By Michael K. Reynolds
Monday Night Football may no longer be what it once was back in the day when Howard Cosell was doing the color commentary and even more recently when Bocephus was singing, “Are you ready for some football?” But Monday night still has major importance for the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers when they face the Tennessee Titans.
Let us count a few of the ways:
Turn Out The Lights…The Party Is Over
If the Steelers lose this one they’ll undoubtedly hear Dandy Don Meredith warbling his most famous melody in the background (you’ll need your AARP membership to understand that reference). That would leave the Steelers 6-5 in a tough AFC with most likely too many conference losses to climb out of the ditch. A critical win, on the other hand, would provide some much needed healing from their New York Jets embarrassment and give them some valuable momentum heading into the Bye week.
Roster Shuffle: Part One…Many Healthy Returns
Speaking of the Bye week, this year’s version will have a profound impact on the Steelers roster and starting positions for the remainder of the season. Which means this Monday Night game will have career implications for many of the players currently on the active roster. With several Steelers like Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu, Sharmarko Thomas, Ryan Shazier, Steve McLendon and possibly even Jarvis Jones expected back and healthy after the Bye week, the team will experience the biggest roster shuffle since the end of the pre-season. That means many of the fringe players will be competing for future playing time or even their roster spot. Here’s what is individually at stake in the game against the Titans:
- Sean Spence and Vince Williams will be on major audition to remain relevant for the team following the Bye.
- Daniel McCullers will have a chance to make a hometown statement as to why he should retain his game day helmet the rest of the year.
- Cam Thomas might be playing to not only remain active, but to keep his roster spot on the team if McCullers shines.
- Dri Archer will need to make a splash or he could end up inactive for the remainder of the season.
- Darrius Heyward-Bey needs to catch a deep ball or he may be lose his effectiveness as a decoy and his playing time as well.
- Lance Moore needs to flash as a “go-to” guy or he may find himself gone from the game plan.
- With James Harrison’s continued return to glory, Arthur Moats needs to perform well to stay in the playing rotation.
Roster Shuffle Part Two…A Bye Week Practice Squad Promotion?
After losing Josh Mauro from the Practice Squad to the Arizona Cardinals, the Steelers might be more trigger happy in protecting one of their ascending stars by pulling them up to the 53 after the Bye. Could it be Howard Jones, Nick Williams or even Alejandro Villanueva? The contribution by players on Monday like Ross Ventrone, B.W. Webb and even Thomas could influence that decision.