Monday, December 31, 2012
Wake-up call: Time for the next step
By Jamison Hensley
The 2012 regular season is officially in the books after an ugly and (yawn) boring finish Sunday. So, what's next?
Half of the division is heading to the playoffs. The Bengals (10-6) play at the Texans (12-4) on Saturday, and the Ravens (10-6) host the Colts (11-5) on Sunday. The Quick Takes have already been posted for Bengals-Texans and Ravens-Colts.
The Browns are expected to make the biggest news in the division today with the anticipated firings of coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert. Shurmur's usual day-after news conference is scheduled for 11:30 a.m., so any announcement should come before that.
As for the Steelers, the next few months will be time for this team to get healthy and, of course, get under the salary cap, which could force some hard decisions with veterans like James Harrison.
Here are what the local columnists are saying about their teams ...
RAVENS: The Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston believes the Ravens missed a chance to build momentum heading into the postseason by resting their starters, especially on offense. "If this offense had indeed been reborn, it would have been great to see it again in the final game against Cincinnati, but head coach John Harbaugh pulled the plug after the second series," Preston wrote. "Their time on the field was long enough to see Flacco throw a good pass over the middle but then overthrow two receivers on basic pass patterns used in Pop Warner. So, what else is new, right?"
BENGALS: The Cincinnati Enquirer's Paul Daugherty thinks making the playoffs is not enough for the Bengals anymore. "Winning 10 times, mostly against non-playoff teams, injured teams and downright bad teams, should not be a cause for celebration," Daugherty wrote. "If the Bengals are to continue their ascent in the AFC North -- a climb they began last year and continued this year – they need to prove themselves against very good teams, not just against the Jaguars, Eagles and Chiefs. Good teams win big games. None is bigger now than the one next weekend."
STEELERS: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Gene Collier pointed out that no one inside or outside the Steelers' locker room was marginally disappointed to see the 2012 season end. "No one who watched as the Steelers ran its ratty string of consecutive games without a 100-yard rusher to eight," Collier wrote. "No one who calculated that not a single Steelers pass-catcher Sunday managed as many as 30 yards. No one who studied as the former Ben Roethlisberger threw for 134 yards, his lamest total in a full game in more than four years."
BROWNS: The Plain Dealer's Bud Shaw thinks coach Pat Shurmur will be remembered as the guy who came to Cleveland as Mike Holmgren's hand-picked choice and will depart as Holmgren's mistake. "It's not quite that simple, obviously," Shaw wrote. "He got sucker-punched by an ownership change that greased Holmgren's departure first and is expected to usher a coaching staff and a GM out of town. That's no small thing. Still, he didn't do nearly enough to change minds. And some of that was his failure to ever really look the part."