a surprise or contending team in 2023. Most feel the moves that the Cubs have made are making them the main threat to the St. Louis Cardinals. Yes, there are lots of unknowns out there when talking about the Pirates, but I still feel that if they can avoid major injury and arm trouble that they will win 80 some games and make a run at the playoffs. However, I feel there is a minimum performance level, of at least winning 75 games. If this group cannot come up with at least this many wins in 2023 then this rebuild is in major trouble.

Golf: Let’s Get Started

Golf has had a resurgence in play, thanks to the pandemic. Because of this, golf has gotten a little lazy in promoting itself and encouraging people to play. Anyone who wants to start playing golf has one big problem, when to try and get on the course. In order to learn and play golf you have to find good instruction. Between the internet and knowing other people who play golf, this is not hard to do. After taking a few lessons, what is the process of actually getting out and playing. You don’t want to go out at a peak playing time if you are just starting out playing. There is the fear factor of making a fool of yourself in front of a lot of people. Golf is a game of patience. Patience is the most important thing you can have when starting out playing the game. In order to play golf, you must be willing to take baby steps. This is the best way I know to get started and to continue to play this great game.

Once you take a couple of lessons and you feel you can at least hit the ball, then the driving range becomes your best friend. You can play an entire round of golf right on the driving range tee box. Once you are warmed up then start your round on a course that you have seen or get a course score card. Start out with your driver, if it is appropriate, and hit your opening tee shot. Continue to play the hole as best you can. One of the keys to learning how to play is to not take any shots over. If you hit a bad shot or hit a shot only a few yards count it just as you would if you were playing for real. Use the appropriate club for the shots just like you would on the golf course. Continue that process until you are within 10 yards of the green or on the green. Many driving ranges have putting greens and short game areas. Once you feel you made it on the green or close to the green then make a note of where you think you are in relation to the pin. Once you have completed the 18 holes then go to the short game area and finish the hole beginning with number 1. I would say you would need to do this for at least 7 to 10 trips to the range. Once you feel confident that you are hitting the ball ok then you are ready for the next step.

It’s time to hit the course. The first course you should play is a par 3 course, which means that all the holes are par 3’s. The length of the holes could range from 60 to 220 yards. This could be a disadvantage if you are hitting your driver over 200 yards because you may not get to hit your driver. You will experience the rest of what golf has to offer with an increase in the short game and putting. Most Par 3 courses are not that crowded and are pretty straight forward in the design of the holes. Your next step up would be to play a 9 hole course or an executive course. These courses are usually shorter, but they do have par 4 holes and some 9 hole courses have par 5’s. On these courses you will be able to use your driver and your game can continue to progress. When starting to play the game one should play these types of courses for about 20 to 30 rounds. You will be able to improve your game in a relaxed atmosphere, at your own pace.

To determine if you are ready to play a regulation golf course, you should at least be playing close to bogey golf on the previous types of courses. Most golf courses have different tees to play from. You should pick the tees that will make the course play around 5500 to 6000 yards. That is plenty of length to experience all facets of the golf game. For women that should be around 4500 to 5000 yards. When you are scoring in the mid to low 80’s then it might be time to try and stretch out the length of the golf course out a bit. There are many times that courses are less crowded. Usually in the middle of the day between noon and 2 pm are times when the course will see a lull in the action. There are some courses that may not be popular for various reason. Maybe they are difficult to get to or the condition of the course may not be that great. When starting out this can be to your advantage where you can play somewhere and not feel rushed. You can take your time and work on your game. Driving a little further to play a course that is not that crowded is well worth it.

Golf is a much more demanding sport on the body than most people realize. There is a lot of twisting and turning when making a golf swing, even when making a beginner’s poor golf swing. Golf can be difficult to learn and play and you must be ready to go through the proper levels of learning and playing in order to enjoy the game. Every area of the country has plenty of golf facilities that were described earlier. Think of it as learning to crawl before you learn to walk. Think of it as going through the education process. Starting at the elementary level and working your way up to the college level. Golf has a lot to offer and if you take your time in learning the game and play the game at the appropriate place, then golf does not have to be a good walk spoiled.

