The Pittsburgh Steelers face the Jacksonville Jaguars in one of their most pivotal games of the season. Will the Steelers fail to put last year’s season-ending playoffs disappointment behind them?
Or will they add to the mounting enthusiasm they built following their recent drubbing of a good Carolina Panthers team.
Putting a finger on the pulse of Steelers Nation, it’s apparent the fanbase hasn’t felt this good about the future of their team since the launch of the 2018 season…which, I hate to remind us, resulted in a tie with the dreadful Cleveland Browns.
Yes…it’s been that long and painful just to hit the reset button on the lofty pre-season expectations for the Steelers.
So…what’s riding on this game, as the Steelers ride into Jacksonville on their high horses?
Well…strangely, the ghost of Jaguars past. That is, the Steelers come in favored, and are projected to win, possibly easily, against a team without an imposing quarterback. That, ironically, was the same exact pre-game chatter before Pittsburgh embarrassed themselves in the playoffs last year.
Forget about the storyline being revenge. That’s all rear view mirror stuff. What matters is momentum. Big Mo. Will the Steelers continue to be on the rise?
Or is Jacksonville the place where the air begins to leak out of the Steelers Super Bowl bound bus tires? How do we know the answer? We’ve got to Spin it.
This Was All Worth It?
Believe me. I want to stop writing about Le’Veon Bell as much as you don’t want to read about him anymore. But an article penned by ESPN’s Dan Graziano couldn’t go unanswered as it clearly spelled out to me all that is wrong in the National Football League today.
Its main premise was that no one should be drawing conclusions until March as to whether Bell is a “winner” or “loser” in his unique approach to negotiations with the Steelers.
The quote that got me was, “If he gets a Todd Gurley-style megadeal, then this was all worth it.”
Really? That’s why a kid plays football since he was five years old? It’s why he dreams of college ball in high school and making it to the “pros” while in college? It’s why he dons the colors of his NFL team for years, and builds rapport with the community and fans that have been following the team faithfully for decades?
It’s so he can stick it to everyone, get a high ticket payout, and play for a 2-14 team with the league’s worst offensive line, and be released two years later over salary cap issues and then end up playing for five teams in the next six years?
That’s what you would call a player winning in the NFL today?
C’mon Graziano. It being all worth it means you get resigned by a team you love that opened your doors to the NFL on draft day. It means by accepting a highly competitive offer by this team, you finish off your potentially Hall of Fame career in one home stadium and become a Steelers legend supported by adoring fans for the rest of your life while cherishing memories of leading this team to multiple Super Bowls.
Am I crazy? Or does that sound more like winning to me? Maybe Graziano should have interviewed Mike Wallace before he wrote such dribble.
So. A scene is sent throughout the social media universe of Bud Dupree rummaging through Le’Veon Bell’s locker and thanking him for his Jordans. Sigh. Oh…he was just joking.
This is the same Dupree who made the news in a locker room interview when he took pot shots at James Harrison when the Steelers legend was released last year and ended up with the New England Patriots.
I’m detecting a pattern here. Just saying.
The reality is I would hope the Steelers and its fans are better than this. Bell is gone. I think he made a terrible decision and should get rid of whoever he is paying as his career counselor.
But, it’s over. Let’s show some class and wish him well.
Unless, of course, he’s playing against us.
Not The Preferred Route
As usual, the Steelers have taken the annual Tomlin Trail that travels early in the season through the small town of Disappointment to the midseason outpost called Remarkable Redemption. Meanwhile, the remainder of the National Football League has taken the more traditional road to the Super Bowl in a path of early season domination, and consistent play throughout the year.
While we may be heartened by our 6-2-1 record, after beginning the season 0-2-1, there are other teams in the AFC who have had it more together from the start.
Primarily, it’s the Kansas City Chiefs who have taken the higher road and are 9-1 with the best young quarterback in the league in Patrick Mahomes. And, don’t look now, but their defense has been improving every week.
The New England Patriots, even though they have been mostly de-Gronked of their primary offensive weapon, are at 7-3. The recently displaced Los Angeles Chargers look sneaky scary at 7-2 and the Houston Texans are on a six game winning streak at 6-3.
In other words, the Steelers are coming off a dominant victory over the Carolina Panthers, and have won five in a row, but they are far from the lead horse at the halfway mark and they absolutely will regret having to play away playoffs games in either Kansas City or Foxborough.
Putting The FUN Back In The Not Fun League
Football is fun again for Steelers Nation. It’s from bags over our heads to riches. Oh…let us count the ways:
The team is rid of unnecessary drama. At least for now.
- Big Ben is looking as he’s evolved into his greatest greatness.
- He’s protected behind his own world-class Secret Service of an offensive line.
- James Conner is one of the most exciting…and worthy of cheering…young players in the NFL. And he won’t have a contract dispute for years.
- Antonio Brown is happy again…and celebrating in the endzone.
- Then there is the magical…whimsical…Number Two in JuJu Smith-Schuster who consistently provides a thrill every game.
- Joe Haden is transforming the secondary with his lockdown capabilities.
- Hello…this defense can really get to the quarterback.
- Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler is back to what got him his job in the first place: dialing up the blitzes.
- We get to see Big Dan McCullers get some extra PT this Sunday!
Never Corner A Wounded Animal
So what about this Jaguars game? They are a desperate team that will either use the Steelers as a bit player to resuscitate their season…or effectively put their glass slippers away for the year.
Make no mistake about it. This is a desperate, wounded animal the Steelers are facing this week.
It’s simple. We need to use the Bill Cowher strategy. No. Not the one he used. The one teams would use against him.
That is, to get a fast lead on the scoreboard, thereby neutering the running game early. The pre-Roethlisberger Steelers could never mount a comeback when they had to rely exclusively on the passing game, and the Jaguars can’t either.
Stop the run. Let Big Ben gun.
And it could…and should, be over by halftime. Let’s see if we truly, finally have the Steelers we were hoping for when the 2018 NFL season began.