Steelers Spin: We Dance

Dorothy was right. Apparently, there is no place like Kansas.

Less probable than cows flying through the air, lions that are cowardly, scarecrows that spout wisdom and a witch’s toes curled under a fallen house, the Steelers are in the playoffs, Baby.

Whoever has been tapping together your Ruby Slippers. We thank you.

So, Kansas it is. And, Kansas it should be.

The Pittsburgh Steelers take on the Kansas City Chiefs and Andy Reid’s Great And Powerful Oz of a team.

Wait? Aren’t the Chiefs pretty much the best team in the league? Don’t they have a strong defense and one of the finest offenses ever assembled?

And don’t they have Patrick Mahomes, the sneaker head deluxe?

Didn’t they dial up a 36-10 win against Pittsburgh just a few weeks ago ruining Christmases across Steelers Nation?

Start tapping them Ruby Slippers again, people. Hard. We’re gonna need some ruby sparks flying.

Will this be the last stop for the Big Ben Roethlisberger farewell bus tour?

Speaking of buses, doesn’t this seem oddly familiar. Wasn’t it in the 2005-2006 season when a sprightly young gunslinger named Ben was dedicating a season to the retirement of The Bus? As in Jerome Bettis?

In fact, wasn’t that the season of “The Tackle”? The greatest quarterback tackle of all time?

And now, the team is trying to dedicate a late season push to that same quarterback some 16 years later?

This is starting to sound a little like The Yellow Brick Road.

Maybe it’s time for us to start easing on down that road. So, let’s give this a Spin.

The Redux

Could it be possible the Steelers are about to repeat their Super Bowl run of 16 years ago? The one that finally rewarded Coach Bill Cowher with his much sought after Lombardi Trophy?

Well…there are some similarities.

Few people remember this, as we often want to dwell on the glories of the past, but much of Steelers Nation were getting weary of the Cowher reign.

Sure, he was a joy to watch on the sidelines. His passion, his jaw jutting, his commitment to always serving us with a league leading defense.

Yet, as a descendant of the Marty Schottenheimer coaching tree, there was some significant concern that Marty had taught him too well.

Marty was one of those coaches who could lead a team in the regular season like none other. In his 21 years of coaching he brought his team to the playoffs 13 times and only had two losing seasons.

But, he couldn’t win the big game.

We had those hand wringing worries with Coach Bill and we wanted our dadgum Super Bowl victory out of him…and soon.

In 2005, the Steelers had lost three in a row, and at 7-5 were on the outside looking in when it came to playoffs contention. The Cincinnati Bengals were in the Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson era and finished the regular season with a 11-5 record and ended up winning the division.

The Steelers at that fateful moment of the mid-season shifted a gear and started winning and didn’t lose again. Still, in a highly competitive AFC that year, they barely made it into the playoffs and had to win three away games to make it to the Super Bowl.

Could the 2021-2022 season be a repeat performance? Will this be Coach Mike Tomlin’s finest moment as head coach of the Steelers?

Slide Show

Many of you are too young to have experienced this. Your rich friends have just got back from their Alaska Cruise (or European trip, or fancy, new recreational vehicle drive through America) and rather than keep that miserable experience of mosquitos and sunburns to themselves, they insist on inviting people over and rubbing it their noses.

“Did everyone enjoy their hamburgers? Great! Herb is going to get out the slide projector, and we’re going to share our trip with everyone. Won’t that be great?”

No Helen. It won’t be great.

In many ways, this has been a Steelers season with some of the lower lights in its modern history. There have been some all-time clunkers, including the drubbing they took recently in Arrowhead Stadium.

But, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some incredible moments already. Herb…let’s break out the projector.

Starting with T.J. Watt’s 22.5 sack performance. Despite the year starting off slowly with a brief holdout and injuries, he’s demonstrated already he had the right character and talent for the team to invest with him such a large contract.