Sports: The Steelers, The 90’s

The 90’s saw the Chuck Noll era end and the Bill Cowher era begin. Like Noll, Cowher was one of the youngest ever be to be hired as a head coach, but that is where any similarity between him and Chuck Noll ended. Compared to the stoic Noll, Cowher was a rah-rah coach and had many interactions with the players during the game. In a nutshell Bill Cowher was more style than substance, but the thing that saved his career was that he had immediate regular season success. He was coach of the year in his first year in 92, as the Steelers went 11-5 and won the division. The Steelers were in the playoffs the first 6 years that Cowher was the coach. He found running backs in Barry Foster and Bam Morris, even though their success was short lived due to injuries for Foster and off the field problems for Morris, they reestablished the Steelers as a powerful running team. Then the Steelers were able to acquire Jerome Bettis from the St. Louis Rams in 1996 and they finally had their Franco Harris running back. In fact, Cowher’s coaching career would have had an idyllic start if not for one thing, complete and utter playoff failure. They made the playoffs 6 straight years and had a record of 5-6. They lost 3 home playoff games. In Noll’s 23 years the Steelers lost 1 home playoff game. Even their Super Bowl loss was strange. They completely outplayed the Dallas Cowboys, but Neil O’ Donnell threw 2 of the most inexplicable interceptions in Super Bowl history, which sealed a 27-17 victory for the Cowboys. The decade ended with 2 consecutive losing seasons and the Cowher era was beginning to crumble, but the Rooney’s stuck with Cowher. It resulted in the 2nd greatest decade in Steeler history.

Record For The Decade: 93 Wins 67 Losses

Best Year: 1994 12-4 1995 11-5 Lost Super Bowl.

Worst Year: 1999 6-10

Why The Steelers Won More Games Than They Loss: The change to Bill Cowher as the coach seemed to energize the team and the results were immediate. The defense came alive under Cowher and had some of their best years in franchise history. They were able to establish their running game and control football games.

Significant Games: The opening game of the 1996 season seemed to sum up the Bill Cowher years in Pittsburgh. Neil O Donnell was gone for free agency and the starting quarterback job was a battle between Jim Miller, a quarterback who had been plagued with various injuries early in his career and Mike Tomczak, who had some decent years with the Chicago Bears. It was announced that Jim Miller had won the starting job and would be the starting QB against the Jacksonville Jaquars on opening day. The game was in Jacksonville. Jacksonville was only in their 2nd year of existence. The game was a disaster for the Steelers. Jim Miller did not have a good game, but he did not throw any interceptions. Late in the 3rd quarter he was replaced by Tomczak and never really played again. He threw about 10 passes the rest of the year. Tomczak did alright but never really impressed, but Miller never got another chance the rest of the season. This is why I call the Cowher years in Pittsburgh weird. Despite his success he seemed to have his judgement clouded by emotional issues on the team. He always gave you the impression that he wanted the players to be his buddies and if he felt a player crossed him, he would never let him back in the inner circle of the team. I felt this game and the rest of season really summed up the Bill Cowher era.

The Decades Best Player: This was an easy one as Rod Woodson played on the Steelers from 90 to 96. He was one of the best defensive backs in the history of the NFL and his play helped bring the defense back in Pittsburgh. He played the position with such grace and style he was a pleasure to watch through the mid 90’s.

This decade ended on a down note as the Steelers had their worst year under Cowher at 5-11. The team seemed headed for a downward spiral and the earlier playoff frustrations seem to be magnified as it looked like the Steelers might not make the playoffs for a while. The turnaround would be much quicker than anybody expected. Then in 2004, the Steelers would get their 2nd franchise quarterback, and all would be well.

