Can you believe it? After defeating the Philadelphia Eagles by a score of 38-29 last Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers are off to their best start since…oh…when they were the greatest dynasty on the face of the earth.
Yes…that team back in the 1970’s. The one all of the old people like me won’t stop raving about.
And, have this year’s Steelers been as dominant? Did they de-feather the Eagles demonstrably in order to show them just who’s who in Pennsylvania?
Uhhhh…well. Actually, the game against the low-flying birds was uncomfortably close.
How close? Well…after jumping to a 31-14 lead at the end of the quarter, the Steelers looked like they had the Eagles stuffed in the broom closet at the Hotel California.
Yet, by the time there was 5:43 left in the fourth quarter, and with Philadelphia now only trailing by the score of 29-31, Carson Wentz completed a quarterback sneak to earn his team a critical first down.
At this very moment, the ESPN computer calculator flipped, predicting for the first time that game that the Philadelphia Eagles would probably win.
These favorable odds were short lived, fortunately, as on the next play, the Steelers Stephon Tuitt sacked Wentz for a loss and three plays later the Eagles Jake Elliot was wide right with his 57-yard field goal attempt.
Shortly thereafter, the Eagles decided to have a linebacker try to cover Chase Claypool, because nobody else could that day. Predictably, a 35-yard reception resulted, and the rookie earned his fourth touchdown of the day, sealing for the Steelers a victory.
Deep breath. Exhale.
Put on the dance music and celebrate.
The Steelers are 4-0. Steelers Nation is going wild. I mean…now what’s to stop Pittsburgh from going undefeated the rest of the season, and ruining retirement for a bunch of old Miami Dolphins?
The Cleveland Browns for starters. This Sunday. Oh yeah…that game. THAT game.
Strap on your helmets. Maybe double strap them this time. And, then let’s give this a Spin.
Myles To Go Before We Sleep
This will be the first time Myles Garrett steps back onto the field of battle against the Steelers since he went nuts last year, and during a game assaulted Mason Rudolph with the Steelers quarterback’s own helmet.
So, what are all of the players saying about this impending grudge match?
“We’re completely past it,” Steelers LB Vince Williams said.
“We’re past that as a team,” Garrett echoed.
Well…as Bill Lumbergh would often utter in the movie Office Space, “Umm…yeah.”
First of all, of course ALL of the players aren’t past anything. There isn’t an offensive lineman on the Steelers roster who are going to allow Garrett to get anywhere near Ben Roethlisberger.
And the Browns line likewise will be protecting Baker Mayfield’s tender ribs with everything they’ve got.
All of this should make this an unusually marquee match-up for such an early season game.
But, the one guy who has no right to be “completely past this,” is Garrett himself.
It was bad enough that he used a helmet as a lethal weapon.
The most scarring crime was falsely accusing Mason Rudolph of uttering a racial slur during the unfortunate melee.
Rudolph, really never recovered. After a fairly promising start in covering for an injured Roethlisberger last year, Mason never found his mojo again after that incident. These guys are pros, but when you are 24, and having to impossibly defend against that, it leaves deep scars.
His teammates backed him up. Everyone who knew him and grew up with him backed him up.
And it’s all because, it never happened. Garrett flat out lied.
Garrett has talked about getting together with Rudolph privately to patch things up. But, there is only one way to fix this.
Garrett needs to man up and walk up to a microphone and say what everybody already knows: “I lied.”
It’s the only way healing will happen. For both players.
Then, and only then, will the super talented defensive star for the Browns be able to say, “We’re past this.”
You’re No Jack Kennedy
Now back to the Steelers. Since they have a 4-0 start to their season, they are being mentioned in the same breath as the 1979 Steelers, which is the last time such an early fast start was earned.
But, all of this comparison (even lightly) reminds of words powerfully shared at a Vice-Presidential debate from many years past.
Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re not Jack Kennedy.
Well…even though my middle name is Kennedy, I never knew Jack Kennedy.
But, I did know the 1979 Pittsburgh Steelers. And, so far, the 2020 Steelers are no 1979 Steelers.
At least, not yet. Sorry.
Come To Think Of It
I know. All of us old-timers seem so grumpy and unappreciative of this generation of Steelers. It can be so grating.
But, you might find it comforting to know that as dominant as those teams of the 70’s were back in the day, we were giving them grief all of the time as well.
I remember getting SO upset, if the Steel Curtain ever gave up a single first down. Or let Earl Campbell run them over so we’d have to hear that horrible Houston Oilers song echoing through a stadium filled with fans wearing baby blue shirts and foam cowboy hats.
You should have seen how angry we were when punter Craig Colquitt (yes…Dustin’s Dad) would trot onto the field. I mean, how could an offense with Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth and a Hall of Fame offensive line ever allow themselves to turn over the ball on downs?