And Najee Harris’ heart of a runner on display with so many statement runs, including those which featured his gifted stiff arm. I’m not really sure how there can even remain a hint of a debate as to whether he was a wise draft pick. The kid’s got it all. He’ll be entertaining Steelers Nation for years.

Then there is the Big Ben High Five tour. Regardless of how the game ends tomorrow, there will always be the Cleveland Browns game. The season was already highlighted by a teary eye Ben circling the stadium and loving on the fans…and soaking in the moment.

Then, my most recent favorite memory is the video clip of Tomlin dancing with his team in the locker room in celebration of their win against the Baltimore Ravens. You wouldn’t get to enjoy those kinds of moments with Chuck Noll, that’s for sure. Tomlin has been able to take “players coach” to an art…and dance form.

Yet, the greatest slide of all could just happen this weekend. A game winning pass from Roethlisberger to…JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Wait? Could that really happen? Yes, it could. That slide would beat them all.

It could lead to the ultimate Elgin Baylor moment. JuJu just being able to suit up could be all that is required for this team to get to the level of enthusiasm they are going to need to pull this off.

The Greatest Insult

You’ve read it here on these Spin pages before. There is no better coach in Steelers history to take such an utter underdog through an impossible junkyard of a chance in these playoffs.

He’s built for this.

Coach Mike Tomlin has the uncanny ability of getting his entire team to believe not only they COULD win, but that they SHOULD win in these circumstances.

That being said, there is a terrible insult about him starting to surface by those who mean well by saying it.

It goes like this:

“With a defense that can’t stop the run, and an offense that can’t run or score in the first half of games, lower tier assistant coaches and having one of the weakest rosters the team has had in years…for Tomlin to get them into the NFL Playoffs, this has to be considered his greatest year of coaching.”

Now. It’s understandable that Outsiders might come to this conclusion. National reporting is traditionally lazy and out of touch when it comes to talking about the Pittsburgh of today. They often fall to just pulling Steelers clichés out of a hat instead of being remotely accurate.

But, for those us in Steelers Nation. C’mon. Do you know what you’re actually saying?

Your insulting Tomlin by making it seem that on Sundays, they go into the equipment closet, get their Head Coach and wheel him out to the sidelines as if he has nothing to do with anything but to cheer them on.

Tomlin is one of the greatest leaders this franchise has ever seen. He’s always the Big Dog in every room. No one is ever drafted, recruited, traded or dropped without being dunked into the deep pools of his direction.

Team roster. Salary cap management. Coaching choices. Game strategy. His hands are on all of it. Just like it should be for any coach with the luxury of getting to hold the same job for so many years.

You can love Tomlin. Believe he’s a Top Five coach in the NFL and even claim that he’s one of the best ever.

But, please don’t insult him. This most assuredly hasn’t been one of his finest years of coaching.

The best way to describe it is he was driving this mess of a car, leaned over to change the radio station, and looked up to see a deer in the road.

The deer jumped out of the way, folks. This was not a good year of driving.

Maybe this will turn around to be his greatest year of coaching. But, there is quite some remaining accomplishing to do to be able say that with a straight face.

These playoffs are his chance. No wonder he was dancing.

So You’re Saying We’ve Got A Chance?

Yet, we are most certainly at the “who cares how we got here” time of the season.

The fact there is a playoff game for this year’s version of the Pittsburgh Steelers is a miracle of miracles. For all of the chips to fall like they had to last Sunday, and in such dramatic fashion does lead you to believe we are under some type of enchantment.

Bring it on Dorothy. Summon the winds. Let’s get everything spinning.

It may not last long. Or we could go all the way. Whatever it is, we’ve got a chance. And, as it turns out, it might be much better than the spread would contend.

Tomlin excels in these moments. The team believes in him. Pittsburgh comes into this a mostly healthy team, whereas Kansas has some key injuries.

The Chiefs have the heavy burden of handling heavy expectations.

Still, it’s gonna be a tough row.

Regardless. There is one thing they can’t take away from us at this point of the year.

We’re in the playoffs. We dance.

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