After a rather expected away victory over the Arizona Cardinals by a “too close for comfort” score of 23-17, the Pittsburgh Steelers state their case of excellence before a national…nay global…audience as they take on the Buffalo Bills on Sunday Night Football.
If you read last week’s show stopping Spin (whahh? you don’t read them all?) then you would already know this “major turnaround” by the Steelers coaching staff is mostly a result of hitting a very soft and long patch in the schedule.
There is no question there is resounding optimism regarding the fact the Steelers have won seven out of their last eight games which has everyone talking about their new generation of stars.
But, for those of us who won’t be fooled again, we do have to strike a Pete Townsend sized power chord to question the competition they’ve mowed over in the process.
Who are you? Who? Who?
The combined records of the teams the Steelers have beaten during this run are 29-55.
Just sayin’. Then again.
Who cares? Who? Who?
We’re having a blast this season. The defense is back. They are writing about us everywhere and we LOVE these players. Even during their rough patches, they were fun to be their fans.
Guys…don’t ever change. No really. Don’t change.
There are so many questions leading up to this big game against the Bills. Chief among them may be, “Will the Duck throw to Tackle Eligible”?
Before this carriage turns into more of a pumpkin than it already is, let’s give this a Spin.
Surrounded By Enemies
Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson took some hometown heat when he tweeted he was “surrounded by enemies” in the stadium after his team got beat by Pittsburgh. He explained later what he meant by that reference.
“I was looking at the photo and there were a lot of Steeler fans,” Johnson said. “Even on the way to the game, there were Steelers fans at the hotel, there were Steelers fans everywhere. It was odd that it was our home game and there were so many Steelers fans.”
Well…first of all, Mr. Johnson, please put down your tweeting machine and focus on your main job of enhancing my Steelers Depot Fantasy Football team. Good grief, you were one of my top picks.
Yes, you are correct. Steelers Nation invaded the State Farm Stadium and brought it to life with thousands of gyrating Terrible Towels.
But, please, TV announcers…don’t make the mistake of saying it…no…not the dreaded “Steelers fans travel well” phrase.
Ugghh…you said it.
It makes it sound like there are 60,000 Steelers fans in Pittsburgh, and for all of the away games they load up in bright yellow and black buses and head across the country.
No. Steelers fans don’t need to travel well. They are already there!
I was watching the game in Reno, Nevada with a friend in a sports bar filled with Steelers fans and we were discussing all of the other Steelers bars in Reno. Then he told me about the Steelers bar he frequents in Scottsdale, Arizona where he has a second home.
If you Google “Steelers bars in Scottsdale” you’ll see more than ten pop up, but the granddaddy of them all is Harold’s Cave Creek Corral.
Harold’s says it can cater to 800 sports fans, and during Steelers games, it’s almost exclusively Steelers Nation. You can even purchase a season ticket at Harold’s where you’ll get a reserved place at the bar with your name on it for all Steelers games. They just had a meet and greet event with Mel Bount, Merril Hoge, Louis Lipps and Santonio Holmes in attendance.
And, that’s, just in Scottsdale, Arizona where you’ll find more cactuses than oak trees.
The point is. Steelers Nation doesn’t travel well, fools!
And now…a public service announcement for all residents of Steelers Nation.
We think it’s important for you to know you CAN criticize Mike Tomlin AND still love him as a coach and a man.
If you hear someone questioning a play call, or clock management, or say…the STUPIDEST FAKE PUNT CALL in the history of the National Football League…and perhaps all of civilization…that does not mean that the coach is no longer loved and respected and worthy of the millions he makes.
So…let’s try this together.
THAT WAS THE STUPIDEST FAKE PUNT CALL in history!
Ahh…you did great. No flamethrowers. No Internet trolls. No marching in the streets.
Just all of us having some friendly Steelers Nation football talk together.
The Kids Are Alright
Look. There certainly are responsibilities that NFL players have putting them on a loftier, more visible pedestal and whether they want to admit it or not, they are employees of a multi-billion dollar organization. They have a higher standard when it comes to representing the league and its teams.
