As the Pittsburgh Steelers emerge through the tunnel under the bright lights, big city of Cincinnati at the start of Monday Night Football, make no mistake about it, this is a champion-to-be with its training wheels still firmly in place.
The biggest question for Pittsburgh on Monday by both Bocephus and the entire NFL will be “Are You Ready For Some Football?”
The Steelers are facing the Bengals after a rather underwhelming performance against the Green Bay Packers, where Pittsburgh eked out a narrow victory while inexplicably allowing struggling quarterback Brett Hundley to have an “Aaron Rodgers who?” type of performance.
Who knows what the Steelers will do on Monday? Will they put smiles on the faces of young Bengal fans as they cheer for the Red Rifle during this Holiday season?
With the exception of their impressive clubbing of the Tennessee Titans a couple weeks ago, every win this year by the Steelers has been shrouded with a cloud of asterisks.
Is this the game where domination is clearly apparent? Or is the underlying level of frustration to continue for Steelers Nation the remainder of this season? Let’s Spin it to find out.
Of course it would be Tony Dungy who would be able to conduct my favorite interview with Coach Mike Tomlin…ever. When Tony asked his former assistant coach, and current friend to share without “coach speak”, Tomlin obediently complied. There was none of that corporate coach, garbage talk of, “You’re kidding, the New England Patriots are on our schedule in a few weeks? Golly, I wouldn’t know, I only own a one week calendar.” To hear commentators like Patriots homer Rodney Harrison go after Tomlin for merely discussing the enormous elephant in the room of New England is laughable. Do you REALLY think Coach Bill Belichick spits out anything other than contempt during his interviews? You believe him when he says he only thinks one game at a time? Are you going to tell me that he doesn’t already have five layers of game plans against the Steelers for their upcoming match? I hope all of the backlash Tomlin got from that refreshingly transparent and enjoyable interview is completely ignored by him. More of that Coach Tomlin. We like it when you speak to us like we’re not all drooling idiots…just some of us.
Jagged Teeth Of The Tiger
It used to be the Steelers and Bengals matchup was “must-see-TV”. Remember the days of Carson Palmer and Ochocinco? There were some amazing memories in those games and many of those have to do with former All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu doing something unbelievable. But nowadays? The Bengals have turned into such a dirty team with players like Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones that the main goal for the Steelers now is to merely leave town with a win…and without some cheap-shot injury. Were you surprised when Joe Mixon was drafted as a “steal” early by Cincinnati while he was off the boards of many other NFL teams? The Bengals need a new philosophy and a new coach if they are going to earn respect again.
This is a strange year for the Steelers. By all respects, this is a very young team on the rise…one that is positioned to dominate for a decade to come. That is, with the notable exception of their franchise quarterback. Will this be his last year? If so, will he be able to be replaced before the rest of the team squanders its youth? Or will he rediscover his inner child and be along for the ascension for a few more years? The NFL “circle of life” is in full display with this Steelers team. How it all unfolds in the next few months is a key storyline for the season.
There are more sightings of Sasquatch than there are of WR Antonio Brown missing games. But it may be that the same glorious toe that starred in his spectacular end-of-the-game sideline catch may hold him out of this one against the Bengals. That’s definitely an episode of “Dancing Without The Star” for a disappointed Steelers Nation. But is it the worst thing? Maybe this team needs more practice of what to do when Antonio is not on the field. As great as Brown and RB Le’Veon Bell have been, for this team to be championship grade, they still need to be excellent with one or both of them on the sidelines.
Another Gear…Or Another Year
That being said, the Steelers are decidedly lacking when it comes to being ready for the playoffs. This team is too wildly inconsistent to be able to go on a three or four game playoff winning streak when facing elite competition at the end of the year. While the Steelers were struggling against a struggling Green Bay last week, both the Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles were continuing to completely throttle their inferior competition. Yes…the Steelers are winning, but eleven games in, it’s still alarming how much of a work in progress they still are.
It’s well known that cornerbacks, kickers and quarterbacks have to have short memories. Whether it’s a bad kick, or a terrible pick, those players need to bounce back. But can a memory be too short? Last week after CB Artie Burns got celebrity roasted on a Green Bay touchdown pass play he could be seen yucking it up on the sidelines with Antonio Brown. Like…just a couple of minutes later. Meanwhile, the entirety of Steelers Nation were still busy trying to pull our feet out of our Ultra 4K high definition televisions. Maybe…just maybe…these guys in the secondary aren’t taking their jobs as seriously as need be. Burns flashes great talent, but if he continues to have major mental slip ups, I think he might need to spend some extended time on the sidelines to get all of his yucking out and his mind in the game. There is great skill in the young secondary, but the discipline is poor. It might be time for a few timeouts for these kids to get everyone’s attention on the field of play.
What’s up Steelers Nation? Shouldn’t we just be…happy…with a 9-2 record? The problem with all of us is we’re still suffering from the loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship game last year. Until we play against the Patriots in a few weeks, we’re going to be suffering from high anxiety with every blemish and flaw we see in our Steelers. That’s just the way it is. We’re just thinking ahead like Tomlin. Oh…this game? Yeah…the Bengals. I think we got this. Don’t you?