The Grinch who stole Christmas is coming to town, to sap the last drops of joy in the hearts of Steelers Nation as the lowly, bailing-on-their-fans-soon Oakland Raiders humiliated the Black and Gold by the score of 21-24.
And now, here comes Bill Belichick sledding down the snowy mountain into town with his crafty elf sidekick Tom Brady, and of course, the Steelers killer, Abominable Snowman Rob Gronkowski running alongside, as he bellows in laughter about the “poppin’ good times” ahead.
Of course, you don’t need a Hall of Fame tight end like Gronkowski to beat you if you’re the Pittsburgh Steelers. Any tight end will do.
Take Jared Cook for instance. You may have blocked it from your scarred memory, but he was the Raiders tight end who danced through Sugar Plum fields all day last week as Steelers defenders waived and pirouetted alongside him in graceful harmony.
What was the Steelers number one goal on defense last week prior to the game?
You got it! Stop Jared Cook.
What do you call it when the coaching strategy completely, profoundly and absolutely fails?
Yes! Bad coaching.
And now Gronk? That can only mean one thing. Poppin’ good times!
The state of Steelers Nation is in such a funk ahead of the Patriots game that even Rocky Bleier said he was done. That was before the front office called him on the phone and begged him to be on the sideline this week wearing the Steely McBeam outfit.
Hard times in the Steel City.
We should all be in good Christmas spirit, with arrows point up, and Holiday music in our heads.
Instead, all we hear playing over and over again is…
All of Belichick’s Patriots
Laugh and call the Steelers names
They never let poor Big Ben
Win at any Patriots games
But enough of the misery! We must…carry…on. We can’t just stand by as the Grinch pilfers our rapidly diminishing pride. We’re going to have to Spin it.
Why We’re So Entitled
You can almost hear the Steelers players in the locker room after the Raiders loss.
“They get a paycheck too.”
“There are no easy games in the NFL.”
“How could they expect us to win a Super Bowl every year?”
You know why Steelers Nation can be so demanding? The answer is written in the stands.
One glance up in the stadium at Oakland and you could see half of the place spinning Terrible Towels. And this is in Oakland, arguably the most inhospitable place in the league to be a visiting team fan.
Steelers Nation is Super Bowl grade each and every year. There are no away games. The support this team gets is unrivaled.
We’re pretty sure the players weren’t surprised to come out on the field and hear the cheers, and see the amber waves of support…even in Oakland, of all places. It’s expected from us. We’re committed to excellence. Our consistency is unparalleled.
We are Steelers Nation. So, yes…we need you to be the Steelers.
Do your job and win us a Super Bowl every year, please.
I Know What You Were Thinking
So…the Raiders have the ball and they are marching down the field with their midland quarterback Derek Carr. All the Steelers need to do is stop the woeful Raiders offense and they win. This is the Steelers. No problemo, right?
Yet, with about a minute left in the game and the clock ticking down, instead you find yourself saying… “Just let them in.”
You wanted the defense to open the Red Sea, let the chariots pass and then get the dab’burn ball back in the hands of Ben Roethlisberger.
Don’t deny it. I heard you. Before you feel too judged, you should know I was muttering the very same unmentionable words under my breath as well.
That’s because, sadly, we don’t trust this defense.
Can you imagine saying that about the Steelers defenses of the past?
More Shameful Thoughts
How many of you were confident Chris Boswell would be able to summon some ice in his veins and make the game tying field goal?
No. Me neither.
In fact, I was lacking so much confidence I was even upset with JuJu Smith-Schuster for ending his miracle hook and ladder reception by stepping out of bounds.
You do know he had a choice, right? Rather than exiting stage left, he could have taken his chances by cutting his run to the middle of the field. This would have undoubtedly run out the clock, thereby putting all of the team’s hopes on his ability to make it to the end zone through his will and talent.
Normally, that would be considered a selfish, rookie-like mistake. Trying to do much.
But what about you this season? Would you have put more faith in a JuJu miracle, or a chip shot Boswell field goal?
The Heart Of The Problem
It seems easy to point all fingers at the Steelers secondary when it comes to the defensive woes of the team.
Yet, the real issue was one Steelers Nation was clamoring about when the team was dabbling in free agency and on the draft clock this year.
