Steelers Spin: Mile High Expectations

After an embarrassing continuing slide, this time to the Green Bay Packers by a score of 17-27 last Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves vastly underperforming the mile high expectations their fanbase had for them at the beginning of the season.

Speaking of Rocky Mountain High, the Denver Broncos with their record of 3-1 are here in town anxious to get them some of that good Pittsburgh cooking.

Yes, not too long ago, the Steelers were a team no one wanted to play. Now, opposing defenses can’t wait to come and build their stats against Pittsburgh’s struggling offense.

And, the Steelers vaunted defense? Well…there isn’t a lot of vaunting lately as they’ve been giving up yards, first downs and touchdowns like they’re fig stuffed olive samples at Costco.

How about you? Want to try some? They’re only $3.99 in the snack aisle.

It’s like Black Helicopters have flown in and taken away all of our hopes, dreams and aspirations for this season.

I saw someone post on social media that they used to be depressed for three straight days after a Steelers loss. Now it’s only one day.

I didn’t want to break the news to him, but the reason is now we’re depressed six days BEFORE the Steelers play.

Is 1-3 that bad?

Yes. And, worse.

Their play this year has been so depressing, the only way I could muster up the will to dip the ink in the quill for this diatribe was to spin up some vinyl of John Coltrane’s Lush Life.

My football team desperately needs some more jazz.

Well, let’s start laying down some tracks. It’s time to give this a Spin.

Irrational Exuberance

For those who thought Ben Roethlisberger was somehow going to fly into this season on a golden flying unicorn…well, you haven’t really been paying attention to the clues.

The last time Big Ben had a truly strong season was in 2017. Yes, he had some fat, juicy Fantasy Football stats, by his measure, in 2018, but the Steelers didn’t even make the playoffs that year. And by Pittsburgh standards, that means no one on the team played worth a bean.

2019? Even before his season ending elbow injury, Roethlisberger’s completion rate was 56%. Before he went down, he was not playing well.

Last year? Yes, the completion percentage went up, but have you forgotten that a deep bomb was considered anything over five yards?

So…if there is anyone to blame for this mile high expectations debacle, it’s all of us raving fans who believed he would somehow be re-imagined this year.

I get it. The faded Steelers jersey I wear has a Number 7 on it.

This irrational exuberance that he would be able to suddenly be 22 years old again apparently runs rampant in the executive offices as well.

I mean, seriously, what were they thinking?

Several years ago, the Spin sounded the alarms across all of Steelers Nation. It was noted that since the early 70’s, Pittsburgh only had two quarterbacks: Terry Bradshaw & Roethlisberger.

Any of those other guys were merely taking up ice cubes in the cold tub.

Already loathing the thought of the Steelers after Big Ben retires, I wrote at the time that the Steelers should use EVERY pick in EVERY subsequent draft until they landed their next franchise quarterback.

Hey, if you had to endure over two decades of a sad parade of quarterbacks like Cliff Stoudt, Mark Malone, David Woodley, Scott Campbell, Bubby Brister, Steve Bono, Todd Blackledge, Jim Miller and…oh my…Kent Graham, you would have been panicking too.

During that era, the only mildly entertaining ones were Kordell Stewart, Mike Tomczak, Tommy Maddox…and the one whose name should not be mentioned…some Neil guy.

You don’t pull franchise quarterbacks out of a pork pie hat. Just ask the Cleveland Browns, or the New York Jets.

You gotta kiss a lot of frogs to get your next Prince Ben.

Alright, perhaps you may have found my patented “keep drafting quarterbacks until they stop booing Roger” strategy to be a bit extreme.

You certainly disagree with me if your name is Mike Tomlin or Kevin Colbert. What did they do the past decade with the inevitable impending quarterback crisis?

Here’s your answer. The Steelers didn’t draft a quarterback at all in their 2021 NFL Draft. Not a single pigskin hurler in their 2020 Draft. That’s a big ditto as well for the 2019 Draft.

No one. Nobody. Not a soul.

They did, bless their hearts, draft Mason Rudolph in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft and Josh Dobbs as a fourth-round prospect in 2017.

Yet, that was only after foregoing selecting a single signal caller in 2014, 2015 & 2016.

This means, that over the past eight drafts, the Steelers invested a measly third round and fourth round pick on a quarterback.

Does that sound like an NFL franchise planning shrewdly for the future?

Let’s be real here. So far, Mason Rudolph has at best proved to be the second coming of Landry Jones.

Dwayne Haskins? Why not throw him out there and at least eliminate him as an intriguing prospect? The guy can throw the ball 80 yards and poses the risk of running away from defenders; a skill apparently necessary with this young offensive line.

