If there’s one thing that really irritates Pittsburgh Steelers fans, it’s having their football season ending after Game 16, due to the fact the team missed landing a National Football League playoff berth. And that’s exactly what has happened the last two seasons, despite the Steelers finishing both 2012 and 2013 with a not-so-woeful 8-8 record. A few teams played .500 ball the last two seasons and still made the playoffs.

This week’s edition of USA Today Sports Weekly makes a big deal about this season being the 40th their first Super Bowl title. “They have appeared in eight Super Bowls and won a league-record six. That success fills a trophy case and fuels expectations,” the article revealed.

“So the consecutive 8-8 records that kept the Steelers out of the playoffs the past two seasons qualify as a major drought in Pittsburgh. It is their longest absence from the postseason since they failed to qualify from 1998 through 2000,” the article continued.

Although this Korner is far from being a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, I do hold a lot of respect for the organization’s success over the years. And I can understand the concern of their fan base because I was once a very loyal Dallas Cowboys fan and have suffered through twice as many consecutive 8-8 seasons than the Pittsburgh fans.

Cowboys fans are all too aware of being ousted from a possible playoff berth at the end of the season. Pittsburgh lost five of their last seven games in 2012 to end their playoff hopes that season.

Last season after an uncharacteristic 0-4 start, the Steelers won six of their final eight games and just barely missed the playoffs. Since the end of last season, the Steelers’ front office has done a bunch of wheeling and dealing in the free-agent marketplace and heads into 2014 training camp in a couple of weeks with a roster that has been retooled with an emphasis on youth and speed– particularly with more speed on defense.

The Steelers said good-bye to seven key players and replaced them with half-a-dozen new faces picked up via free agency or trades. The organization is looking to return to a running game that can pound the ball and a defense that specializes in stopping the run. Last season Pittsburgh was 27th defense.

“Going into his 11th run the no-huddle offense more, as he did during the revival down the stretch last season,” USA Today Sports Weekly speculated.

The Steelers are depending on the field generalship of Roethlisberger, the wizardry of 76-year-old defensive coordinator, Dick LeBeau and the imagination of third-year offensive coordinator, Todd Haley to get the team to the playoffs this season.

The 32-year-old Roethlisberger played every game last season, weathered a poor start by him and the team and delivered after getting his wish to run more no-huddle plays. Twenty of his 28 touchdown passes came in the final nine games.

He threw more passes (584) and completed more (375) than any other quarterback in franchise history. But the key to the Steelers’ offensive success is the running game where they haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Rashard Mendenhall in 2010. Their 2014 hopes are riding on a couple of big backs in 6-1, 244-pound Le’Veon Bell, who ran for 860 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013, and 6-0, 250-pound LeGarrette Blount, a free-agent addition from New England.

The speed needs to come from rookie Dri Archer, a third-round pick from Kent State who had the fastest time in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine (4.26 seconds) and will get a shot as a third-down back.

The Steelers will have back three-time Pro Bowl center Maurice Pouncey, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the season opener last season. But the key to their offensive success this season could very well be the addition of offensive line coach Mike Munchak, the former Tennessee Titans’ head coach, who will try to mold a young unit with multiple first and second-round draft picks.

When one thinks Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense, eight-time all-Pro strong safety Troy Polamalu comes to mind quickly, At 33 years old, he still is the heart and soul of the secondary. How fast he still can be remains a significant factor in the Steelers’ future success because Polamalu lines up all over the field.

KWICKIES…For the many Lamar basketball fans who thought recently-fired head coach Pat Knight would NEVER find another basketball job, we were wrong!!!  Actually, we were half right because Knight is probably as close to college basketball as he’ll ever be after landing a job as a scout for the Indiana Pacers, according to ESPN  Saturday. This is Knight’s first job outside the college ranks since 1998, when he coached the Wisconsin Blast of the International Basketball Association.

If someone were to ask Los Angeles Angels’ slugger Albert Pujols who his favorite major league team is, he wouldn’t hesitate to say the Houston Astros. The Astros’ pitching staff has served him up 45 gopher balls during Pujols’ brilliant career, ranking him second in home runs hit off Houston pitching. He trails only Hank Aaron, who pounded 46 homers off Astros pitching during his career.

Barry Switzer, Jimmy Johnson and Pete Carroll are the only football coaches who have won an NCAA National Championship and also an NFL Super Bowl.

Congrats are in order for the Houston Astros’ 5-4 bundle of baseball player Jose Altuve, who was voted by the players to the 2014 American League All-Star team. His teammate, pitcher Dallas Keuchel, was among the five AL players competing for the final roster spot that is voted by the fans. The results will be announced tomorrow (Thurs.) at 3 p.m. Altuve is having the kind of season most baseball players only dream of—leading the league in hits (122), 38 stolen bases and a hefty .337 batting average through Sunday’s action. He recently became the first major leaguer in 97 years to have four consecutive games with multiple stolen bases. And if Keuchel isn’t named to the team, we can blame the rift between Comcast and Time Warner who have prevented us from watching the Astros’ games on television, giving the other four candidates a huge advantage.

Former Port Neches-Groves and Lamar University star golfer Chris Stroud narrowly missed winning last weekend’s PGA Tour Greenbrier Classic after shooting rounds of 66-66-70-69—271 and finishing in a tie for fourth place. Argentine golfer

Angel Cabrera won the event—his first that wasn’t a major—by firing a pair of six-under-par 64s the last two days. Stroud’s finish qualified him for the U.S. Open that will be played later this month.

JUST BETWEEN US….Last week’s edition of The Record was probably the first time in nearly half a century that Kaz’s Korner missed the deadline due to illness. However, I spent six long days and as many sleepless nights in the Intensive Care Unit at Baptist Orange Hospital battling a congestive heart problem due to an irregular heart beat. I was treated like a king at the hospital thanks to the wonderful RN nurses on staff and my family physician Dr. Calvin Parker. I can think of a lot more pleasant ways of losing 25 pounds of fluids, but Dr. Miguel Castellanos did a great job of getting me back on my feet with a heart that is beating properly. Hopefully medication, rest and proper eating habits will get me back to my old, sweet, lovable self.