In the 26-24 victory over the Indianapolis Colts last week, the Pittsburgh Steelers pulled off a sleight of hand move that would have had Harry Houdini saying, “How did they do that?”
Any decent data analytics specialist would have bet the house on that being a devastating loss for the Steelers, but future Hall of Fame placekicker Adam Vinatieri shanked a gimme and Pittsburgh’s comeback tour bus remains still smoking and rattling on the road because of it.
I should be riddled with guilt and remorse for being so Eeyore in taking anything away from such a meaningful win against the Colts.
But, instead, it is with a clear and peaceful conscience, like a warm wind on a tropical beach, that I still hold the brick in my hand that was barely spared from flying into my television.
The “living in their fears” coaching decisions in the fourth quarter were amateur league at best.
Still. There is room to cheer. The football fates were with us.
On to the Los Angeles Rams, who happen to be playing in the major league division of the National Football League where most of the good teams reside this year.
Yes, beating the Colts was a significant step forward for the rebounding Steelers, but a win against the talented Rams could signal even further that Pittsburgh is above water and firmly back in contention again.
Will this team finally experience the winning side of a season record? Let’s give it a Spin.
Rope A Dopes Like Us
You have to give Mike Tomlin credit. Few coaches throughout the course of history are able to keep a locker room together with duct tape and bailing wire better than him. Down in the dumps with a 1-4 record to start the year? No problem for this coach. He never loses his teams, even when they have crazy people on the roster, and he can rally them back like none other.
To Steelers Nation, he’s just like the great Muhammad Ali playing rope a dope in the corner of the ring. Every year he has a rough patch in the ring, and then his opponents are throwing out the “Fire Tomlin” haymakers left and right.
But, after absorbing some heavyweight hits, Tomlin emerges once again, with a win here and a win there and suddenly those calling for his departure look like complete idiots. Then his many fans are screaming out from their seats and ESPN high towers, “He…is…the…greatest.”
Unfortunately, there is a difference between Ali and Tomlin in that the original “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee” won championships as part of this rope a dope strategy.
Tomlin’s teams have been on a rollercoaster ride leading to nowhere for the past decade. He’s struggled with team consistency and in building a winner from the gate to finish. It’s always a patchwork of incredibly frustrating ups and downs.
If any of these roller coaster rides result in a Super Bowl, I’ll throw in my screams and cheers as well. Until then, I’ll wait to see where this ride ends before getting too dizzy either way.
Game Of Thrones
Young quarterback Mason Rudolph stats this year read as such: 66.1% completion rate, 1,088 yards, 10 touchdowns and 4 interceptions for a 94.7 quarterback rating. Okay, he’s not ready for a Gold Jacket yet, but that’s rather impressive for what is practically a rookie season.
Meanwhile, top draft pick and pre-season talking head favorite Baker Mayfield’s line reads like this: 58.7% completion rate, 1,963 yards, 7 touchdowns and 12 interceptions for a 71.3 quarterback rating.
Now that’s bad. Especially considering that he’s throwing balls to an All-Star cast of pass catchers. He’s not having to rely on the skill and growing pains of players named Ryan Switzer, James Washington, Diontae Johnson and Johnny Holton.
Maybe that was cherry picking by choosing Mayfield. Let’s choose everyone’s fave Lamar Jackson. His line is: 64.1% completion rate, 1,813 yards, 12 touchdowns and 5 interceptions for a 95.4 rating.
Granted, that omits Jackson’s impressive running stats, but even he wants to be compared as a thrower and not a runner. Yes…Rudolph’s passing yards are fewer, but he’s also played in less games than Jackson or Mayfield.
So…what’s with all of the Rudolph hate from Steelers Nation? Even his offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner has been jumping on the pile of the virtual rookie.
All things considered, the kid is doing phenomenal. Everyone is complaining about check downs that…worked for the most part in gaining yards.
At least two of those interceptions aren’t even on him, but rather on the butter dipped hands of his receivers.
There are only two theories I can surmise for this irrational dissing of Rudolph. One…this is Pittsburgh, and the fans have never been kind, or even mildly reasonable when it comes to quarterbacks. Two…the hate is actually some kind of innate devotion to injured Ben Roethlisberger.
Beat Rudolph down, and then it makes Big Ben’s return to the throne all that easier.
That kind of reasoning should be left to Cersei Lannister.
The Spin Super Bowl Plan…Revisited
Several weeks ago, I had published my proprietary plan for the Steelers to win a Super Bowl this. If you missed it, here it is again:
The Steelers need to WIN the AFC North. They can’t be a wildcard. That prize we want to go to Baltimore. That would make them a lower seed in the case we both make it to round two and as the wildcard, they would be off to Boston.
We take care of our business, as we have proved capable of beating anyone BUT the Patriots in the playoffs.
If the Ravens win as well in the divisional round, that would set us up for a conference championship game in Pittsburgh…where, the third time in a season is hopefully a charm for Steelers Nation.
After the Ravens dismantled the previously perfect New England Patriots last week does this plan still sound crazy?
My Favorite Ram
The last time I saw the Los Angeles Rams play it was when they were still in the Los Angeles Coliseum, which was a horrible place to watch a football game. Especially if you were in the high altitude, cheap seats like me. My vision of the field was obscured behind a ginormous concrete pillar and my head was clouded by smog.
But, I could see clear enough to watch a young one-man battering Ram by the name of Jerome Bettis gashing through the Steelers defense like they were made of paper mache.
Anyone else remember that game?
There Is Always This
To be honest, I already consider this 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers season to be a wild success. The defense is back and even in the absence of Stephon Tuitt, they continue to cause opposing quarterbacks to see ghosts.
Those of us who are nostalgic about the days of Bill Cowher aren’t necessarily overflowing with fondness for “the Jaw.” He was frustratingly dense when it came to valuing the role of a quarterback in the offense, and we spent many a game day with our foreheads planted in the palms of our hands.
But, those were the days when defense mattered above all else. If Tomlin can give us this for the next ten years, I’ve got a pen, let’s sign the contract.
Sacks. Pressures. Forced Fumbles. Pick 6’s. Yeah, Baby. Steelers football is back!
Above The Line
Quite similar to the game against the Indianapolis Colts last week, the Steelers are facing another key game against a surging quality team.
All eyes will be on the re-shuffled offensive line of the Steelers this week as they attempt to hold their own against All-World Aaron Donald and friends.
Are the Steelers Rams tough? It’s time to find out.