It was quintessential Cowher Power for the Pittsburgh Steelers as they went all old school over the San Diego Chargers.
With the kind of dismal quarterback play forcing Steelers fans to reminisce the days of Steve Bono, David Woodley, Todd Blackledge…and yes…even Kent Graham, the Michael Vick Experience was all but unbearable under the bright Monday Night Lights.
When even Chuckie is calling the bullpen to warm up Landry Jones…you know it’s a bad day for Mike Vick at the office.
But in the game’s waning moments…all of the blame shifted properly to full props as Vick abandoned being Roethlisberger-Lite and instead flew like the falcon he was designed to be.
The left-handed deep bomb. A few laser throws. A mesmerizing run. Just like that. The Steelers season back on track.
It was the thrill of victory…and the agony of defeat…all wrapped into one terrible beauty of a game.
So in honor of Vick, here is your Southpaw penned Rapid Fire Conclusions.
Speaking of former Steelers coach Bill Cowher, this game epitomized his hackneyed catchphrase of “there is a fine line between winning and losing.” Had LeVeon Bell’s knee touched the ground prior to the ball breaching the endzone, this would have been one of the most disheartening losses in Steelers lore. The season would have been on the brink, with the Cincinnati Bengals at 5-0 and the Steelers at 0-3 in the AFC Conference. As it was, based on the offensive play in most of the second half, Steelers Nation had already pulled out the pitchforks and torches from the garage. This was indeed a game of inches. And a season of inches as well.
If a play call works, it’s got to be right? Right? Well…wrong. In the spirit of journalistic integrity it must be said that running the Wildcat on the last play of the game was one of Todd Haley’s (or Mike Tomlin’s or whomever made the call) most bizarre choices. Why? The team should have run a Tom Brady-like quarterback sneak with a probability of success in the 75% range. Because that play would have taken only a few seconds. Even if it failed, they could have immediately called a timeout and then run their favored Wildcat the following play with one or two seconds left on the clock. With a timeout to spare, they would also have had the option of running out their kicking team. But…all’s well that ends well in the NFL.
For most NFL players, there is “No Place Like Home…No Place Like Home”. But not for Steelers players. They are the only team where every game is a home game and San Diego was no exception as the dwindling ranks of Chargers fans opted to go surfing rather than to sing refrains of “San Diego…Su-per Chargers…Pow…Pow…Pow”. The “Old Murph” rocked with Steelers faithful and while waving their Terrible Towels they essentially willed their team to victory, dragging LeVeon on their own at least two of the yards of his game-winning rush. The Steelers can be thankful they had a Home Away game, as those crowds are much more grateful for the opportunity to see their team play, and tend to be a kinder, gentler group of supporters. Had the game been played in Pittsburgh the offensive play would have drawn a rain of boos that would have sunk Noah’s Ark. It might have sunk the team as well. Give Tomlin credit for starting off his presser with a salute to Steelers Nation. Home is worldwide for Steelers fans.
Got Your Back Bro
If the Steelers story manages to have a happy ending this season it will be due largely in part to the quietly heroic roles of backups DeAngelo Williams and Darrius Heyward-Bey. Williams was given the unenviable role of filling in for young NFL sensation LeVeon Bell during his suspension and Heyward-Bey was tasked to fill in for Martavis Bryant during his extended time away from the team. Both players have not only exceeded expectations but are now in a position to add considerable depth to the team as the starters return. With Heyward-Bey’s size and speed combination and clutch receiving, coupled with his ability in blocking and willingness to play on special teams…he is already a coach’s favorite. He’s rapidly working his way into the hearts of Steelers fans as well. Is Heyward-Bey the next William Gay?
There will be few more clutch kicks in Chris Boswell’s NFL career than those he put through the uprights on Monday. According to reports, his pre-game warm-ups were nervous and inconsistent as can be expected in a rookie’s debut. Having to march onto the field to attempt a 47-yarder with the dark clouds of the Steelers recent kicking failures hovering above was as much of a pressure cooker performance as a Super Bowl game winner. Yet, when Boswell put his foot to the ball, you could instantly see what special teams coach Danny Smith meant when he praised the young kicker’s rotation of the ball. It spun off his foot as beautiful as you’ll ever see and it ignited a Steelers sideline celebration you’ll rarely observe with a second quarter field goal. Of course it’s WAY too early to tell, but after this key field goal, going three for three on PATs and with several impressive kickoffs, Boswell looks like he may be a winner. The youth movement may be…afoot…in the Steelers kicking game.
Dri-Ming Of Big Things
It was a bad week for Dri Haters as the diminutive racehorse survived the Martavis Bryant reinstatement cut, against the wishes and pleadings of many. But young Dri Archer posted two more solid kickoff returns against the Chargers and is showing a patience and discipline he lacked last year. Most notably, he is learning how to absorb NFL punishment and is starting to get past the first and second contacts. His roster spot is secure for the rest of the season Steelers Nation. Get over it and start cheering him on. He’s going to break one soon and you’ll be able to tell your friends you believed in him all along.
March Of The All-Pros
There was a time in the 70’s when the NFL Pro Bowl was basically one extra opportunity to see the Steelers play. There were often so many Steelers on the starting Pro Bowl line-up that you felt sorry for the other teams (well…not too much). Similarly in 2015, there is an incredible offense still remaining on the horizon for the Steelers once they get their full squad on the field. Antonio Brown? Best in the game. LeVeon Bell? Best in the game. Ben Roethlisberger? One of the best in the game. Maurkice Pouncey? One of the best. Martavis Bryant? The potential to be one of the best in the game. That Heath Miller kid is not a bad player and neither are many on the offensive line. Then you add surprising depth with players like Williams, Markus Wheaton and Heyward-Bey. Statistically, due to Big Ben’s injury, the offense won’t hit their lofty targets. But the second half of Steelers season should be an offensive explosion like never seen before in Pittsburgh. Yet that, of course, will be after they get used to Ben’s right throwing rotation of the football.
Where True Happiness Lies
But for genuine Steelers fans, what provides the most joy in their hearts is the rise of the defense. If the team happens to survive the Vick Era with playoff hopes still vibrant, it will be because of the gritty play of the defense. There is palpable growth in the drumbeat of the Steelers D with their confidence and performance charting upward each week. The defensive line, especially with the play of Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, is becoming a notable force. Jarvis Jones had perhaps his best game ever as a Steeler. Bud Dupree is quietly having one of the finest rookie seasons by an edge rusher in recent Steelers history. The secondary, though still porous, is beginning to make significant splash plays on a consistent basis. Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler is distinguishing himself as a strong play caller in his rookie season at the controls. If the defense continues its improvement on a game-to-game basis, the Steelers will be unstoppable when all offensive cylinders are firing.