The Pittsburgh Steelers versus the Baltimore Ravens? The last game of the season? Does it get any better than this?
Well. Actually. It gets a lot better, because this one’s for the birds.
With the Ravens already having clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs, they’ll be starting their water boys, half of their cheerleading team and word is their mascot Roe might even be getting a few reps.
There is not much pride here to win for the Steelers, and they have what little remaining at stake to lose.
This predicament Pittsburgh find themselves in will leave them with one eye on the football, and one eye on the scoreboard as their destiny jetted out of town last week when Le’Veon Bell got revenge, and Hines Ward got doused with celebratory Gatorade.
Could it be the jig is up, the news is out, they finally found their exit door this season?
The hangman may be comin’ down from the gallows, and the Steelers may be entertaining us for the last time this season.
But, until the last whistle sounds, we remain hopeful. So, let’s give it a Spin.
There’s No Place Like Home
The Antonio Brown saga reared its head again this week as it was leaked he had a tryout with the New Orleans Saints. The Saints front office tried to play it down, indicating he was just one of several getting to play run and catch with them, but he would have never gotten the call if there wasn’t clear interest.
Say what you want about the man, but an infusion of Brown’s talent would give an adrenalin surge into any offense heading into the playoffs.
Drew Brees throwing to Michael Thomas AND Antonio Brown? C’mon. And, now that Brees has been snubbed on the NFL’s dubious All-Time Team, he’ll be throwing touchdown passes with both arms.
Still, as much as Brown has completely derailed his career there is only one logical pathway to redemption. The only diminishing hope he has of returning to his former glory would be on a fast train to Pittsburgh.
Now, realizing the mere thought of his return is causing most Steelers fan to choke on their own digestive fluids, you got to hear me out. I realize there are only ten of us fans left that would even be willing to give him another chance.
But, if I was Antonio’s agent (and who would want that job this year?) I would be begging him to beg for forgiveness from the front office and coaches of the place where the magic all began.
If he throws on any other uniform, after all that has happened, the best he’ll ever be is a two-bit, temporary mercenary from here on out. He might make some pocket change, but his NFL career would remain parked on the dark side of the moon.
Yet, if he somehow got another chance from the team that gave him his first chance, he might be able to put this year of horror and shame in the rear view mirror.
Obviously, Brown still has some serious off-the-field issues to get cleared, or this is a non-starter, and the odds of this ever happening are somewhere between diddly and squat.
And, yes, don’t spam me here. I get it. You NEVER want to see him back. Believe me. You’ve been heard.
But, I think it’s the only remaining card in his hand. It’s the only play he has.
Probably my favorite moments of last week’s disappointing loss to the New York Jets was the brief time of redemptive play Mason Rudolph enjoyed. I thought it was the best quarterback play of the entire season, including those when Big Ben was still turning the keys.
He came into a hostile arena, with a firestorm of doubt showering down and he responded with power, poise and purpose. He was really whipping that ball around.
Yes, the story line would have been much better if he had managed a comeback victory in relief of Devlin “Duck” Hodges, but it was not to be. But, the young man and his coaches have got to feel good about how he performed under the big pressure.
Let’s hope for the very same for Hodges against the Ravens. His story this season is one of rapid ascent and a dramatic crashing, but he’ll get to pen the last chapter.
He never asked for the hysteria and over ambitious expectations that were laid at his feet, and he deserves this opportunity to restate his case.
This won’t be easy. Although Baltimore is sitting many of their star players, their front seven will be relatively intact.
If he’s able to limit mistakes, and put some drives together, he’ll deserve all the praise he’ll get.
Defending The Defense
The best storyline of the entire year is the rise from the ashes of the Steelers defense after many years of being barely above the line.
I think if you were to ask most of Steelers Nation at the beginning of the season, they would have been okay with a decline in the offense, as long as they received in exchange one of the preeminent defenses in the league.
This defense isn’t just good, they are at times, completely dominant. This is especially true considering the terrible field position the offense has left them time after time throughout this season.
It’s taken ten painful years for the team to rise to the top once again defensively, which is exactly why they must do whatever it takes to retain greatness for the next ten years.
They must do what it takes to resign both Bud Dupree and Javon Hargrave. Even if this means releasing some of their long-in-the-tooth offensive players.
It won’t be cheap, and it will take some creativity, but the core of this dynamic, young and brilliant defense must be kept together at all costs.
If you haven’t been able to tell yet, you must know how much I despise when this team loses control of its playoffs destiny.
They only had to win one of their last two games and they would have had both hands on the steering wheel. The fact they failed at this, especially last week to the woeful Jets, is hard to swallow.
Having to win a game, while worrying and fretting about the happenings in two other stadiums is no way to get into the playoffs. And, it doesn’t give us any confidence if the miracle occurred and they somehow weaseled their way in.
But, this is why we earn the big bucks as Steelers Nation. We put our heads down and we cheer and we wave yellow towels. Even in the most difficult of situations, like this one.
And, it is the Ravens, after all. So…let’s take out those cheerleaders and give Poe a little of what he deserves.