But, that being said, let’s not forget many of these young men are still kids. I think there are too many among us who are having preferential amnesia when it comes to forgetting what we were like in our twenties.
For me. Not perfect.
So what’s all of the grief JuJu Smith-Schuster is getting for missing this game against Buffalo? The kid’s hurt. He doesn’t need to shut down his social media accounts or his social life just because he can’t play.
In the long run, this year of unanticipated challenges for Smith-Schuster will probably provide many career benefits for him and the Steelers.
If this year has proven anything, it’s that the Steelers don’t need prima donnas and contract busting holdouts to win games. They don’t need Smith-Schuster to be All Pro, they just need him to make some plays, like the rest of his teammates.
When you’re ready, young man, grab an oar. We could use your help.
The Glory Down
One of the takeaways for the offense against the Cardinals was that Devlin “Duck” Hodges was clutch when he needed to be.
I think if we’re being honest, there is probably an excessive amount of pomp and circumstance when it comes to how much press the Duck is getting.
After all, in the three games he’s started he’s only got three touchdown passes. This isn’t exactly the second coming of Patrick Mahomes quite yet.
But, if can clearly position himself as the “guy that links downs” and who makes scrappy plays when needed, he will be the perfect quarterback to accompany this team’s true superstar, which is the defense.
Make some plays. Keep the chains moving. And the legend of the Duck will remain strong.
The Forgotten Man
Steelers fans can be extraordinarily binary when it comes to their players. Either they are amazing…or they are total bums.
This is the Duck’s time to fly. No question about it.
But, that doesn’t mean Steelers Nation should forget the job Mason Rudolph did in helping this team recover from a bad start and the early loss of franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Rudolph’s most forgettable game was against the Cleveland Browns, but it was also the game where the offensive line played their worst.
Outside of that game, Rudolph was 4-2 in the games he started and completed, with two of those losses coming to powerhouses San Francisco and Baltimore.
Not bad. And certainly those four wins are essential to the Steelers being in Wildcard contention.
You can love Duck without bagging on Rudolph. He’s played a key role in the Steelers success as well.
Show the man some respect.
A Star Is Born
Here is what some wizened spinning sage wrote in August during preseason games:
So who’s flashing? Well, of course, there is the aforementioned Devin Bush. But, I also like what I see from second round draft pick Diontae Johnson. In the little he’s been able to show, he looks quicker and more dynamic than those around him. There is a hint of…dare we say it…early Antonio Brown.
Who crazy now?
Remember when the Steelers used to say it took them a few years to develop wide receivers? Well…they certainly let Smith-Schuster shatter that tradition (as they have with a few pass catchers before him).
Diontae’s punt return last week is all the evidence the Steelers need in order to keep him on the field for as many plays as possible.
You want some more evidence? Watch the film. Nobody is getting separation like Johnson.
You want some more crazy talk? Johnson has as much or more upside than Smith-Schuster.
Forget about giving him the rookie’s portion at the cafeteria. He needs to be a player who rarely comes off the field. Because, he’s always just one play away from magic.
Shall We Dance?
So, what is at stake with this major match-up against the Buffalo Bills who are dancing in their own Cinderella Ball?
We both have the two remaining glass slippers of the AFC Wildcard position, and slippers and hopes could be shattered with a single loss.
What gives the Steelers some strong hope is the way the defense played against Kyle Murray. They completely snuffed out his scrambling threat, which gives them optimism not only for playing against Josh Allen, but perhaps even Lamar Jackson.
Yet, all of this is pure speculation. Pittsburgh has been playing mostly patsy opponents as they’ve built their momentum.
The Buffalo Bills are for real and are on a stampede of their own. Their defense is imposing and if the Steelers want to be in the playoffs and have a legitimate chance of going far, this is their opportunity to prove it.
The bottom line for the Steelers? It’s time to pay the Bills.