The Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl playoff run is upon us. Win this one and the odds of raising a Lombardi Trophy in 2018 grow exponentially.
The New England Patriots, their deflated balls, and all of their sophisticated video surveillance are on their way to Heinz Field and their coaches and players are making final preparations to play the role of the Grinch to the rising hopes of Steelers Nation.
This is not only the most anticipated game for Steelers fans, but it’s easily the National Football League’s most important match-up of the year to date.
Last week against the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh pulled off another miracle victory while also confirming that injured Ryan Shazier is as important to team’s defense as Ben Roethlisberger is to the Steelers offense.
That’s not all. When Joe Haden went down weeks ago, the Steelers secondary went down the sinkhole with him. Even if he plays, he won’t be at 100% for this Patriots game.
So, the question becomes, can the Steelers beat Tom Brady with a defense that is currently being reconstructed with duct tape and bailing wire?
Several weeks ago, the answer would have been a definite “No”. But, that was before Roethlisberger and the offense finally decided to be all they could be.
This version of the Steelers offense is the stuff of dreams, and is capable of beating any team on the planet, with or without a supporting cast on the defensive side of the ball.
All together, the Steelers have performed so well this season, and have gotten off to such a strong start at 11-2, that if they are able to beat the Patriots, they will only be a stone’s throw away from another Super Bowl appearance.
Then again, these are the New England Patriots. The indisputable team of the New Millennium.
Two destinies, one bone.
What dog gets it way? Let’s Spin it a little deeper.
The Ravens game was once again a sad reminder of the number 17 Steelers jersey I’ve had hanging in my closet gathering dust for years. Seeing Mike Wallace running routes while clothed in purple is depressing. Have you ever wondered what would have happened if the Steelers front office could have pulled off the Hail Mary of keeping Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown under contract? It probably would have meant more Super Bowls as well as placing Ben Roethlisberger in the conversation of being the best quarterback of his era.
Some people may say that Wallace isn’t that good of a player, but the plain fact is he was a dominant force in the NFL for the Steelers in partnership with Ben Roethlisberger and probably would have been for many years more as he was a perfect fit for the offense. He’s one on a long list of players who destroyed a promising career by leaving the NFL’s best franchise in pursuit of mo’ money. (Are you listening Le’Veon Bell?)
Whoever wins this game between the Steelers and the Patriots will be treated as the NFL’s best all of the way up to the Super Bowl, or until they get eliminated in the playoffs. Yes, it means you’re just a paper champion, and it pales in comparison to being a Super Bowl champion, but in the NFL being the temporary champ ain’t so bad. You get listed as number one on all of the NFL ranking charts, you have all of the talking heads frothing about the mouth about you, your team gets featured on ESPN, the NFL Network, you get on the cover of all the football magazines and your games get prioritized for prime time.
Best of all, the fans get to talk smack to all of the 31 other posers in the league. It’s been a long, long time since the Steelers have been paper champions. Get those paper hats and shirts ready Steelers Nation.
Breaking Billy’s Chess Board
In big games like this, most coaches will tell their players not to try to do too much. The Steelers coaches would be well suited to heed this advice themselves. The spotlight on most NFL games is properly placed on the players on the field. Coaches are so good at this level on all of the teams that for the most part, they balance each other out.
However; Bill Belichick’s reputation is such that every opposing coach has their manhood challenged when he is standing across the field. They just can’t fight the urge to try to out-think Belichick with schemes and strategies their players have no hope of learning and executing properly in a few days. Nine times out of ten, the team with the best players win, as long as their coaches don’t get too smart and mess things up. The Steelers coaches would be best to ignore the guy across the field with his silly chess board, and keep winning the way they’ve been winning.
Letting The Horses Run
The Steelers didn’t lose the 2016 AFC Championship because they were over-coached by the game’s greatest genius. They lost because they got outplayed. The defense in particular was flat out horrible in leaving mediocre receivers more open than they have been since high school. The game plan for the Steelers defense should not be over-complicated. Go out there boys and play some ball. The Steelers defense has been getting gashed as of late, but they have a lot of horses on the team. Man up. High pressure. Let them horses run.
