The Pittsburgh Steelers thrilled their fans with a critical 27-20 victory over the Atlanta Falcons with an impressive and daring offensive closeout of the game.
With only two games left in the playoffs pursuit and Steelers Nation starting to get that super feeling again here are your Rapid Fire Conclusions:
Now…That Wasn’t That Difficult, Was It?
For the first time this season the Steelers went into the enemy territory of an inferior opponent and flat out took care of business. The Steelers defense was porous and the offense settled for three’s on occasion but other than these setbacks there was confidence and surety in the team’s approach. This may have been the most relaxing…enjoyable game of the season for fans.
Heinz Field – The NFL’s Largest Stadium
Yes…Heinz Field is the largest stadium in the NFL because it’s located in 32 cities across the United States. When the Steelers players entered Atlanta there was a genuine “no place like home” feeling to it as it was filled with Terrible Towels and colored in Black and Gold. Can you imagine how devastating it was for Falcons players to come out of the tunnel to experience that? Steelers fans are good for three points in just about any town.
The Tomlin Trot
With a record of 9-5 and only two games left, Coach Mike Tomlin can do no worse than 9-7. For a team in transition (whether the Steelers want to admit that or not) it’s hard for even the biggest Tomlin doubters to complain about him pulling off a winning record. From this point on Tomlin will be working with the “house money” and usually does his best when he and his team are floating in confidence.
The Treaty of Pittsburgh
So much was said through the years about the strained relationship between offensive coordinator Todd Haley and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Fans clamored for the no-huddle offense so that Big Ben could call the plays. But this has been a season of peace and friendship between the two because they settled down to a clear understanding: Coaches coach and players play. Roethlisberger never was a great play caller or audible-izer. This year Todd Haley took a firm control over play calling allowing Roethlisberger to focus on his field-generaling. The result is an explosive, innovative offense that has many outside of Pittsburgh seeing Haley as one of the league’s best offensive coordinators.
The Strange Disappearance of Haley’s Comet
The two game winning streak of the Steelers has not been without disappointment for many fans who have hoped to see the continued development/experiment of rookie Dri Archer. Tomlin put a halt on the Archer show by having him on the healthy scratch list the past two games. Is it too early to call Archer a busted third round pick? Absolutely. The kid hasn’t got a whiff of a chance this season and the Steelers are to blame. Although, he does appear to be a house built of straw when it comes to being knocked down he never sold himself as the next Jerome Bettis. The decision to take him off of the kickoff return team was probably a death blow to his growth and field comfort. Markus Wheaton appears to be a temporary upgrade, but without a single return breaching the 50-yard line this year from either of his replacements, LeGarrette Blount and Wheaton, it’s clear the issue was less about “hitting the hole” and more about “there not being a hole to hit”. Hopefully, Archer still gets a chance in 2014 to show what he can do.
William Gay…playmaker extreme? Once again, the poster boy for fan neglect struck again with a scintillating Pick Six. This wasn’t a “look what I found, let me stumble it in variety”, this was a Rod Woodson-like, Polamalu-ish “take it to the house” return. Although his play against the Falcons wasn’t perfect, Gay should be entering the conversation of the Steelers most valuable defensive player with consistently good coverage and 18 points single-handedly earned.
The Secondary…Part Two
Can you imagine how good Antwon Blake could be as an NFL cornerback…if there weren’t endzones? Blake thrives in the open field using his speed and aggressiveness but his Kryptonite is when it’s jumpball time and the big red target dot appears on his jersey. Maybe the Steelers should seriously consider starting Blake and having Ike Taylor sub in when it’s Red Zone time where his size will help and his diminishing speed won’t hurt.
Debbie Downer Time
As excited as Steelers fans are and ought to be they must be reminded of one awful truth: The Cincinnati Bengals can clench the division this week with a victory and a Steelers loss. With a Steelers loss, the Wildcard picture gets fuzzy for the Black and Gold as well. This game against the Kansas City Chiefs is certainly in the must-win category if the Steelers are serious about winning the division.
Chief Game Of The Season
Make no mistake about it, the Chiefs are going to come into Heinz Field with their tomahawks in full swing. They are very similar to the Steelers in that they are young, hungry and are built by a coach who knows how to go deep in the playoffs. This will be one of the most physical, hotly contested matches of the year.