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Steelers Spin: So, This Is What It Feels Like

There was a significant turning point in the Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 season somewhere during their Sunday game versus the Baltimore Ravens.

The critical first observation was that this wasn’t a game being made available across the nation.

A Steelers Ravens game that no one cared a whit about? How did this come to be?

At the beginning of the game, a graphic appeared showing the playoff scenarios in the AFC of the National Football League.

There we were! Our Steelers logo with a record of 5-7 displayed and we were being shown as still in the hunt.

Sadly, this was followed by the embarrassment of having tens of thousands of freezing Steelers fans watch the Ravens offensive line roll out 215 yards of running production around and over the home team’s Maginot Line.

Shortly thereafter, the crew at the television production headquarters were ordered to remove that hopeful Steelers logo off the playoff possibilities graphic.

The Steelers were out of the hunt. This dog won’t hunt this year.

So, this is what it feels like? Being out? Being insignificant?

This, as Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49’ers and Buffalo Bills fans go wild in anticipation. This, as even Cincinnati Bengals fans…the former bag wearers deluxe…go through all their playoff scenarios with great hope.

Still in Pittsburgh…all is still.

To be or not to be? Folks…there ain’t no being this year.

There is a great comedic film called Rosencrantz and Guiderstern Are Dead where two very, very minor characters in Shakespeare’s Hamlet tell the story from their meaningless perspective.

It quite excellent. You should watch it.

The Pittsburgh Steelers? We are Rosencrantz. We are Guildenstern.

So, let’s give this a Spin. We must. As nothing can come of nothing.

Expectation Is The Root Of All Heartache

There was a minor group of deluded individuals who were still arguing that the team’s great future should best be rested on the shoulders of Mitch Trubisky.

How could the Steelers have given up on this former high number one draft pick so quickly for a mere fan-chanting rookie?

These ill placed thoughts were cast away rather compactly when Trubisky trotted onto the field early in the Ravens game in replacement of a concussed Kenny Pickett.

Three bad interceptions later we do have this to be thankful:

There is no quarterback controversy.

The fact that now the disenchanted masses are raising their banners for Mason Rudolph is further proof the franchise is drifting into obscurity.

Actually, there is some true value in this upcoming match against the Carolina Panthers this Sunday (yes…there is a football game for Pittsburgh this weekend). That is, we may be able to determine who exactly should be the backup quarterback of the future.

I’ll cast my vote for Rudolph. He’s been an excellent teammate for years, despite the level of fan abuse he’s received and he’s clearly competent enough to enter the field of play and make some timely plays.

Whether he’ll be content in being a number two quarterback is one of the biggest questions an NFL professional has to make.

If the answer is “Yes” he could have an admirable, high paying job for many years to come. Being a backup in Pittsburgh is an elite opportunity. Just ask Charlie Batch.

Still, fortunately, there is no quarterback controversy. Kenny Pickett will get the keys to the car as soon as he’s ready.

When he does return to the captain’s chair, he may need to reevaluate his style of play. With two concussions in such a short period of time, he’ll either have to alter his approach, or his drive on the NFL freeway could be short lived.

Uneasy Lies The Head That Wears The Crown

It’s unavoidable.

This team was firmly placed in the hands of Coach Mike Tomlin in all decisional aspects over the past few years and its meager results cannot be Houdini-like escaped easily with the statement, “We lost our Hall of Fame quarterback.”

There was a long runway toward the end of Ben Roethlisberger’s epic career, and while many were screaming for a long-term plan for his replacement, Tomlin’s waved us away with a “I’ve got this.”

Taking all emotion and devotion out of this, most thoughtful football minds would admit this Steelers team is in dire need of a fresh start. At all positions of play and leadership.

Had Pittsburgh demonstrated they were indeed on the rise with a triumphant defeat of the Ravens at home, an argument could have been constructed on a three-game winning streak and a rookie quarterback on the rise.

Maybe he does got this, we thought.

But the most common expression seen by the coaching staff on the sidelines and in the booth this season has been one of bewilderment and confusion. They don’t seem to have the answers required.

With Baltimore down to its third string quarterback, there is no way they should have been permitted to continue to run the ball down the Steelers throats. Not with two running backs with recently reconstructed knees.

What it revealed for all who were watching is that Pittsburgh is a team that will require major reconstruction. There are deep issues on both sides of the trenches and those will take years to repair.

No one wants to hear this, but this isn’t a team that is just a few tweaks away. There is significant rebuilding required for this to be a Super Bowl grade team in the near future.

Is Tomlin the right person to do this? He very well may be.

But a few things are true. There would be no treachery in going a different direction next year. Tomlin has enjoyed this opportunity for many more years than a modern NFL head coach should ever expect.

Secondly, the often-uttered refrain of, “Tomlin would have another head coaching job in the NFL in fifteen seconds” is totally moot.

Who cares? Good for him. He’s earned it. Will he stay here for another twenty years without a Super Bowl win for that reason?

The only thing that matters for the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise moving forward is “Who is the right character-rich individual to lead us rapidly to more Super Bowls?”

If the answer is Tomlin, then so be it. He’ll have to take a radical approach next year, because this dog won’t hunt, and it hasn’t hunted at an elite level for quite some time.

And…some of us are getting old.

Be Not Afraid Of Greatness

It seems like there was a bait and switch performed on Steelers Nation a few years ago. Weren’t we on the cusp of having our league dominant defense once again?

What happened?

Instead, it’s been a “Whac-A-Mole” defense for the past couple of years.

We have problems with covering tight ends? Fine, we solve that and then we can’t cover wide receivers deep. Fine, we solve that and now all the sudden we can’t defend against the run.

This defense has been lacking a deep roster and deep thinking for years now. There is not even a hint of a mad scientist approach to problem solving the opposing team’s offense.

Yes, there is some excellent individual play here and there that sparks hope, but we once again appear so far away from having a great defense.

How is this defensive team roster so expensive?

It’s clear that we have so many holes on this team and that we can’t patch everything in next year’s draft and during the free agency period.

I say, let’s choose dominant defense and sell out entirely on giving us a superstar middle linebacker, a shutdown corner, and some major run stoppers on the line. Use the draft, the Rooney gold vaults, whatever it takes.

Because at least a few years back, it looked like our defense was going to be elite.

Let’s not be afraid of greatness.

Sweet Are The Uses Of Adversity

Look, no one likes a losing season. Not the fans, not the beer vendors, not the team sponsors…not even Steely McBeam as the tears rust him up.

Not even those who are tasked to write about these seasons of despair.

But the Steelers must use the remaining four games of this year as wisely as possible. If the goal is to completely sell out in order to rise to Tomlin’s line of mediocrity and eke out a winning season with aging end-of-the-road veterans, then we will have squandered all that is left this year.

All the world’s a stage. Give the youth their stage. Let’s see what they have so we can make all the right decisions in the upcoming months.

You want an example of rebuild? Look at the Carolina Panthers. They traded away all their best players this year for a boatload of draft picks and despite this are now playing their best football.

In my mind, I’m going to Carolina, and I’m hoping the Steelers are in a mind to be in the process of rebuilding us something great again. Whatever it takes.

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