Long after we’ve traveled over Three Rivers and through the woods to grandmother’s house, and following the annual ritual where in five minutes families consume eighteen hours worth of cooking, and even as the tryptophan is drawing us bleary eyed to the couch, Steelers Nation will get their just desserts as their team takes on the Luck-less Indianapolis Colts in an evening soiree.
Will it be another feast for sore eyes in the fashion of last Sunday’s Browns beating, or will it be just another pie in the face for a wearied Black and Gold fan base?
Without their star quarterback, Andrew Luck, and following a lackluster season thus far, the Colts would seem to serve up easy fixings for the Steelers.
But then again, these are your 2016 Pittsburgh Steelers, who have been a maddening sleigh ride over snowy banks of lofty expectations and down canyons of bitter disappointment. Don’t be surprised if grandmother herself concludes this year’s Thanksgiving gathering by chucking a fruitcake through grandpa’s new 72” Ultra HD flat screen.
Break out your turkey legs, your yams, mashed potatoes and gravy. It’s time to get this Thanksgiving edition of the Spin spinning:
I Can’t Drive 55
The Pittsburgh Steelers face a team in a remarkably similar predicament as the Colts. Both teams are 5-5, each is (normally) lead by a top franchise quarterback and they both are flying far below the radar of pre-season expectations. In other words, they’ve got cranky fans, and are desperate to muster some end-of-the-year mojo. Both teams are in weak enough divisions where they still have a chance to do so. Sure, the Colts are at a big disadvantage in that their franchise quarterback will be holding a clip board this weekend watching some dude name Scott Tolzien throw the ball. But, if you think Indianapolis isn’t going to rise to the challenge in front of their home crowd, you’re going to suffer from some serious Thanksgiving meal indigestion.
After all, it wasn’t too long ago when RB Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys were running all over the Steelers young defense. The Colts don’t have the offensive line the Cowboys have, by any stretch, but RB Frank Gore is a resurgent veteran running back that will be happy to carry the load. The Steelers must be able to stop the run early, or it won’t matter who is playing quarterback for the Colts.
Parts Are Parts
Against the Browns, there was great fear and trepidation that the Steelers defensive line would have to get by without their best player in DE Cameron Heyward. The unit responded by having their best performance of the year in surrendering only 33 rushing yards to the Browns while accumulating eight sacks. It was the result of DT Javon Hargrave getting to play much more frequently in his proper position of defensive end. It also was the result of LB James Harrison being on the field for most of the game as well as players like DT Daniel McCullers, DE Ricardo Mathews and DE L.T. Walton getting the opportunity to contribute, keeping the big boys fresh. Gore will test the theory that the Steelers are turning a corner in terms of their defensive pressure. The result of this experiment today may confirm or deny whether the Steelers have a playoff worthy defense…or not.
Now, That’s A Rap!
RB Le’Veon Bell had another major statement game with his performance against Cleveland. He gained 146 yards in 28 carries with a rushing touchdown. He added another 55 yards receiving on 8 receptions. Forget about recording another rap track demanding big bucks, these are the kinds of numbers that will get the Steelers negotiating team throwing out big numbers. Yes…it was the Browns, but this was a dominant performance nonetheless and a few more of those this season will warm the front office up to making a long term offer.
The Steelers 24-9 domination of the Browns might result in more than just a victory lap. It might instill a new mindset with the offense where the running game is more heavily in the mix. It was the high winds that caused Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley to dial up so many runs, but the approach appealed to his line and minimized the amount of time the defense was on the field. With Big Ben’s performances this year being a wee bit unpredictable, the weather getting worse, and the lack of solid number two and three receivers being problematic, maybe more reliance on Bell and a grinding offensive line would be a better recipe moving forward.
Half A Dozen
The preseason is far in the rear view mirror and already ten games in the Steelers regular season have faded into the sunset. This means we’re down to just a half dozen left in 2016 unless the team can assert itself into the postseason. Following tonight’s critical matchup, Pittsburgh will need the long break between games to ready itself for a Murderers Row of matchups coming against the New York Giants, the Buffalo Bills, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens. One or two losses during this upcoming stretch could mean lights out Sally for 2016.
‘Tis the season for gratitude, and the Spin would be remiss if we didn’t take this opportunity to point out everything we’re thankful for in being a card-carrying member of Steelers Nation. I’m grateful for the Rooneys, for making fans feel more like family than customers. I’m thankful for Coach Mike Tomlin and his experienced assistants for the many victories they’ve provided while always operating with class and dignity. I’m grateful to the players, who lay it all on the line each week, allowing us fans to experience a weekly adrenalin boost, and giving us plenty to rant about between games. I’m grateful that I am instantly a Brother or Sister to anyone wearing a Steelers hat or shirt…regardless of where they are in the world. Finally, I appreciate my friends at Steelers Depot, and the many faithful readers and especially….frequent commenters…who make penning these stories worthwhile.
So? Will It Be A Happy Thanksgiving Or Not?
This is another one of those problematic games for the Steelers. They have not performed well on the road this season, and the Colts will be defending their turf like a wounded animal in the absence of their quarterback. Still, there are some promising signs this Steelers defense is maturing, despite its youth, and they will star again today. Steelers 28, Colts 17.