As far as Big Ben? I think this Denver game should be his last opportunity to present his case in front of the court.

When a 39-year-old quarterback, who is taking up in excess of 10% of the team’s total salary cap by the way, is suddenly deciding he needs to start working on his arm mechanics, well…it’s probably time to move on.

While some would argue that Big Ben has earned the right in Pittsburgh to go out on his own terms, the response should be, “Hasn’t he already?”

Clearly, the team hasn’t made a serious effort to draft his replacement. He’s basically insisted on designing the offense himself. Why do you think he’s rarely under center? And, he’s handpicked his offensive coordinators.

What more should he expect? The keys to the city?

As to my strong recommendation for what the team should do in the 2022 NFL Draft?

Trade every pick you got now and into the future to draft whatever quality quarterbacks are available.

He Thinks We’re Stupid

You got to love this most recent Coach Mike Tomlin quote because in perfect Tomlinese he explained his position regarding the fans so transparently.

“We love Pittsburgh, PA. We love Steelers Nation. We appreciate the passion that they have…we’re already ready to absorb the negativity of our positions when things aren’t going well.”

If you’ve lost a little in the translation, let me help you out.

Mike Tomlin thinks we’re stupid.

Basically, his point is, “Hey Steelers Nation, we love the way you twirl your towels. Maybe you should stick to that and we’ll do the fancy thinking around here.”

Now, anytime I write ANYTHING about Tomlin, I’ll get the knee jerk response. “Yes…we should have fired him years ago.” Many are worse. They are just jerk responses without the knee.

That’s not my position. I love having him as our coach. He’s a good man and a great leader.

I’m not sure that he is championship grade. That’s mainly because he’s not cutthroat and crazy, and on the brink of strokes and heart attacks like many of his competitors. He loves his players, his family, and being able to laugh about the game. I respect that.

All that said, this has been a rough year for Tomlin. Big Ben has been playing awful and Tomlin’s Plan B is years away. That is, unless his wink-wink with Aaron Rodgers had deep meaning, and in that case he’s guilty of tampering.

Tomlin’s almost appeared shocked….shocked I tell you…that an nearly entirely brand new rookie-strewn offensive line appears to be well over its collective head.

And, speaking of over its head, some of Tomlin’s gametime decisions this season have followed a career pattern of unforgivable rookie mistakes.

Tomlin’s locker room words to his team will be cut and pasted from the ones he always uses when they hit a rough patch. He’ll tell them to ignore all of us because all we have to offer is negative energy.

He’s right. At this point, this team needs to block out the noise and try to keep things as positive and focused as possible.

But, hopefully at some point before he retires in the next 20 years or so, he’ll realize that at the 30,000 foot level, much of what Steelers Nation has shared with him through the years has been right.

We know good football. We know bad. We know good coaching and when it’s not.

It’s always been with Tomlin that he’s just not very good under pressure making decisions with the game on the line. For a long time, he should have been deferring these decisions to someone else in the organization. Delegating that doesn’t make him a bad coach. It makes him a good leader.

And speaking of leaders, he desperately needs help hiring and firing assistant coaches. He’s always opted for “get along with everyone” guys, and because of this, they always seem to get outsmarted by bad mannered geniuses.

But, at least the Steelers coaches are all happy and getting along when it happens.

On The Bright Side

The bright side? Yeah, we’ve got to infuse some of that because I’m even depressing myself.

There is no reason to mire in the mud any longer. This team literally could turn everything around almost instantly. There really is enough scattered talent throughout the roster. And, it could begin with this all-important game against the Denver Broncos.

For one, let’s be thankful it’s NOT in Denver. We’ve never fared all that well playing a mile high.

Tim Tebow anyone?

If we’re being honest here, last week’s game against Aaron Rodgers SHOULD have been the one where Big Ben lifted himself up by his bootstraps to show us he’s got plenty of petrol left in the tank.

While Tomlin was exchanging googly eyes with Rodgers, Roethlisberger should have gone all raging-ex on him, and threw down four or five touchdowns to show he can still shake it with the best.

He didn’t. But, he still could.

If there was ONE big, instant solution in how the Steelers could turn their year around, it would be if Ben finally rediscovered his game.

The Steelers receivers are of a high enough caliber and with the future already here in terms of running back and tight end, this offense could be formidable in a flash.

As for the defense. What up?

They should be much better. They can be much better. They just need to get things together.

The Denver Broncos are a team on the rise. They are no easy out.

But, this is a winnable home game. And, it’s a win that could change everything.

The Steelers have to ride this horse. Or it could be their season riding into the sunset.

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