Steelers Spin: Raiders Of The Lost Ark

The Pittsburgh Steelers ship is sinking into a pool of mediocrity, an unfathomable abyss of “mehs”.

What just mere weeks ago was shaping up to be a turnaround season of a team on the rise, has become a knotted mess of enigmas. This, as the Steelers dropped yet another critical game with serious playoffs implications to the Los Angeles Chargers by the score of 30-33.

It was a game marred by inexcusably poor officiating, yet even this couldn’t overshadow the completely incompetent lack of in-game adjustments by the Steelers coaching staff.

The players? They exercised their gag reflex so often by choking this one away it’s hard to imagine this won’t cause post stress syndrome for them the rest of the season.

Any leads they build through the rest of the year? Think they’ll be confident they can hold on?

It could be the Steelers are just who they are. A team up to the challenge of squeaking into the playoffs, but out of their league the moment they step on those fields.

Normally, you would say the upcoming game against the lowly 2-10 Oakland Raiders is just what the doctor ordered. Unfortunately, that would be a witch doctor as the Steelers have been absolutely cursed in playing woeful Raider teams through recent years.

Complicating this is that the Steelers don’t have much to gain in terms of confidence by a victory against Oakland. But, they might have the whole season to lose.

Will head coach Mike Tomlin and his fellow gridiron experts be able to right the ship? Is there enough time in the season to once again generate some serious momentum?  Let’s give these questions a good Spin.

No Uppercut

At least in the minds of most of Steelers Nation, Ben Roethlisberger should be a first ballot Hall of Famer when his time of eligibility arrives years from now. His talent, his toughness and the level of competitiveness he brings to each Steelers game certainly puts him in the category of one of the team’s all time greats.

Yet, it doesn’t mean he isn’t without his shortcomings. Once again, against the Chargers, this glaring weakness was displayed under the big lights.

Big Ben is an impressive physical specimen and a true fighter. He has the ability to race his team out to an early lead against just about any team.

In those many times when the Steelers have fallen behind on the scoreboard, he has the uncanny ability to bring his team back from the depths of any deficit.

But, what he lacks is a solid uppercut. When he has his opponents on the ropes, when their eyes are jiggling in confusion soup, and they are stumbling backwards…Big Ben just can’t seem to give them that solid uppercut to knock them out.

Against the Chargers, he was only a few key plays shy in the third quarter of dousing whatever electrical spark of life was left in Los Angeles.

Is it because he’s a gentle giant? Does he love a close game? Maybe he doesn’t want the coaches to bring in the backup quarterback.

Whatever the reason. He just can’t seem to pull it off, and it hurts the team over and over again.

Until he is able to add this weapon to his impressive arsenal, the Steelers will always struggle to string together the big wins needed in a season to go all of the way.

Holding On

Special teams coach Danny Smith desperately needs some help. It’s beyond frustrating the Steelers can’t seem to block on returns on special teams.

They can’t block well enough to get a decent recent. And then when they finally do, there’s a hundred percent chance it will be called back for holding, or a block in the back.

Is there no one else on the planet who can teach and inspire proper technique and discipline?

Actually, there is one on the team.

Maybe offensive line coach Mike Munchak should take over coaching special teams returns. His guys know how to block…without holding.

Raiders Chances

The Raiders have already lost ten games this season and they’ve done it by suffering a negative point differential of -147. The next team on this list of shame is the Buffalo Bills and their incompetence pales in comparison with a negative difference of -115.

In other words, it’s not okay for the Steelers to go into Oakland with a “Just Win Baby” attitude. They’ve got to demonstrate the last three games they’ve played were a bad run, and not a clear indication the arrow is pointing down at the worse time of the year to do so.

The Steelers need to blow out the Raiders this weekend. They need to leave Chucky and his team of bandits thinking only of heading to Las Vegas.

If the Steelers merely eke out a victory, consider it a loss. December is not a month of continued growth, it’s the time of the year to declare your excellence.

Running On Empty

It’s no surprise the Steelers recent struggles have coincided with their lack of a running game. Much of this could be put on the shoulders of James Conner who has been in a funk as of late, and now is injured.

Conner will be a star for the Steelers for many years to come. Don’t worry about that. But, a heavy dose of Jaylen Samuels might just be what the Steelers need for a jolt. He’s dynamic, versatile and he might thrive with the opportunity to get a steady dose of touches.

Cheer Up, Charlie Brown

Fortunately for Steelers Nation, there is an easy way to cheer up even after the worst of losses. Simply play some of the short clip videos of Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier working out as part of his rehabilitation. It’s awesome, it’s inspiring and it’s bigger than any of his splash plays on the field.

The Right Stuff

Do the Steelers have what it takes to be a true contender this season? What a better place to explore that question then on the field with our good ol’ friends, the Oakland Raiders.

No. This game is technically not a “must win”. But the Steelers absolutely have to come out and make a statement, and make it in impressive fashion.

Just rout ‘em baby.

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