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Steelers Spin: Somewhere Over The Rainbow

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. It wasn’t supposed to matter.

But it does.

The Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves in the most unlikely of situations this weekend. They are in the last week of the National Football League’s regular season and they are playing in a game that actually boasts significance.

If you asked most sane people back when the Steelers were 3-7 if this was a remotely possible outcome, they would have said the team didn’t have a snowball’s chance in Head Coach Mike Tomlin’s unleashed hell.

But if there is one thing we’ve learned in Tomlin’s long impressive reign as the Steelers most important person it’s this:

If you write off Tomlin, you better use disappearing ink or you’ll end up looking like a dang fool.

Should we be proud of where the Steelers are this time of the year?

No. Once again, we’re playing the role of beggars and thieves as we need to rely on both the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins to curl up in a ball and put their thumbs in their mouths this weekend.

Good luck with that.

Oh…and the Steelers still have to defeat the Cleveland Browns at home, something their just-a-bus ride-away visitors will be loathe to allow to happen.

Yes, this pot of gold is probably somewhere over the rainbow, allegedly the place where these dreams that we dare to dream really do come true.

Yet, as long as the opportunity is at least cloudy with a chance of meatballs we will graciously accept it.

Will we ride the rainbow? Let’s give it a Spin.

Sit Next To Us, Will You?

The Steelers Renaissance is in full swing with a remarkable shift in winning ways. Somehow, the team still has a chance to backdoor into the playoffs and possibly use this momentum in their sails to take them to far places.

They still need to juggle three difficult balls while riding a unicycle over a metal rope across the Grand Canyon…so don’t get expend all of your hopes on this pipedream.

They need to beat the Cleveland Browns at home. Doable, and maybe even probable, but this is the kind of milk that Tomlin’s teams have spilt in the past.

Then they’ve got to scoreboard glance their way into witnessing both the New England Patriots (playing the Buffalo Bills away) and the Miami Dolphins (hosting the New York Jets) avoiding winning ways.

The good news is the pain and suffering will be over by 4 p.m. on the East Coast and only 1 p.m. on the California wavy side of the nation. All three games will be played simultaneously.

It’s the quintessential day for watching in the stadium with two streaming phones or in a bar or a super-equipped Man Cave featuring the full NFL Sunday Ticket.

One last glorious day of National Football League adventure…at least…for Steelers Nation.

Again. Who woulda thunk?

If the Steelers do win this unlikely final regular season trifecta, when Coach Tomlin is cashing in his ticket, he can remember this: WE WERE RIGHT.

Yes US! The fans.

Tomlin infamously was quoted as saying, “If you start listening to the fans, you end up sitting with them.”

Well…Coach…here’s a seat for you.

What were we right about?

When Coach Tomlin was telling us he was going to start Mitch Trubisky for as many games as far as the eye could see, we were telling him that was an exceptionally poor idea. We explained we had seen enough in Kenny Pickett’s college career and this year’s preseason to know he was a much wiser choice.

Tomlin still has nightmares of hearing…

Kenny…Kenny…Kenny.

We were right!

And, when we told him to start George Pickens over Chase Claypool, and why you were at it, try to get as high of a draft pick by trading him away…we were right again.

Then, just last week, after all of our endless complaints about the “business decisions” Devin Bush was making on the field in his role of middle linebacker, Coach Tomlin finally listened to us again.

He put a real thumper on the field in the likes of seventh round draft pick Mark Robinson.

And see Coach…we CAN stop the run. We were right again.

You should trust us more. We’ve been doing this a long, long, time.

The Greatest Ever? The Sequel

There are few things I enjoy more in The Spin than…well…spinning things up. We created quite a hoophah last week with this particular grouping of sentences.

Let’s be really clear. Tomlin has already done an admirable job winning 5 out of his last 7 games. If Coach was able to rally his troops enough to beat the Ravens Sunday, then beat the Cleveland Browns for the last game of the season, then beat the odds and squeak into the playoffs, and then win a Wildcard game, and then continue to win through the AFC Championship game, and then win this year’s Super Bowl game…then…and you’re reading this in print…

He would establish himself as the greatest Steelers coach ever. Done.

