The Pittsburgh Steelers are on the roll their fans dreamed of with yet another impressive victory, this time with a 20-12 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. The game had everything you want with action, adventure and vengeance well served.
Now they have clinched a berth in the playoffs the Steelers are now officially “in it to win it” and with that in mind here are your Rapid Fire Conclusions:
Steelers Primed For Playoffs
Make no mistake about it. The Steelers victory over the Chiefs was as big as it comes for the team. The Chiefs are a well-coached, talented team who were desperate to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Steelers are already in playoff form.
Throwing The First Punch
The Steelers offense is now as prolific as one ever seen in Pittsburgh and…yes…you can throw in some of the 70’s offenses into the conversation as well. Yet, for all of their potential and their lofty statistics, the squad struggled with getting a fast start this season. That seems to have been solved by Todd Haley and Ben Roethlisberger as the Steelers have come out locked and loaded from the first snap for the past couple of games. If they can keep this up, the offense can carry the team on its shoulders deep into the post season.
No Hype Here
Rarely does pre-season hype manage to be exceeded by regular season results. Such is the case with the hiring of Mike Munchak as offensive line coach. The Chiefs posed one of the greatest challenges to the Steelers line this season and they responded without flinching. This young and rapidly developing line will be a team strength for years to come.
If Only He Could Catch
Much maligned offensive tackle Mike Adams returned to his starring role on Sunday—that of blocking tight end. Maybe he’s found a niche? Last year he excelled in this position and his positive impact on the role this weekend was noticeable. He even channeled a little Willie Colon by starting a few bar fights in the game. Is it too much of a reach to think he can offset the aging of Matt Spaeth? After all, it’s not like they throw to Spaeth.
Not all of the offensive line play was brilliant against the Chiefs. Ramon Foster’s “toss the head of Goliath” act in a critical moment of the game was as boneheaded of a personal foul a veteran could ever make. The Steelers had all but wrapped up the game with their late fourth quarter field goal. Gifting the Chiefs that kind of field position on the ensuing kickoff could have cost them the game.
The Fourth B
You have Ben (Roethlisberger), (Antonio) Brown & (Le’Veon) Bell as your original Killer B’s on offense. But it’s time to officially include Martavis Bryant as the Fourth B. His impact on the win was significant as his early deep catch established a stretched field for the remainder of the game. He’s taken over where Mike Wallace left off and he’ll grow to be much less of a One Trick Pony. Sure, maybe Bryant’s just a B Minor at this stage of his career, but he’s rapidly becoming a key cog to the Ferrari’s offensive wheel.
But, Don’t Forget Us
Any discussion of Sunday’s big game against the Chiefs would be lacking without glowing praise for the defense. It was, by far, their best showing of the season, primarily with the play of the front seven who gave a blast-from-the-past six sack performance. If Troy Polamalu can find a few more special moments in his career bag in time for the playoffs and lift up the secondary play, the Steelers can beat any team.
The Ketchup Bottle Is Half Full
If ever there was a showcase of the difference between James Harrison and his heir apparent, Jarvis Jones, it was on display last Sunday. When Deebo was on the field, there was Fire and Brimstone hailing down on the entire left side of the Chiefs offensive line. He didn’t just rush the passer he collapsed the enemy’s flank just as the James of Old. When Jones got his turn it was more of a ballroom dance with the left tackle. The Steelers are going to need a quantum leap of development from Jones, or need to try again in drafting their next great outside linebacker. During this extended transition time they’ll require the services of Harrison again in 2015. When you accidentally throw the half-full ketchup bottle in the trash, you swallow your pride, reach in and pull it out. Kevin Colbert should be following James and his son around with a pen and contract in his hand.
Lennon and McCartney
Cameron Heyward was an absolute beast against the Chiefs and continues on an upward trend. Yet, what was clear as well was how much he benefits from being alongside Harrison. Their collaboration in pass rushing and run defense was like…well…Lennon and McCartney. Beautiful music. You can be sure Ironhead Jr. is already heavily lobbying Harrison to return next season as it will be a Hard Day’s Night and a Long and Winding Road without Silverback.