Sports: The Steelers, The 80’s

The 80’s could be called the letdown decade for the Steelers. If the Steelers of the 70’s had not set such a high standard, the decade would have been considered not all that bad. The Steelers did win more games than they lost and made the playoffs 4 out of the 10 years. Many people consider this decade as the best coaching job that Chuck Noll did, because the talent was not anywhere close to the teams of the 70’s. The 80’s could be summed up by the fact that the Steelers never could replace the core that made the team great, even though they tried like hell. Even when they were successful tragedy would befall the team and the player. They drafted Gabe Rivera in the first round in 1983. He was the heir apparent to Joe Greene, and he seemed that he was going to dominate the defensive line just like Mean Joe. After the 7th game of the season, he crashed his Datsun 280 ZX into another vehicle, which left him a quadriplegic. Terry Bradshaw who continued to excel at quarterback in the early 80’s, injured his elbow in 82, played in pain, then had what you could call unsuccessful elbow surgery, would play one half of football in 83 and his career was over. The Steelers could never come close to replacing him in the 80’s even though they used a no1 pick to try. More surprising, they never came close to replacing Franco Harris. They used two 1st round picks, one in 82, the other in 89 but both picks basically turned out to be busts. The decade had many ups and downs but would end up being a decade of mediocrity.

Record For The Decade: 77 Wins 75 Losses

Best Year: 1983 10-6 1984 9-7 Loss AFC Championship Game.

Worst Year: 1988 5-11

Why The Steelers Won More, Barely, Than They Loss: Simply, it was Chuck Noll. The talent was never top notch but somehow Noll made every team during that decade competitive. For whatever reason, the Steelers lost their ability to evaluate talent. The draft instead of rebuilding the Steelers, became one disaster after another. Of their 10 number 1 picks, only one, Rod Woodson would go on and have a great career. The only other thing the Steelers could think, was what might have been with Gabe Rivera.

Significant Games: There were two games that stand out in the 80’s and they occurred in 1989. The 1989 season started out worse than anybody could have possibly imagined. The Cleveland Browns opened the season at Three Rivers Stadium and put on a 51-0 pasting on the Black and Gold. The Steeler offense only netted 53 yards for the game. The next week they went to Cincinnati and got blown out again 41-10. For week 3, the Minnesota Vikings came to town, and many expected blow out number 3. Noll rallied the troops, and the Steelers took a 21-14 lead into the half, shut out the Vikings the rest of the way for a 27-14 shocking victory, that started the Steelers on their way to a 9-7 record, that got them a Wild Card berth in the playoffs. They went from getting outscored 91-10 in the first 2 games to a Wild Card game with their hated rivals the Houston Oilers. There was no love lost between Jerry Glanville and Chuck Noll. The Oilers had beaten the Steelers twice in 89 and were favored to do so again in the Wild Card game in the Houston Astrodome. It was a game the Oilers pretty much dominated, but until the 4 quarter could not get the ball in the endzone and trailed the Steelers 16-9. Then Houston was able to put two drives together, which resulted in touchdowns to take a 23-16 lead with about 5 minutes to go in the game. The Steeler offense somehow mounted a long drive and scored the tying touchdown with about 50 seconds to go in the game. The Steelers could not move the ball in the overtime and after a bad punt Houston took over on the Steeler 48 only needing a field goal to win the game. On the very first play of the drive Lorenzo White fumbled the ball and Rod Woodson recovered. The Steelers moved the ball to the Houston 33 and Gary Anderson kicked the winning 50 yard field goal. Next to his Super Bowl wins, this had to be one of Chuck Noll’s most satisfying wins. It was even more so because this loss cost Glanville his job.

The Decades Best Player: This was not the most talented of Steeler teams but there were two players who stood out, Mike Merriweather and Louis Lipps. Merriweather lost some of his luster when he got into a contract dispute with the team after the 1987 season and eventually went to Minnesota. He was Pro Bowler for 3 years with the Steelers. Louis Lipps was a deep threat extraordinaire. In 8 seasons he averaged almost 17 yards per catch and was the 1984 Rookie of the Year. He returned three punts for touchdowns during his first two seasons.

The decade ended with a bang but there was no momentum to be found when the Steelers headed into the 90’s. Noll would retire after the 91 season and a new regime would begin. The 90’s for better or worse, would bring a whole new vibe to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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