That’s the theme of this 2020 version of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Because, not all that long ago, we were screaming at the television to have defensive tackles that could actually slow down a run up the middle.
And, certainly not too far back in the past, we were demanding the team get us some corners…who could actually…you know, cover someone.
You also wouldn’t have to go too far back in the time machine, to see Steelers Nation insisting the team get us linebackers who could cover ground as well as an occasional tight end. We weren’t asking for too much, were we?
Even less time ago, we were begging the team to get us some safeties…that could actually keep us safe back there…and perhaps make a few of the big plays that turn games around.
We had pockets of deficiencies for many years, that added up to an inconsistent and sometimes downright porous defense, that crumbled under pressure, and that couldn’t get off the field when it was critical they did so.
For the proud Super Bowl minded city of Pittsburgh, it was humiliating for us to see other teams go up and down the field of play, leaving us to overcome our Steel Curtain withdrawals by playing in our minds the film reels of defenses past.
We had a real issue.
That is. Until now.
This defense? This defense rocks. Like mountains of Pennsylvania granite.
In fact, it’s been rock n’ rolling for well for over a year. The only problem, was we didn’t have an offense that could keep up with them.
The 38-7 crushing of the Cleveland Browns last Sunday was as complete of a full teamwide victory than the Steelers have enjoyed in many, many years.
Offense? Defense? Special Teams?
Rocking. Which means we’re going to have to crank up the volume as we give this another Spin.
Ye Of Little Faith
Time for a sobering confession. The problem with the Steelers for the past few years (or decade) is they were always playing a real see-saw game. The defense would finally play well, and then the offense would collapse. Or the offense would put together a masterful performance, and then the defense would stink up the joint.
This happened so predictably and so often, it must have been planned.
I could almost imagine Head Coach Mike Tomlin gathering the team together before each game and saying, “Which of you is going to play well today? I don’t care who it is, but it can’t be both of you. So…please decide. Flip a coin if you must.”
It got so bad I would actually get depressed when our offense was shifting things into high gear and making big splash plays. In my Pavlovian Eeyore conditioned brain, I would start thinking, “I guess we’re about to give up a 99-yard touchdown pass to their third string quarterback.”
So…you’ll have to forgive me, I suppose, that in the game against the Cleveland Browns, I thought the Steelers were merely up to their old ways.
The Steelers offense sputters after a promising start, having to settle on a Chris Boswell field goal.
Then, Minkah Fitzpatrick adds a bad case of sore feelings to go with Baker Mayfield’s sore ribs by pick sixing him, and all of the sudden, it’s 10-0.
The Steelers defense follows this by giving up only one yard in three plays during the Browns next possession.
Enter the Pittsburgh offense. Do you think you guys could put this away?
Nope, they say. One punt. And then another punt.
Then, just as I was beginning to get hopelessly numb with disappointment, the lights on the offense came on.
And they burned bright. Almost as bright as the sun of the defense. Brilliant, beautiful light.
I hope we’ve chased away that miserable donkey for good.
Those of you have read the Spin for a while, know that for many years I was completely and irrationally a Big Dan fan. My favorite player, by far, was Shade Tree, AKA, Dan McCullers.
Mainly, because he was…huge. I find that to be a good quality in nose tackles. I mean, they should have nicknames like Big Dan…or Big Snack.
And, every once in a while (and sadly it was only every once in a while) Big Dan would reward my starry eyed fandom by making an indention into the opening offensive line that would cause grown men and quarterbacks to topple backwards in horror…and utter embarrassment.
The problem was Big Dan played so infrequently that I had to really pay attention to catch him when he was on the field.
And, all of this forlorn blathering is to tell you that many times, my hopes would rise by spotting him on the field of battle, only to discover that it was merely Stephon Tuitt.
This happened many times because Tuitt, also, is a REALLY big man. The difference between him and Shade Tree is that Stephon is also an incredibly agile athlete.
The team lists him as 6’6” and 303 pounds, but he looks and plays much larger than that. He is a force of nature, all unto himself.
Which is why it surprised to hear people ask early on this season, “Where is Stephon Tuitt?” That seemed strange to me. Peculiar.
Because Tuitt is a mesmerizing combination of immovable object and gap bursting behemoth, and his stats show it.
In just five games, Tuitt already has 15 tackles, with 8 of those being solo. He’s also has one forced fumble and 4 sacks.
Where is Stephon you ask? He’s all over the field.
There isn’t a draft gone by when Steelers fans don’t look to the draft board with desperate longing, as they pine for days gone by when they had a beloved tight end by the name of Heath Miller.
Yes. That Heath Miller.
Miller Time will never happen again in Pittsburgh, because there will never be another Heath Miller.
Not only was he the perfect target for Ben Roethlisberger, but he was also a perfect gentleman.
Few players past, present and future will be able to hold a light up to Miller in terms of being both an elite talent and the ultimate team player.
But the Steelers haven’t drafted a tight end in the first round since they chose Miller there in 2005.
However, they did pick up a Blue Chipper. A tight end who was chosen with the tenth overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Here is how Bleacher Report described him in 2014 prior to his being selected:
He possesses the unique combination of speed, size and hands to make a serious impact in the pros. His freakish athleticism makes him the kind of prototypical pass-catching tight end that offensive coordinators dream of landing in the draft, and he can be a really sharp route-runner.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, that player was and is Eric Ebron. And this talent is flashing brightly for the Steelers.
He’s struggled with injuries in his career, but he turned a solid rookie contract career with the Detroit Lions and converted that into big bucks with the Indianapolis Colts. Injuries slowed him down in Indy, but in 2018, he still had 13 touchdown receptions, falling behind only two other players in the NFL at the time: Green Bay’s Davante Adams and some guy named Antonio Brown.
Not bad company. Not a bad free agent pick-up for the Steelers.
And perhaps…just perhaps…Ebron is a player on the right team at the right moment in his career. Maybe, he is ready to prove his talent and productivity is equal to being the 10th overall selection of the draft.
Remember The Titans
The Tennessee Titans are next on the schedule and you can be certain Mike Tomlin and his fellow gridiron strategists won’t be looking past this game to their matchup against the Baltimore Ravens game the following week.
The Titans are a formidable opponent. Maybe even more so than the Ravens.
Tennessee is a team that ran over the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs last year, before succumbing to the mighty Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship game.
In fact, that was their only loss in their past nine games.
Derrick Henry is looking like the NFL’s best running back this year and Ryan Tannehill has grown into being the quarterback the Miami Dolphins once dreamed he would be.
Statistically, they aren’t dominating, but they have a resiliency that makes them able to rebound under any circumstances.
In other words, if the Steelers are going remain undefeated, they are going to have to really bring it on Sunday.
Make no mistake about it. This…is a titanic undertaking.