J. Steigerwald column for 9.08/09.12

Dave Wannstedt should still be Pitt’s head football coach.
I know that’s easy to say two years and three coaches after he was fired and I know that it’s ridiculously premature and grossly unfair to question Paul Chryst’s qualifications, but it’s just so hard to imagine him or anyone else getting the program back to the level that Wannstedt had achieved any time soon.
Or in my lifetime.
After watching Pitt get destroyed by Youngstown State and Cincinnati it’s hard to imagine Pitt beating anybody, much less going 26-12 over the next three seasons.
That’s what Wannstedt’s teams did from 2008-10. That’s the best three year record since 1981-83, back when Pitt actually had a big time football program.
As recently as 2008, Pitt beat Notre Dame, Louisville and West Virginia. There was also a one point come-from-ahead loss on the road in Iowa.
Pitt was, you know, competitive. That obviously wasn’t good enough after six seasons and Wannstedt was forced to resign.
At the time, a good case could be made for his firing and the guy who fired him, AD Steve Pederson, didn’t have the luxury of hindsight.
You and I do and right now it looks like a terrible decision.
Paul Chryst has a few years to prove me wrong.
- Chryst has the same problem that Wanndstedt, and last year’s coach Todd Graham had. He doesn’t have a qualified quarterback.
Tino Sunseri is a local kid and he tries hard and he’s been jerked around by four offensive coordinators in four years, but he’s made it clear that he is in over his head.
His predecessor, Bill Stull, another local kid, was better but still never looked like a guy who could make a major difference in one game much less a season.
Pitt has lost close games to big time opponents in the last six or seven years for no other reason than the opposing quarterback was better.
It says here, with all of Pitt’s other problems (and there are many) if the two quarterbacks had switched teams Thursday at 7 o’clock, Pitt would have given Cincinnati all it could handle and might have won. You could have said the same thing after recent close losses to Utah, Iowa, Michigan State, North Carolina State, West Virginia, Cincinnati and Notre Dame.
How far away does a 9-4 season with wins over Iowa, Notre Dame and West Virginia seem right now? That was 2008.
How about 10-3 with wins over Notre Dame and North Carolina? That was 2009. Unfortunately for Wannstedt, close losses to Cincinnati, West Virginia and North Carolina State were sprinkled in there. All three losses would have been reversed if the teams had traded quarterbacks before the game.
Wannstedt was a great recruiter who couldn’t recruit a star, NFL draftable quarterback. If he had, despite some embarrassing losses to rent-a-victims Ohio and Bowling Green, he would still be the coach and Pitt’s football program wouldn’t be the embarrassment that it is now.
- There have been so many books written about the Steelers of the ‘70s that you may think there are no original stories left. I thought so, too, until I read “The Last of the Headbangers” by Kevin Cooke. It’s a compilation of stories about the NFL from Franco Harris’ Immaculate Reception in 1972 to “The Catch” by Dwight Clark of the San Francisco ’49ers in 1982. The Steelers are a big part of the book and I read stories and quotes that I had never seen before, including an excellent chapter on Terry Bradshaw and how the coin flip that gave the Steelers a chance to get him in the 1970 draft changed NFL history.
- The knee jerk reaction (I know it was mine) to Ben Roethlisberger saying that he would skip a Steelers game if playing meant that he would miss the birth of his child, is to give him a pass and say that no football game is worth missing a once-in-a-lifetime moment like that.
But, let’s think about that for a minute. Ben Roethlisberger isn’t just one more guy waiting to become a father for the first time. He works for a company that is paying him $100 million — about $800,000 per game. The company pays him that well because it considers him INDISPENSIBLE. Think of all the work that goes into putting an NFL football team together and how many people, including the owners, front office, coaching staff, scouts and players who depend on him.
Roethlisberger said, “I’m not missing the birth of my child. There’s no chance. I know some fans don’t want to hear that, but there’s no chance.”
He’s right not to care about fan reaction. Fans have no real stake in what happens and it’s not about feeling an obligation to them to make their Sunday as enjoyable as possible.
It’s about understanding that, when you are paid the kind of money that he is being paid, some of the rules that apply to almost everybody else don’t apply to you. Millions of dollars could be at stake for the employer who has already paid Roethlisberger enough money that his son should never have to worry about money.
I’m pretty sure that the father being present for the birth of a child is a relatively new thing. Billions of fathers have missed the birth of their sons since the advent of the maternity ward.
Just wondering, if Ben does miss a game, will he expect his $800,000?
Would the Steelers be vilified if they wanted to dock his pay?
Should they be?
Just asking.

Be Sociable, Share!
Share →

Leave a Reply