Opponent Preview: Bengals @ Steelers

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It’s Bengals week. Storylines abound. Will Vontaze Burfict and his new contract live up (or down) to expectations? Will the Bengals miss Tyler Eifert, who is having surgery, is done for the season, and really ought to retire before he becomes the first Breakable Bionic Man, or will Tyler Kroft make him a distant memory? Will Joe Mixon, another of their Troubled Youth Rehabilitation projects, and who has wrested the starting job (legally) from Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill, look more like Leonard Fournette or Kareem Hunt on Sunday in terms of his stat line vs. the Steelers defense? Will A.J. Green or Antonio Brown look like the best receiver in the league? And who will impact the game the most—Old Man Pacman Jones or Really Old Man Deebo Harrison? (Jones will almost certainly have more opportunities to do so, unless he is unable to play—see the Injury Report below.)

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The Return of the Hombre: 5 Smoldering Questions on the Pittsburgh Steelers

FD31B63C-9465-422A-8750-E29B80695AE1By Hombre de Acero

After getting humiliated at home by the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Pittsburgh Steelers waltzed into the living room of the Kansas City Chiefs and promptly proceeded to thoroughly dominate the NFL’s hottest team, best quarterback and top rusher for 3 and a half quarters. The Steelers of course defeated the Kansas City Chiefs, improving to 4-2 and they head back home to face the Cincinnati Bengals. But before this corner of Steelers Nation can focus on this latest AFC North show down, we first must answer these 5 Smoldering Question on the Steelers.

1. Carlos, an Argentine Steelers fan who lives above, commented to me that the NFL is so unpredictable that he’s stopped betting on games (and believe me, Carlos not betting is a big deal.) Six games into 2017, the Steelers are far from the only team to appear schizophrenic. To what do you attribute the NFL’s flirtation with manic depression, and is what’s happening in Pittsburgh just an extension of the general trend or is there something unique in the Steel City?

2. After standing on the sidelines for much of the season—on the Sundays he was lucky enough to dress—James Harrison entered the game on the final drive, and dropped Alex Smith on the penultimate play.

While T.J. Watt has done everything you could ask of a rookie, do you think James Harrison has done enough to warrant more playing time at Watt’s expense?

3. So Martavis Bryant requested a trade two weeks ago, as various outlets have confirmed, only to have Bryant face the cameras and tell us how happy he is in Pittsburgh. It says here that Bryant isn’t going anywhere, but if you’re Kevin Colbert, what offer tempts you?

4. The Pittsburgh defense currently leads the league in pass defense. This is partially due to the defensive line, but is certainly also due to the defensive backs. Curiously, the coaches haven’t changed and the scheme hasn’t changed—Pittsburgh still plays less man coverage than any team in the league, as per Pro Football Focus, in an article published yesterday. So why this sudden competence?

5. Count yours truly as one who openly suggested that Ben Roethlisberger was too dependent on Antonio Brown, so much that the analogy of Neil O’Donnell to Eric Green was rumbling around my head (oh how I date myself.) Makes sense.

Six weeks into the season Ben + Brown is the offense’s only consistent element.

That’s a common perception in Steelers Nation, but the numbers tell an interesting story.

Thus far this year, Brown has been Ben’s target 33% of the time, caught 35% of his passes, accounted for 46% of the team’s receiving yards and has 64.9% catch rate.

In 2015, when he was competing with Heath Miller, Markus Wheaton, Darrius Heyward Bey and Bryant, Brown was the Steeler’s quarterback’s target 33% of the time, caught 34% of the team’s receptions and accounted for 38% of the team’s receiving yards with a 70.5% catch rate.

So…

…Is the Steelers offense, or perhaps Pittsburgh’s passing game, too dependent on Ben getting the ball to Brown?

Homer’s Travel Misadventures and Game Report

892ABF86-C29A-4ACC-9909-24F0301EA370.jpegBy Homer J.

Homer begs your indulgence, as he is a bit late to the party this week, for he was unable to watch Sunday’s game as it happened. Thereby, as Shakespeare would say, hangs a tale. A tale of Paradise, turbulence, sexual assault, and tardiness.

Homer woke up Sunday morning in Paradise, which is actually a town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Having covered the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald as a young reporter, he had always wanted to visit Whitefish Bay (12 miles north of Paradise) and see the famous Shipwreck Museum, and this was the weekend to cross that one off the bucket list. And Sunday was the day to head back home.

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On Second Thought: Steelers @ Chiefs

ADF16C1C-D644-44AA-A82F-8E129B64D3C6Photo via Steelers.com

Usually after a win like Sunday’s beatdown of the Chiefs everybody is lined up with game recaps, grades, and so on . But Ivan Cole is a DNP for the last two weeks with carpal tunnel and Homer is off gadding about, so you’re just going to have to put up with me this week.

In my first effusions over the game I pretty much skipped over the less perfect aspects of it, and honestly I think this is appropriate in many ways. Part of the excitement of a live performance, whether given by a rock band, a professional chamber choir such as I conducted for many years, a symphony orchestra, a production of Hamlet, or, yes, a football game, is that anything can happen at any given moment, and a great many of the things which can happen are, shall we say, less than optimal.

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Steelers @ Chiefs: the Acceptable, the Objectionable, and the Appalling

Phot via Steelers.com

This post should really be called The Return of the Native, or some equally classy literary name, because the big news is:

  • 1: The Chiefs are no longer undefeated.
  • 2: James Harrison is BACCKK!

It is possible that No. 2 had something to do with No. 1.

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Steelers’ Opponent Preview: The Kansas City Chiefs

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The most important player on the field, the last time the Steelers and Chiefs played…

It’s very tempting to just say “last undefeated team in the NFL. Let’s do this again some time…” It’s very possibly all you wish to read.

But a sense of duty compels me to write this anyhow, as little as I like the prospect of studying even more closely an opponent I’m dreading. Because this might be the first really complete team the Steelers have seen this season, and we’ve seen how uneven they have been against flawed, even highly flawed, teams.

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The Trouble With Truth: A Dramatic Presentation by the Pittsburgh Steelers

F290CF19-B370-464A-A8D3-28A93BB4B73CPhoto via Steelers.com

So far the theme of this season seems to be “just one big drama after another.” We had “The Return of the Prodigals” in Week 1, “The Underwhelmingness of the Prodigals” in Week 2, “Insulting the Flag, Mother, and Apple Pie, Except for One Heroic Holdout” in Week 3, “Those Selfish Divas Who Only Care About Their Stats” in Week 4, and in Week 5, “Ben Throws Himself Under the Bus.” Read more

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