Steelers fans came close to having coal in their stockings when Big Ben was spotted on the ground clasping his knee. What’s a horrific site this time of the year? Well…you have the Grinch heading up the chimney with your tree, the Grimwalds crashing your Christmas party…and Bruce Gradkowski warming up on the sideline. No offense Bruce, but we love you so much more with a clipboard firmly in your hand.
Vengence Is Almost Ours
Sadly, the Steelers weren’t able to eliminate the Chiefs from the playoffs. It would have been the perfect revenge for Andy Reid’s decision to sit out nearly his entire team against the Chargers in the game that ended the Steelers hopes for a playoff berth last year. But sweet irony remains as the Chiefs must now go all out against the Chargers next week to have any chance of getting in the tourney. To be fair, shouldn’t he sit all of his starters? Dare we say it? Go Chargers!
As big as the victory was for the Steelers, there remains much room for improvement. For instance, the fact the Steelers were completely out of timeouts toward the end of the fourth quarter. The sight of Mike Tomlin with a challenge flag in his hand can be as nerve wracking as when the baby grabs the remote control. Tomlin has been known to treat timeouts as lightly as the Kardashians do Gucci bags and he’ll have to get his arrow pointing up in time for playoffs.
Did you notice the Ross Ventrone tribute to Polamalu? It’s more than the big hair. Ventrone is explosive in defending kickoff and punt returns and is the team’s special teams captain of the future. With all of the disappointment about safety play this year is it too crazy to think Ventrone might throw his hat in the competition for 2015?
2014 Receiver Impersonation Award
While Antonio Brown is busy assaulting every imaginable receiving record in Steelers and NFL history there is another pass catcher on the team working on his own feat. Darrius Heyward-Bey must be closing in on the record for number of appearances on a field without a pass thrown to him. Why defenses bother to cover him is a great mystery. Obviously, Heyward-Bey hasn’t paid his quarterback tax lately. Yo, Big Ben. Throw the man a bone, will ya? With all of that blocking, he deserves a drop here or there.
The Battle For Super Bowl Loser?
The NFC has won four of the past five Super Bowls and if the regular season trends are any indication they could be on the way to their fifth in six years. Despite the AFC winning the interconference battle this year at a record of 33-30-1 the NFC have won the games that matter. Green Bay topped New England. The Dallas Cowboys obliterated the Indianapolis Colts and the Seattle Seahawks are starting to flash their Super Bowl shuffle. Even the Detroit Lions are looking championship grade and the Arizona Cardinals have done wonders considering they are going through quarterbacks like recycled bottles. The AFC teams are going to have to tighten up if they are going to have a chance to lift a Lombardi.
Beware The Bridge Trolls
A strange phenomenon occurred shortly after the Steelers clinched a playoff berth on Sunday. It was the reappearance of the Steelers Bridge Trolls. While there are those fans who jump off of the team bridge at a moment’s notice, the Bridge Trolls are far worse because they hide under the bridge (presumably since the Steelers loss against Green Bay in the Super Bowl) and are only seen once the team makes it into the playoffs. Then they throw rocks at any fan that would ever doubt the absolute perfection of the team, the organization and the coaches. “Real fans knew it all of the time,” they chortle. “The Steelers are Super Bowl forever.” Give it a break, fellas. But welcome to the conversation anyway. Step into the light. We missed you.
The Ultimate Showdown
Steelers fans are getting full value out of the regular season. What could be better than a clinched playoff position and a chance to win the AFC North division in hand-to-hand combat against the Cincinnati Bengals? And now…in prime time with the move to Sunday Night Football. Hello! This hasn’t been a perfect season, and it’s not over, but it’s already been a great year for Steelers fans. And as one poetic linebacker once spaketh, it’s all summed up in this: “Can’t wait!”