Wipe away your tears, Steelers Nation.
It’s true. The Pittsburgh Steelers failed to even make the playoffs last season, and perhaps even worst, we had to watch Tom Brady and Bill Belichick earn their sixth Lombardi Trophy.
It was as nightmarish of an outcome that could have been realized for a team last year with its own Super Bowl aspirations, but wipe away your tears Steelers Nation.
It’s time to dream again.
And what could be better than kicking off this season with a chance to draw some small revenge against the dreaded Patriots?
Cue the music. Dandy Don to the mic. Turn on the lights, the party is starting.
Let’s get it Spinning.
Purple Haze All Through My Brain
But first…we now interrupt your regularly scheduled program to present to you, the Antonio Brown Magical Mystery Tour.
Sorry Steelers fans, but Antonio will continue to be the main distraction through the remainder of this year. You said you’ve moved on? Then why did so many Pittsburgh televisions and iPhones and iPads tune into HBO’s Hard Knocks this season?
Because we love ourselves some Antonio Brown.
As for me, I’m writing it all off as one year long bad acid trip for the once fan favorite Brown. Apparently in Steelers Nation, it’s fashion to be bashing Brown for his cold feet, lid controversy and excruciatingly dreadful contract negotiating skills.
And truthfully, this is well earned. Business is hardly boomin’ for AB. It’s been a rough ride for one of the original Young Money members.
Yet, I refuse to believe Antonio has ALWAYS been tripping. Because that would mean erasing from my memory banks some of the greatest highlight reels of the Steelers in the past decade.
Don’t lie. You all were fools like me. Dancing in bars, high-fiving strangers and spinning towels in stadiums since the first time he caught a ball on the side of his helmet.
Hopefully, the red trees will stop melting, and the rainbow butterflies will cease to flutter soon for Antonio and he can get back to enjoying the last few years of his football life. Or at least get himself healthy and clear out the haze. The dumpster fire hasn’t been fun to watch.
What is being squandered by foolishness is the last few years of his greatness. If only he could look into the future, and see himself sitting at table, with a grey beard waiting for kids…even just one…to ask for his autograph.
The way things are going, the only question he’ll get is, “Where is Roethlisberger?”
None of that matters to me. You can’t take away the joy the man has brought to a Steelers uniform. The memories are real life. So is that big smile. We partners. Me and AB. And I’m keeping all of the film reels.
The Only Good News
Some people are declaring Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert as geniuses for having managed Brown successfully for so many years and for getting whatever they could in exchange for rotten potatoes.
But, there are no winners in getting collective pittances in exchange for the likes of the Killer B’s in Le’Veon Bell, Brown and Martavis Bryant.
It was a toxic waste of the highest order for all sides, and is a key reason why this team hasn’t won Super Bowls lately. You can’t get once-in-a-generation talent, and then let it spoil.
Yet, there is one silver lining in these dark, dark clouds. And that relates to future contract negotiations for superstar players. You listening JuJu Smith-Schuster?
It never pays to leave the Steelers. Just sign the deal.
Here In The Real World
Now. Here we are back on planet earth where the Steelers have reconstituted themselves into The Waltons, where everyone is family, and all get along and John Boy says “Good night” every evening. Still, the big question remains: “How will this all play out?”
After draining the team of malcontents and uber talent does the offense have enough firepower?
What about the defense? It was about ten years ago when Warren Sapp infamously declared the once great Steelers D as too old and too slow and in doing so he proved to be more Nostradamus than notorious.
Has the Steelers defense finally filled its need for speed with a player like Devin Bush and a host of others? Will this be what it takes to finally slow down Tom Brady?
Maybe. But, probably the most critical development in tipping the scales in the Steelers favor in this rivalry is the (at least temporary) retirement of one Robert James Gronkowski.
Gronk exploited the defense’s inability to cover tight ends like few players ever had.
Unfortunately, the only way to ensure long-term success for the Steelers against the dreaded Patriots will be the retirement of one Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr.
Minimum Viable Reps
For an NFL player, or those with aspirations to become one, there is so much weight put on the number 53. That is, to make to the roster of 53 players allotted for each team.
Many a casual football observer would note that these 53 players always comprise the finest players a team can put together. Yet, this isn’t always the case.
So many other factors go into making the squad, and much of it has to do with good fortune. If you were drafted, you’ll always get an edge because the general manager’s prestige is attached to your name. Coming from a bigger college will help as well.
Then, there is the inconvenient nick. One pull of the hamstring and your life’s ambitions are snapped just as easily.
Finally, there is tough break of just not getting enough reps in the preseason games to get comfortable in the game flow and to show what you can do. Sometimes you’re scheduled to play a half, but because of late coaches’ decisions you only get six minutes.
The point being, not all of the best players make the team. Not all the ones who get cut deserve to be so.
The same goes for those guys on the 53. It could be tough luck being behind one of the league’s best. You may just not fit in the coaches’ scheme.
What we’re saying is, if you’ve ever had your name on a Steelers locker, then hats off to you, my friend. You are worthy of our respect, and you’ll always be a Steeler.
Raising The Sixth Banner
As part of the pregame ceremonies the Patriots will raise their sixth and most recent Super Bowl banner. This will (and should) cause bitter pain to all of Steelers Nation as there was a time not too long ago when our Lombardi Trophy lead seemed insurmountable, certainly with the many Super Bowl worthy teams we’ve had over the past fifteen years.
Whether he likes it or not and whether his diehard supporters want to argue the point aimlessly, this is as much a part of Mike Tomlin’s coaching legacy as anything else, as it happened mostly on his watch.
It’s a critical part of Ben Roethlisberger’s resume as well. The Belichick-Brady doubles pairing has dominated the Tomlin-Roethlisberger one. There is no other way to sugar coat it.
Still, it’s not game, set, match…yet.
Big Ben is capable of another strong few years and Tomlin is young enough to be coaching in this league for another twenty years.
Hopefully, as that banner rises Sunday, there is a discrete exchange of glances and a nodding of heads between Tomlin and Roethlisberger. Maybe even a fist bump.
There has to be. The road to the Super Bowl has been going through New England for a long time now.
So what about the Steelers? What do they have to do to get their seventh trophy of glory this year?
It’s simple. They’ve got to be clutch.
This hasn’t been a team that has been able to make the big plays when needed. In particular, the defense has struggled to create the game ending turnovers to seal things in the win column.
There is no question this offense is strong enough to dominate at the line, and to control the ball at the point of attack. Antonio’s ability to draw double and triple coverage is going to hurt this time more than anyone seems willing to admit.
But, there definitely are enough offensive playmakers on this team to score.
What it will come down to is fourth quarters, when our defense runs out on the field. Forget about promising new rookies, or developing young players, or the improvement in defensive speed.
None of that really matters. What does is, at the key times, can this defense make a stop?
That question, my friends, will define the season. Let’s hope all of the drama for the Steelers…finally…is ON the field.
Turn On The Lights
Could there ever be a more exciting start to the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers season? A chance to go into New England and make a statement around the league?
And, in front of a national audience, on Sunday Night Football?
Turn on the lights, baby. Let’s get this party started.