If the Pittsburgh Steelers could have another ten bye weeks, they might just be able to win this thing.
Because, as they were healing up and pondering about whether there would be another Le’Veon Bell sighting during their bye week, the rest of the AFC North was in complete self-destruct mode.
Somehow. Someway. The Steelers find themselves low above their division where apparently a 3-2-1 season is all it takes to be the lead, limping dog.
With the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns all losing last week, the Steelers hope to keep their slim advantage in the division by stealing the Halloween candy of the perennial Charlie Browns in the division.
For a brief moment this season the Browns were dressed up as a real NFL team, but they are coming to Heinz Field today as a team where the head coach is already taking over play calling responsibilities of the offensive coordinator.
Thank you for the headset Todd Haley. Could you grab me a beer and a hot dog? You know your way around this place, right?
Then again, the Browns have the advantage of facing the Steelers coming off a bye week.
Pittsburgh following a bye week pretty much operates the same as a patient coming off of general anesthesia. They are a bit dopey, slow to get on their feet…and often times say and do embarrassing things.
Will the Steelers break their terrible bye week habits? Will the Browns come as the Browns? Let’s break it down in the Spin.
Entertain Us, We Dare You
As the Steelers prepare to play their seventh game of the season, they are hoping it will be the first truly impressive win of the year. Have you seen this pre-season Super Bowl favorite yet have a dominating performance? No. Me neither. If Pittsburgh is going to demonstrate itself as a genuine Lombardi contender this year, this would be the game to begin making that statement in a clear and compelling fashion.
One of the many reasons why this game is so important for the Steelers to win is they are heading into a nine game stretch to close out the season where, if you take out the Oakland Raiders, their opponents have a combined record of 31-21. And the reason you take the Raiders out of this is that their 1-5 record is much better than those of Oakland teams the Steelers have been embarrassed by over and over again in the past decade. In other words, either Pittsburgh gets it going against the Browns or this season could get really ugly, really quick.
There is no question Antonio Brown is unhappy about not leading the NFL in receiving yards. But, forget about leading the league, he’s not even the Steelers leader. JuJu Smith-Schuster has 561 yards to Antonio’s 478 yards. Think Brown won’t want to get that fixed in the second half of the season? Hopefully, he and Ben Roethlisberger will get it going consistently from here on out, or there could be a lot of flying Gatorade coolers in the near future.
Only An Idiot Like Me
Apparently there is some law set in stone somewhere that once a player’s position is decided it could never be changed. Unless, you’re an idiot like me.
I think crazy things, all of the time. Like when I see Javon Hargrave play, I see an agile, slashing player who has three sacks this season. I also see him getting pushed off the line too many times. It gets me thinking: Why can’t he get some serious reps at defensive tackle for an underperforming Stephon Tuitt and allow truer nose tackle Daniel McCullers to get on the field more often?
Or how about moving Vince Williams to edge as he’s shown the ability to get to the quarterback, while proving to be a liability at times in open space. And, then you could move T.J. Watt to an inside linebacker position where he would more ably be able to cover tight ends and running backs. I know. Crazy talk. But, maybe it’s because Watt reminds me a lot of a guy named Chad Brown.
Why we’re going nuts, how about giving Roosevelt Nix some reps at rushing the quarterback on third downs? He was a defensive tackle in college, and have you seen the tapes of him going at it on the line in special teams?
One thing is for sure. When you’ve got a defense this inconsistent, it’s not really gambling to mix things up.
Keeping The Light On For Bell
Apparently Bell’s appearance on the side of a milk carton will continue until past the trade deadline. Then, the Steelers will finally be faced with the decision of what to do with the outrageously priced couch surfer when he finally returns. There is no way he should be taking reps from James Conner who is not only the future of the team, but the present. Receiver? No. I kind of like Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith Schuster in that position.
Here’s a better idea. Since, nobody on the team seems to want to cover tight ends, why not let Bell do it? I’d enjoy watching him cover Gronk.
Personally, I couldn’t stomach seeing Bell take any footballs from a blossoming Conner. But, how about designated tight end coverer? You think I’m joking? If this team can’t figure out how to cover tight ends, there is no way we’ll be able to beat the big boys in the AFC.
Mayfield Versus Rudolph
How long will it be before Steelers fans are savoring yet another tense matchup between young superstar quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph? Maybe never. But, don’t be surprised if you’re reading The Spin five years from now and I’m writing about them as two of the top quarterbacks in the league. (The bigger surprise will be that I still have a job here on Steelers Depot.)
Rudolph will have to wait a while before he gets his chance, but Mayfield is already flashing enough talent to indicate he might be the one to finally break the Browns longtime quarterback curse. Want to know the last time the Browns won in Pittsburgh? It was week five of 2003 and Tim Couch was the Browns starting quarterback.
So What Gives?
Is this a different Browns team that is going to give the home team a comeuppance under the leadership of their promising rookie gunslinger? Or are the Steelers refreshed and ready enough after the bye week to begin their surge to join the elite teams of the AFC?
As much as the Spin would like to spin it as the latter, the truth is Pittsburgh remains a team with too many unanswered questions on defense. Although the team is no longer in must win status, they certainly are in a “must be grateful for every win” position. And that includes this impending victory against the Browns.