If the Steelers beat the Patriots you can be certain that Mike Tomlin’s name will be elevated as a contender for Coach of the Year. And, that consideration would be well deserved. This has been his best year of coaching. But, that doesn’t mean he and his coaches have been perfect.
The demotion and benching of James Harrison has been inexcusable. Yeah…we get that the Steelers front office wants everyone to be aware of the brilliance of their first round pick of T.J. Watt. And the kid is the future. But, when the Steelers are getting gashed in run defense, there is absolutely no reason why Deebo should be sitting on a bench sipping Gatorade while watching Bud Dupree perform Cam Thomas’ greatest hits. There always seems to be one coaching decision each year that is mired in stubbornness and ignorance, and this is one of them. Get James on the field.
The Zebra’s Stripes
The fact that Tony Corrente’s hanky-happy officiating crew is assigned this game may be end up being a huge break for the home team. Although Tony and his gang have done a number against the Steelers in the past, it’s important we get a crew that will call a tight game. Belichick’s number one strategy for slowing down high-powered offenses is to have his defense hold, grab, poke, punch, trip and kick receivers. If Antonio Brown doesn’t get an early pass interference call, this is going to be a long game.
The Ghost Of Football Past
If you haven’t had a chance to watch the video clip of DeAngelo Williams pontificating on Good Morning Football this week on the NFL Network it’s worth investing ten minutes of your life to do so. (Steelers Depot posted the clip in an earlier article.) In a set-chilling, show stopping performance, DeAngelo basically silly-slapped the co-hosts of the show until they were a blathering blob of tree pulp.
His main premise was that if you haven’t played NFL football at the highest levels, then you apparently don’t know jack and shouldn’t be even talking about it. In the process, he not only gave massive wedgies to the non-NFL playing announcers on the set, but he also sent the entire team of Steelers Depot back down into their mama’s basement.
Personally I’m a huge DeAngelo fan on the field. I still feel the Steelers made a colossal mistake by not having him as Le’Veon Bell’s back-up this season and serving not only as a critical insurance plan, but by taking on some of the load. I also thought he flashed great on-air talent on the show as he was relaxed and extraordinarily smooth in vocalizing the overriding sentiment of most players in the National Football League. Nobody knows nothing unless they played the game.
The problem with DeAngelo’s volcanic spewing of self-promoting arrogance was that he got it all wrong and in the process he managed to disrespect not only the co-hosts and the vast majority of sports media, but also the millions of fans who make football what it is. I mean, you aren’t really a true fan unless you have an opinion on how the team could be playing better. Isn’t that much of the fun anyway?
A short visit from the Ghost Of Football Past would allow DeAngelo to see what the National Football League would be if there were only players. There would be no owners to pay all of the bills and to build the stadiums. There would be no fans to fill the seats, to buy the jerseys and to fund all of the player’s sprawling estates.
And…there wouldn’t be any of those pencil necked, pocket-protector geeks who host talk shows, and write blogs and basically are able to use their unique talents to make things like men running around in padded tights seem to be much more important than it actually is.
You’re right DeAngelo. The NFL players are the stars. The center of it all.
But, they’re also just part of a much, much larger team of fans, owners, journalists and kids with dreams who all contribute to making it the greatest show in America. They include non-NFL playing coaches like Bill Belichick and Mike Tomlin who innovate the game to another level. Then there’s guys like Howard Cosell, Chris Berman, Peter King, Chris Mortensen, Steve Sabol, Myron Cope…and yes…Dave Bryan who have contributed by telling the story of the NFL in a powerful and compelling way.
And DeAngelo, next time you’re a guest on somebody else’s show, try to show some respect. Or better yet. Suit up for the Steelers. We could use you for the playoff run.
All I Want For Christmas
There are few things that bring more joy to me than seeing Tom Brady yelling at his teammates on the sidelines and Bill Belichick having to make the walk of shame across the field after being beaten by the Pittsburgh Steelers. There is no question the Patriots hold both the historical and psychological advantage in this matchup. It would be unfair to even call it a rivalry as it’s been so lopsided in the Patriots favor. But, that all could all shift in a positive direction with a big Steelers victory on Sunday as whichever team wins this one will have a huge advantage in making it all of the way.
Coal in the stockings for Steelers Nation? Or the gift of our dreams? Can’t wait to open this present up.