The Spin: Raising The Titanic

The Pittsburgh Steelers hope to raise their sinking Titanic of a season by pulling an unlikely upset against the Tennessee Titans in a crucial matchup to be played before the home faithful at Heinz Field.

Despite losing one of the league’s top Most Valuable Player prospects in Derrick Henry earlier this year to injury, the Nashville-based visitors have been able to continue their winning ways by playing…Steelers football.

It seems many teams in the NFL are playing Steelers football, except for the Steelers who will drag themselves onto the field wearing the Scarlett Letter of having arguably the worst run defense in the league.

They have been giving up an average of five yards each time an opponent calls a run play and have been surrendering an absolutely embarrassing average total of 139.5 yards per game.

This inability to keep from getting run over in the ground game has made Steelers Nation a divided nation with the old-timers finding being a fan these days much “Less Filling”, while many of the younger base somewhat inexplicably still claim the experience to “Taste Great.”

Even Mean Joe Greene shared his thoughts on the subject by telling an interviewer the first half of the Steelers recent performance against the Minnesota Vikings was his saddest time ever of watching his beloved team play.

Many of the geezer fans were shedding tears right alongside Joe as the Steel Curtain has never looked so dented and rusty.

Many of the new generation of Steelers Nation were saying, “Who is Joe Greene?”

Such is the state of affairs in Pittsburgh, where defensive play has been just shy of unbearable to watch.

How could a team with a bonafide Defensive Player of the Year candidate in T.J. Watt have fallen so far from grace?

Can this sinking, crab crawling, barnacle infested ship still be raised?

Let’s give it a Spin.

What’s Wrong With You People?

A fan on social media argued the Steelers at 6-6-1 are only a half game out of second place in the AFC North, and are only a game and a half behind the inconsistent Baltimore Ravens.

They complained that Steelers fans are ingrateful ignoramuses for dissing their team’s play and they should be ashamed for prematurely questioning the future of their team this season. “I will never understand you,” he said, apparently slamming the door on any hope of future reconciliation with all of us dunces.

My response.

Ummm. Have you actually watched the Steelers play this year? Who gives a rat’s about how uninspiring teams are playing in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Baltimore anyway?

Is greatness determined by contrasting it against the relative poverty of play in others? No, my friend.

The Steelers are measured against the Steelers of Christmas past, present and future. Emerging through the fog and haunting the fields of poor tackling, and inexcusable defensive play are the iconic players of Pittsburgh’s glorious past.

Jack Butler. Ernie Stautner. Jack Lambert. Mel Blount. Donnie Shell. Andy Russell. Jack Ham. Dwight White. Levon Kirkland. Kevin Greene. Rod Woodson. Carnell Lake. Casey Hampton. James Harrison. Troy Polamalu. Cameron Heyward. T.J. Watt.

And, yes, the greatest of them all, Mean Joe Greene.

As, Joey Porter would say, “We ride.” Always, when it comes to defense in Pittsburgh.

We don’t measure ourselves against a scarcity of competition, or cheer on the failures of our opponents as if we are somehow accomplishing something in the process.

Nay, my young sapling! The Steelers are measured against the Steelers.

And lately, those metrics are bringing us to tears.

The Mentoring Type?

One of the few highlights of the Steelers season this year so far has been the resurgence of Ben Roethlisberger to the upper heights of quarterback royalty in the National Football League.

Ever since the rumor was leaked to the press (probably by Ben’s public relations team) that this would be his last year as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, he’s responded with exceptional play.

If you could forget the part about him being rooted in the pocket like a redwood tree in the Petrified Forest, his throwing has been as sharp as we’ve seen in years. His ability to operate the no-huddle offense like he’s playing Madden Football on the couch, has kept the Steelers competitive in what would otherwise be a flurry of blowouts.

The best news about all of this is that if this is indeed Big Ben’s farewell tour, then it’s the way that any great cowboy would want to head into the sunset…with all guns blazing. Well done, legend.

Yet, it’s also lead to more speculative chatter in the lines of, “Maybe we should keep Roethlisberger as our quarterback for a couple more years, while we groom his replacement.”

There’s a lot to be said for this. Why, for instance, bring in an Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson who aren’t exactly spring chickens themselves?

Why not keep riding in with the horse that brung you while the whippersnappers get up to speed?

Well…one reason is that Big Ben has never exactly been the mentoring type. Sure, he loves his offensive line (okay…at least his former one) and there are a few tales of how he’s helped young receivers to find their way.

But, how many stories have you heard about Ben being the wizened, fatherly sage to other quarterbacks on the roster through the years?

I’m waiting.

Yeah, it’s kind of not his thing. He’s not alone. Rodgers hasn’t exactly been a proponent of the “Youth Movement” in Green Bay’s quarterbacking stable either. And Tom Brady’s famous breakup with longtime bestie Bill Belichick had much to do with the quarterback’s wild jealously about anyone else who throws a ball.

That’s why, if you’re going to groom your next franchise quarterback, you’ve got to send the old guy to pasture. Or at least to another city to ply his wares.

Big Ben has a strong case as being the greatest quarterback who has ever played for Pittsburgh. It would be bizarre to see him wearing a Carolina Panthers or Houston Texans uniform.

Yet, if you have any aspirations that he’ll be the perfect choice for grooming his replacement, you’re relying on revisionist history.

Which is why, if the Steelers shoot for the stars in free agency next year, Wilson might be the better long-term choice over Rodgers.

Advanced Fanning

It disappoints me to hear from friends, so called longtime Steelers fans, that they “aren’t even watching the games anymore.”

That’s not really how it works. Your membership in Steelers Nation is not one where you get to turn the television on and off based on the team’s playoff status.

It’s “We ride” or “No ride”.

In many ways, this has been the worst Steelers play we’ve witnessed in several decades. Worse yet, is how few answers the Steelers coaches seem to have to fix things.

This is a mess without any mops.

Yet, let’s face it. Our expectations weren’t exactly high this season, which in many ways makes these games less painful.

The Steelers will eventually be a Super Bowl Champion once again. Who knows? This year, next year, five years or twenty years away.

When that comes, you’ll be able to say you never blinked an eye. Even if it meant propping them open with toothpicks at times.

Keep the faith, family. We ride next against the Titans.

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