As an emotionally overwhelmed Big Ben Roethlisberger circled a Renegade and tear-drenched Heinz Field last Monday giving high fives to anyone who would reach out a hand, it would be easy to draw this conclusion:
Could there be a more fitting ending?
The Pittsburgh Steelers had just dispatched of the Cleveland Browns who essentially laid down in the same way Brett Favre did in Michael Strahan’s NFL record breaking last sack.
Myles Garrett was playing with an injured groin, Baker Mayfield was dealing with hurt feelings and the entire Browns franchise was reclaiming its well-earned brand image of a depressed, overhyped, underperforming organization.
Let’s be honest. It wasn’t much of a competitive match.
But oh was it a fabulous conclusion to a magnificent career for the great Number 7. A Hollywood script under the spanning lights of the Monday Night Football glare.
When Roethlisberger’s family joined him in enthusiastic embraces, couldn’t you just hear the symphony rising, and see the credits start rolling?
A 26-14 victory in what looks to be his last home game against the home state he owned throughout the career. Yes. Hollywood magic!
Yet, there remains an epilogue. One last game to be played in Baltimore against a Ravens team who has their wings clipped with injuries, yet who always come to play.
It’s one last Red Carpet stroll by the Steelers legend, and the team who wants to send him out in proper glory.
Just win this game. Then have the worst team in the league beat one of the most surging squads in the NFL in Jacksonville. Then make sure that the Las Vegas Raiders don’t end up in a tie with the Los Angeles Chargers.
Yeah. Kind of ruins the mood, doesn’t it?
Cue the music again, flash the lights, let’s give this a Spin.
Kissing Sisters: A Film Noir
Let’s start with the ridiculous. There is a scenario this weekend where Trevor Lawrence could suddenly realize he is the second coming of Mark Brunell, and in a knowing nod to his future head coach Byron Leftwich he dials up an unbelievable performance for his Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14) against the Indianapolis Colts (9-7), thereby knocking the horsies out of the playoffs.
Check that box.
Of course, to do so we would have to forget the Jaguars are so bad they are getting sued by their sponsors for non-performance of contract. It’s rumored that even the animal kingdom is so distraught the United Union of Jaguars are filing a similar legal claim.
But, this is Hollywood. Check that box, anyway.
Then, our beloved Steelers, have to go into Baltimore. Yes, that supposed Charm City where they’ve faced players with handles like Goose, January Joe, Buddy Lee, Zeus, T-Sizzle and, of course, some guy named Ray Ray.
The most unfortunate occurrence is that the Steelers had to go to Baltimore before and play…gasp…Rod Woodson.
One thing is for sure. The Ravens aren’t the Browns. There won’t be any laying down for this most probably last game of Roethlisberger’s career.
Baltimore won’t have to dig too deep into the Steelers film archives to discover, “Jack Lambert doesn’t play middle linebacker there anymore…let’s Run up the gut!”
In many ways, I do wish last week WAS Ben’s last game. This could end up being uglier than ugly. Not because the Ravens are that good. But, because they are that banged up.
The Steelers SHOULD beat the Ravens. And, soundly. But, we’ve read that play before.
Still, we’re in Hollywood. This is the Disney Channel. The Marvel Cinematic Universe. We’ll just add some CGI in here so we can make magic happen.
Steelers win. After Big Ben puts on his Stark Industries Iron City Thorbuster Suit and in a clock-defying 18 second scramble hurls a 92 yard Hail Mary caught by…wait, am I reading this correctly?…Antonio Brown?
Sure. Let’s write it in. After all, he is now bashing Tom Brady. There is that. Maybe all is forgiven.
So…Steelers win. Check that box.
Which brings us to the Sunday Night Football matchup between the Raiders and the Chargers.
In the background you have Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth describing the action.
AL: Well Cris, I can say in my three decades I’ve never witnessed anything like this.
CRIS: I’m watching the replays here, and I’m with you, Al. I’ve NEVER seen this. Both, teams have brought their beach chairs out to the 50-yard line, they are circled up and…what’s that, the officials are firing up the barbecues.
AL: Actually, Cris, those are grills to be precise. But, we get your point.
CRIS: This reminds me of my days playing against the Steelers when I caught all of those passes. But, I digress.
Yes…folks. It’s true. The Jaguars could break the Vegas books and win, knocking the Colts out of the NFL Playoffs.
Mike Tomlin could outsmart his arch-nemesis John Harbaugh IN Baltimore, and the Steelers could end up 9-7-1 for the year. (Imagine that?)
Yet…both the Raiders and the Chargers could decide at the coin toss to…just call it a draw, and they would both be in the playoffs.
Think it couldn’t happen? It’s Vegas, Baby.
Regardless, the fact that all of the consequential games aren’t being adjusted to being played simultaneously, is a travesty. Corporate greed.
