After tomahawking the formerly undefeated Kansas City Chiefs by a score of 19-13, the Pittsburgh Steelers now face a home division matchup against the resurgent and Bye-rested Cincinnati Bengals.
You better believe the Bengals, who are 2-3 in a season where they are celebrating 50 years of…well something…will be considering this game to be absolutely mission critical.
So will the Steelers be up to the challenge? Well…there is only one way for the casual observer to answer that question this year.
Follow the bouncing ball.
Because, that’s how you would describe how Pittsburgh has jumped up and down the national Power Rankings where they already have been as high as number one and in the double digits as well.
National sports journalists don’t know what to make of the Steelers this season. Are they a serious Super Bowl contender or are they as Jackson Browne once sang, The Pretender.
Steelers Nation knows. We’ve been following this team for too long. This team has something special…but there are still quite a few things that just don’t look right.
Will the Black and Gold sort things out with this key upcoming match-up against the Cincinnati Bengals? They better. The striped ones have quietly righted their ship while winning their last two games. They boast one of the best defenses in the league and their offense is starting to finally find its stride.
Who will win? Let’s try to sort things out in this week’s Spin:
You Shall Not Pass
Who would have thought the Steelers defense would be Gandalf-like in facing off the Balrog of NFL offenses so far this season? The number one pass defense in the NFL? Now, that’s just crazy talk. But it’s also true. Their number three NFL ranking as a defense means they’re doing well overall. The acquisition of CB Joe Haden by the Steelers at the beginning of the season may end up being included in General Manager Kevin Colbert’s greatest hits album.
Okay, so the man isn’t the greatest clock manager or challenge maker. And yes, his teams do lose many games that they shouldn’t. But, if you wanted to see a short video clip of why Coach Mike Tomlin is still among the league’s best just watch the end of last week’s game when LB James Harrison playfully barks at his coach. We can guess it went something like this. Think I’m washed up, coach? You really gonna put me on the inactive list ever again? How about that game winning sack? As we’re watching this banter, many of us were saying, “Is this a thing?” But Tomlin’s response was classic and so revealing of the relationship he has with his players…even when they, like James, have a really good beef. Tomlin laughed, and then gave Deebo a hug and head rub. I mean, who on the planet gets to do that other than Coach Tomlin? The truth is that you pretty much never hear his players, either current or former, ever bashing their coach. The man has some serious people skills.
Money For Nothing And Chicks For Free
You can say a lot of things about RB Le’Veon Bell and his disappointing refusal of the Steelers preseason contract offer (and we have here on the Spin), but the man is now certainly earning his paycheck. He is toting the rock with both high levels of quantity and quality. There is only one other guy doing as much for the offense and his name is Antonio Brown. It’s too bad that both of them aren’t happily under contract with the Steelers. Brown handled his contract negotiations in such a different manner and it’s unfortunate that Bell didn’t approach it in the same way. Is there time for Bell to hit the RESET button on his negotiation stance and his injured relationship with Steelers Nation? Maybe. Even hopefully. But he’s earning now.
And Then Shakespeare Covered His Eyes
That being said, what about that touchdown celebration that cost the team…yet another…fifteen yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty? C’mon. How can a grown NFL’er not know that you can’t use the goal posts as a punching bag for your contrived antics? I am so weary of those ridiculous touchdown celebrations. It’s not just that they are incredibly selfish…and they are…it’s that they have grown into incredibly bad theatre. I mean really, do we have to see another player hold up a fake camera while another performs? Isn’t that play about ten years old? The spikes, the dances, the team hugs, the high fives, the sheer expressions of exhilaration. Those are football. Those are awesome. But, please, I beg you, no more horrific scripts and acting. And if you cost your team fifteen yards, no matter how big of a star you are, you ought to be fined and benched.
Only Have Eyes For You
There is a reason why Antonio Brown is leading the team and the entire NFL in receiving yards at 700. Yes…there is that thing that he is AMAZING. But, it’s also because QB Ben Roethlisberger only has eyes for him. Brown’s lobbying effort of putting Gatorade in flight has certainly paid off. Yet, just like in Washington, when one lobbyist wins, many others lose. Perhaps no other has taken a bigger hit than WR Martavis Bryant. Did Bryant request a trade? Probably not formerly through his agent. But, it’s certainly conceivable he did so in front of some of his family and friends. Who can blame him? We’ve all complained about our boss, and sometimes players make the mistake of doing it before their iPhone-wielding, Instagram-account-bearing girlfriends. But, despite the public relations blemish, Bryant is playing it cool this year. He has a right to be frustrated. Big Ben has been overthrowing and ignoring him while simultaneously chucking up squealing mallards to Brown in triple coverage. This trade rumor snafu might have unexpected positive results. The Bengals have traditionally done well in slowing down Brown. Expect Big Ben to be looking for Martavis early and often against Cincinnati.
That’s Why We Play The Game?
Apparently it was famed basketball coach Adolph Rupp who first popularized the sports phrase “And that’s why we play the game” many years ago. But does this really apply to the Steelers? They oftentimes follow so closely to script, maybe they can just mail the results in. Lose to teams like the Chicago Bears and then beat a 6-0 Kansas City team in the loudest stadium in the NFL. So with the Steelers being so predictable, shouldn’t we know how they will fare against the Bengals Sunday? Actually. No. This one’s hard to call. Despite the Bengals being a formidable opponent, the Steelers…should win at home. And that’s a cause for concern.