Why didn’t they address their glaring shortfalls at middle linebacker?
A couple of years back I had wickedly penned that if you put Vince Williams on the field against the Patriots you might as well be having him hold up an “Insert Gronk Here” sign.
Yet, we can all forgive Williams for his pass coverage deficiencies, I suppose. At least he’s a dominant force when it comes to tackling. Right?
Well. No actually.
In the NFL, when it comes to top tacklers in the league, you’ll find inside linebackers at the top of the charts. In the top five, you’ll find the names of Blake Martinez of Green Bay, Anthony Hitchens of Kansas City and Luke Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers.
Still in the top fifteen you’ll catch inside linebackers Mason Foster of Washington, Bobby Wagner of Seattle, Avery Williamson of the New York Jets, Eric Kendricks of the Minnesota Vikings, Cory Littleton of the Los Angeles Rams and Todd Davis of the Denver Broncos.
Most of the league’s middle linebackers land in the top fifty.
Do you know where Williams ranks? He’s tied for number 72 on the list, just a few spots behind Steelers free safety Sean Davis.
Jon Bostic? The Steelers big acquisition to address the glaring inside linebacker needs? He’s tied in the 77th spot.
So, if you’re wondering why opposing teams can march down the field at will against our defense at times, don’t be too quick to put all of the blame on the team’s secondary.
Unfortunately, the team’s most glaring weakness remains at the heart of the defense. We knew this in April. Why didn’t the Steelers?
Why This Defense Can’t Win A Game
Statistically, the Steelers rate as a decent defense. Obviously, their sack numbers are exceptional. Their points against numbers aren’t too dreadful.
So what gives? Why are they not trusted by the fans? At all?
The answer can be encapsulated in one solitary play against the Raiders. It was third down, 30 seconds left in the game and the ball is on the six yard line.
Carr takes the snap, pump fakes and then lofts an underthrown ball toward the back of the end zone to Cook. Morgan Burnett, who chased Cook unsuccessfully throughout the day, has the opportunity to instantly go from goat to hero.
In a moment frozen in time, Burnett, with a hand locked on Cook’s arm chooses to swat the ball away, rather than being a Playmaker and going all in on making an interception.
If you watch the film, yes, it would have been a tough play. It would have taken a player with confidence, athleticism and an unyielding will to put the team on his shoulders.
For a Playmaker? A Troy Palomalu, Rod Woodson or even Ryan Shazier.
Easy play. Ball game. Call it a win.
Out Of My Way Kid
You can call him reckless. You can say he’ll force the ball too much. You can say he’s overly dramatic at times.
But, Ben Roethlisberger proved again how he has the ability to put the entire franchise on his back and take us to the finish line.
After “ribbing” us a bit on the sidelines in the second half of the Raiders loss, Big Ben thanked Joshua Dobbs for his fine effort and then said, “Out of my way kid.”
He then trotted onto the field with only minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, and proceeded to wave his magic wand.
Had it not been for Boswell’s slapstick comedy, Big Ben would have put up ten points on the board in a matter of minutes. It was as easy as if he was up in the booth, working the scoreboard while munching on a mustard-slathered pretzel.
He has superpowers, when he wants to use them.
And he is our last glimmer of hope for a Super Bowl run this year.
The coaches are incapable of providing it. The defense can’t either. And certainly the special teams unit won’t be able to swing it.
You want to win this year Steelers fans? It’s roulette wheel time. Slide all of your money in and bet it on Number 7 and don’t take your eyes or hopes off of that silver ball.
It’s not the way we wanted it at the beginning of the season. It’s not what good coaching should have provided, but it is what it is.
It’s Big Ben or bust.
Back To Jacob Marley
Oh yes…back to the hosts of Christmas horror, past, present and future.
The Patriots are coming to town. Those ghosts who have haunted us now for nearly two decades.
And the Baltimore Ravens are only a half game back, with wind beneath their wings. Even the wildcard opportunities are slipping away.
Coal in our stockings Steelers fans? Sadly, it’s looking more and more like it.
But hang in there Rocky! Mr. Balboa never gave up and neither should you.
Nor should we Steelers Nation. Raise your towels. Spin them well. Let’s show them what Champions do.