The History Of Bell And Brown
Now that former Pittsburgh Steeler Le’Veon Bell is suddenly a former New York Jet, there is a bizarre revisioning of history going on.
It goes like this:
Since Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown were such problem children in the locker room it must mean that the Steelers are such an amazing organization to have kept them both in check for so many years.
Okay…there are a LOT of reasons to lift up Coach Mike Tomlin and General Manager Kevin Colbert for their organizational brilliance. But, their handling of the Bell and Brown situations aren’t among those.
You read this in the Spin two years ago (you did, didn’t you?):
Nobody really cares if an individual or an organization makes mistakes. They care if you don’t learn from your mistakes. If we can tie this entire Le’Veon Bell saga into one tidy life lesson it would be please…please…please…get out of the multi-million dollar rehabilitation business.
If the signs early on are that your super-hot girlfriend is bat crazy, then don’t keep hoping you’ve got super powers to change things around. Bell left a trail of warning sign bread crumbs for the Steelers brass from the early days of his career. It’s sad they actually followed them and jumped into the oven, wasting precious time, energy and team resources.
Apparently it wasn’t just Bell dropping bread crumbs. Antonio led them into the oven with equal enthusiasm.
Look. Nobody’s perfect. Tomlin and Colbert aren’t going to hit all of the pitches out of the park.
But, they made a gross miscalculation that Bell was worth betting the farm on, and that lost bet alone ended up with them missing out on what should have been Super Bowl windows.
If both the Bell and Brown issues were identified much earlier as ultimately unresolvable, then they could have hit the golden sweepstakes in trade deals.
Instead, they got huge distractions and little compensation by misplaying their hands.
We can certainly move on from that. It happens. But, we can’t now refashion it (as some are trying) as some great success story because both players failed elsewhere.
Will Somebody Please Cover Him!
Again, about last Sunday. How many stadium seats? How many homes? How many sport bars? How many of them had foaming-at-the-mouth Steelers fans shouting the same words in some cacophonous choir:
“Will somebody cover 13???”
How is it even possible that wide receiver Travis Fulgham (I know, who?) of the Philadelphia Eagles kept catching balls over and over and over again?
He ended up with 10 receptions for 152 yards and a touchdown, but it sure seemed like 30 catches and 300 yards, didn’t it?
How can the Steelers defense not fix itself when it was in such an obvious state of brokenness?
Number 13 kept getting targeted. And, he kept pulling them in.
Let’s hope the Steelers solve this issue rapidly as they face another Number 13 this weekend.
The only consolation is that Eagles fans were saying the same exact thing.
“Why isn’t anyone covering 11???”
Chasing Number One
Yes…that Number 11 is Chase Claypool, the most acquired free agent on Fantasy Football waiver wires this week. And, why not? Four touchdowns? Are you kidding me?
It was an unbelievable performance of the highest magnitude, although careful observers should have believed in Claypool earlier than the Eagles game.
Claypool blew away his teammates in the Summer. He made big plays the first time he stepped onto a National Football League field. And, last Sunday’s performance was just a result of Roethlisberger starting to put the young star on his speed dial.
Here’s the plain truth. The Steelers need a bonafide star number one receiver and the choice is already obvious.
JuJu Smith-Schuster has not been able to fill Antonio Brown’s shoes as he indicated himself he would be able to do. He hasn’t been able to consistently create separation when up against the league’s elite corners or when facing double teams.
He’s had enough time to demonstrate otherwise.
But, Claypool is flashing enough talent to indicate he might just be the One.
If the Steelers are going to be able to compete at the highest levels this year against the top competition, they have to be much stronger. That will only happen if they make bold decisions now.
Claypool needs to get the opportunity to be the team’s number one or two receiver. That means taking him off of Special Teams, keeping him on the field for every offensive play, and starting to shift the offense around him.
You know who will benefit most? Smith-Schuster. Rather than be a lower end number one, he can, once again, be the best number two receiver in the league.
We’ve seen enough. So has Big Ben. Time to go all in on Claypool.
Biggest Game Of The Year
What a good life it is being part of Steelers Nation this year. Our team is 4-0, and we’re about to be treated to a monumentally tasty game against the Cleveland Browns.
Usually, a Browns game is second fiddle, and often even third or fourth deep in the strings section.
But, not this year. Not this Sunday.
Cleveland looks like it’s solved the Rubik’s cube that has befuddled them for many years. They might have figured out how to compete.
The Steelers are winning, but they’ve been far from dominant. Let’s hope that changes this weekend.
Because this one matters. And, it’s going to be a real brawl. Because nobody’s past nothing.