Why this made all the Head Coach Chuck Noll loving old geezers rise up in an uproar. They headed to their attics, blew the dust off of their Commodore 64s, plugged in their 14.4 Baud modems and after an hour waiting for all of the ads to load up on Steelers Depot…they really let the Spin have it.

Why, one graybeard even lashed out by accusing me of being one of those “Millennials” for uttering such blasphemy.

Let me tell you, my fellow aging friend, I was hatched in ’65, matched in ’96 and hopefully won’t be dispatched for quite some time, but I can already see land in the distant horizon.

I was the first of the Gen X’ers and was raised on entertainment consisting of a piece of paper folded into a triangle and played on a desk when the teacher wasn’t looking.

I would purchase a complete set of National Football League pencils, only to throw out the 27 others that weren’t the Steelers one.

Millennial? Why high technology football toys back then included a buzzing electric metal board where mindless plastic pieces vibrated their way aimlessly on a green field, where the most real action was when you tucked the tiny foam football under a player’s arm.

Our breakthrough innovation was the shining star of the Sears Christmas Catalog, the 1977 Mattel Electronics Handheld football game, that would have us poking at buttons and blipping away touchdowns into the vanishing shadows of the nights.

So, I know Coach Noll. The most brilliant field general of our three great head coaches of recent. A stoic genius in player development, who took no guff from no one. The greatest coach of his era.

Yet, as brilliant as he was, he benefited greatly from advantages Coach Tomlin cannot claim.

The Steelers of the 70’s had an absolute elite gold miner of player acquisition in the name of Bill Nunn who found golden nuggets of players in smaller colleges and kept them hidden from opposing teams until their names were called on draft day.

In a time where there was no hand-held supercomputers and film study of small colleges was non-existent, he brought players to the team that would start and star even on most of today’s NFL rosters.

Don’t get me wrong. Noll also got all of the big-name players right in his draft selections. But his advantage back in those days was like playing street football and getting to pick five players before his opposing team got their first.

When it came to the 80’s, when this unfair advantage started to fade, Noll’s dominance faded as well.

He also coached in a time where players trained year-round and didn’t complain about training. These players didn’t earn much more than policemen and firefighters so they also couldn’t inform you they weren’t showing up to practice from a phone on their yachts.

Different era. That’s the point.

I have all three coaches, Noll, Tomlin and Bill Cowher pretty darn close on the scale of Pittsburgh Steeler greatness.

Noll is my favorite because he brought me four glorious Super Bowl victories. Cowher is my favorite because he was one of us. He would have as much fun joining us at a tailgate party than he would attending a Hollywood gala.

Tomlin is my favorite because he’s the greatest players coach the league has ever seen. And that is meant in the most complementary manner possible.

That being said. I think 15 years is plenty of time, and if a coach stays too long you start lip synching their press conferences, as Shakespearian of a speaker as they might be.

And as David Bowie once said…Ch…cha..cha…changes. They aren’t a bad thing.

Even so…if Tomlin was to win a Super Bowl THIS year in THIS era? It would be enough to move him to the top (barely) in my rating system.

If he falls short and they miss the playoffs again? He drops to number three. It’s that close.

There. I said it. Again. Shall we play a game of Pong?

The One In Our Control

The Cleveland Browns coming to Pittsburgh? That’s always a great feast of drama and intra-division entertainment.

There are few things better than baking the Brownies.

If the Steelers finished their January play with a win over the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns we would consider it at least some level of consoling after an overall mostly miserable season.

If the Fates would have it that we would somehow make it to the Wildcard Round of this year’s playoffs? That would be over the rainbow special.

Could it happen? Well…as they say: If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow, why, oh why can’t I?

And something even more important than bluebirds? It’s the health and recovery of Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin, whose tragedy on the field put football in proper perspective.

Prayers to you and your family, young man.

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