When it comes to the fans and detractors of Coach Mike Tomlin, it’s like standing with your toes on the shoreline of the beach.
The waves will go out after an excellent game (like last Monday’s) and all of the Pro-Tomlin hermit crabs will pop out of the sand and say, “Anyone would be an idiot to get rid of this first ballot Hall Of Fame Coach!”
Then after an incredibly poorly coached game of a wave goes out…like say a half dozen of the games this season…the Not-So-Fond-Of-Tomlin crustaceans would pop up and say, “Get rid of the guy!”
Regardless of where you stand on the issue of whether Tomlin should have a lifetime All-Access Pass as the Steelers coach…or not…we can all agree with this. He has been consistent in the area of not stacking up too many in the loss column on any given year.
For many, this is Tomlin’s greatest achievement. For me…it’s the most “Meh” part of his career. There is no glory in Pittsburgh with an 8-8 record. Or 8-8-1.
Anytime that television graphic pops up in the middle of game, touting his epic ability to dodge losing seasons, I have to use all of my inner strength to avoid surrendering to my gag reflex.
To me, Tomlin’s greatness comes from the fact that if the Steelers were SOMEHOW able to eke into the playoffs this year, you’d have to give them a half decent chance.
Tomlin would be able to take Roethlisberger’s “Last Dance” scenario and leverage it into getting his team to rise above itself in unbelievable ways.
In fact, I’m not sure I would rather have Bill Cowher or Chuck Noll coaching instead of Tomlin in this scenario. Coach Mike would be the best suited to produce this kind of miracle.
My longstanding issue with Tomlin is that we’re in this situation in the first place.
That tie to the Detroit Lions? Without it, right now we would be at a place where we’re “win and we’re in” at Baltimore. That tie was shameful. Especially since their quarterback was broken and couldn’t even throw the ball.
How did the New England Patriots do against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week against a terrible opponent in a game that had playoff implications?
The Patriots won 50-10. Of course, they did.
It’s why they’ve won, as other teams like them have, recent Super Bowl trophies and Tomlin hasn’t for quite some time.
Even if the Steelers were able to muster together some type of Hollywood finish to the year, it wouldn’t erase from our mental hard-drives a season where we were force fed some of the worst Steelers play in decades.
Would I be okay if Tomlin got another three years to try to turn things around?
Meh. I suppose.
But, here’s the problem. The disappointment has become predictable. The seasons are long and drawn out knowing how they end.
Worst of all. Predictable is boring.
We don’t care about non-losing seasons. That’s for losers. Let’s hold up something we can polish and relish forever.
This is Hollywood, folks. Make sure we’re being entertained.
At least give us the best defense in the league. That’s the minimum requirement in the Burgh.
And be quick about it. Some of us, are aging rapidly.
What’s Really At Stake?
I think we all know how the movie ends this weekend. If any of you are betting the house on the Steelers getting in and winning the Super Bowl this year, I’ll take that action.
The real show was a magnificent Academy Award winning performance by Ben Roethlisberger last week. It was really all we could have asked for in regards to his final regular season home game ever.
So much joy. So many great memories.
My favorite moment was the big family hug with his kids. Big Ben’s greatest triumph is what has happened off the field in his life. It’s a remarkable story, truly.
No. This weekend will be an epilogue. A bit of an afterthought. Almost a hangover as we walk through the confetti strewn across the floor.
What’s really at stake? Will this be my last Steelers Spin for a while?
The Steelers are going to have to pull this out of a hat for me to have more to write about this year.
Much gratitude to those of you who Spun along with me this season. Some of you have been reading these since 2013 when I posted my first one on Steelers Depot.
Bless your hearts.
Did you know I’ve written literally a long-form novel worth of carefully chosen published words on the Steelers here on the Depot through these years?
What’s odd to me, is I’ve never heard from anyone in the Steelers organization…once. No one from the office. None of the players. Waterboys. No one at all. And, I’m easy to find.
After all, in getting people talking about and excited about the team, we are doing the work of their Steelers public relations department here. And, as part of their PR jobs they have to read this drivel.
Not a curse word. No threatening letter in the mail with cut out magazine letters. Not a complimentary Big Ben Bobblehead. No press passes. Or tickets to the fashion fundraising ball. Why didn’t the former Ambassador to Ireland request a copy of one of my Irish Historical novels? I would have signed them.
Nothing. Crickets. Odd.
That’s fine. I write these because of you. Thank you for reading these bloviated tomes of joy and despair and commiserating with me during those rough weeks after difficult games. Your comments are most appreciated. Both, accolades and the more than occasional slander.
We are Steelers Nation. That’s the Spin.
Go Steelers! And, let’s hope I have more to write about this season.