5 Smoldering Questions on the Pittsburgh Steelers: Week 14

A1FC1295-1AED-4025-9825-4AC2339004C3Photo via Steelers.com

By Hombre de Acero

Watching the Steelers win over the Baltimore Ravens was watching a legend in the making. The victory at Heinz Field clinched yet another AFC North title for Pittsburgh, but hold off on breaking out the celebratory kielbasa and Iron City Beer (yes, I’m serious about the latter one) as the New England Patriots are coming to town. But before we can see if the Steelers can corral the elephant in the room, this corner of Steelers Nation must first resolve these 5 Smoldering Questions on the Steelers.

1. While Pittsburgh prevailed against the Ravens, the Steelers defense looked like it sorely missed Ryan Shazier at several points. Yet, for as badly as they played overall, the Steelers defense stopped the Ravens cold on 3 of 4 fourth quarter possessions.

Do you think that Mike Tomlin and Keith Butler will be able to coax enough consistency out of this defense for the Steelers to be competitive against New England? Justify your answer.

2. Surprise, Surprise! The Patriots lost to Miami on Monday Night Football. Do you think this loss unmasks a vulnerability or do you fear that it will only serve to strengthen New England’s resolve?

3. After his first stint at returning kicks, Mike Tomlin indicated that Martavis Bryant would get more chances to do so. Against the Bengals, Bryant did it again and had a touchdown called back on a penalty.

Yet, against the Ravens, Bryant only narrowly avoided disaster. When asked about it, Mike Tomlin responded this way:

Do you think that our esteemed head coach is guilty of, as we would say in Spanish double discurso (speaking out of both sides of one mouth.)

4. Hombre asked me to include a question based on the idea of rituals. Players tend to be quite superstitious, but they have nothing on the fans. I mentioned several weeks ago the Steelers T-shirt I wore for the Titans game, and was advised not to wash it. Well, I didn’t wash it, but I didn’t remember to wear it for the next few games either. (Generally I watch the games in whatever I have on at the moment, which is usually church clothes…) You all might note that the only game the Steelers have won by a comfortable margin is the Titans game…

Hombre mentioned the following: 

The Steelers are 11-2 when he watches on tape delay (even if the delay is only via pausing the game for a handful of minutes). His concern is this:

“Although no one’s mentioned it, my guess is the locals will suggest we get together to watch the game, which would mean no tape delay!”

These sorts of decisions aren’t easy. I was quite concerned last Saturday because I needed to dust underneath the Steelers nutcracker which overlooks the computer screen where I watch, and I was afraid I wouldn’t get it back in the exact same position. 

What about you all? Do you have rituals that you believe, in your heart of hearts, can influence the course of a Steelers game, for good or ill?

5. Sometimes in the present it becomes too easy to forget the past. The Pittsburgh Steelers once actually owned Bill Belichick, albeit a long time ago. Recent, Steelers history against the Patriots has been fraught with nothing but frustration for Pittsburgh.

The Steelers have won 3 times against Belichick 2.0, have beaten Belichick-Brady twice with only one win coming in the Mike Tomlin era and the other coming when Ben Roethlisberger was a rookie.

The Steelers average margin of loss to the Patriots has been by 13.5 points, or just shy of two touchdowns (although that margin “improves” to 9.6 at Heinz Field).

What, if anything, makes you think that this time, things will finally be different?

There you go folks.

Ravens vs Steelers: Sober Observations

By Ivan Cole

At what point is it appropriate to acknowledge a team and their season is special, even magical? Yes, there is the CONFRONTATION this week with the Patriots, as well as the hoped for happy ending in Minnesota. But forgive what might seem like lowering the bar by saying this—there is no way that what has transpired to this point could be viewed anyway other than a triumph of the collective spirit of the Pittsburgh Steelers organization.

Like the Immaculate Reception, the story of this season deserves to be shared for decades hence as a salute to soaring feats of achievement, dogged determination and resiliency in the face of both competitive challenges and straight up tragedy. If it were easy it would be a more unambiguously pleasant experience, but would lose the true and deep resonance of its impact. This is a spiritual event authored by an organization that has unapologetically embraced the spiritual—they hold training camp at a monastery.

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Steelers reach into their pocketful of miracles to win eighth straight,  so that they can give the game ball to Ryan Shazier

Photo via Steelers.com

By Homer J.

As per usual, heavily edit (and occasionally commented-upon) game notes will be followed by Homer’s report card. I’m amazed he had the strength.

The mood was jubilant at first:

LET’S WIN THIS ONE FOR RYAN! If emotion can win football games, the Steelers will win this one by fifty. But a defense without Shazier and Haden is suspect, to say the least. It’s Sunday Night Football, and the best rivalry in the NFL. Let’s get started….

Rosie Nix plants Chris Moore on the opening kickoff at the BAL 17…and then…

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Ravens @ Steelers: A 38-Tums Game*

Photo via Steelers.com

If you watched the game you have no need of an explanation for the headline. If you have watched the Steelers at all this season you probably don’t need an explanation either. I had the joy of watching the game with both my sons, and it was a corker. After taking a 14-0 lead in the early going, the Steelers had to make it interesting for the next 45 minutes or so. And the Ravens managed to make it interesting by seemingly Bungling the end of the game, not at least going for a Hail Mary pass in the waning seconds. But in fact it was T.J. Watt’s strip sack that decided their fate. And a timely play it was, too. It was, I believe, the only sack of the game by the Steelers’ defense, and it couldn’t have been more welcome. Except, perhaps, to Joe Flacco.

There’s just something about this team. They are scarily slow on defense in the middle of the field without Ryan Shazier. The tackling was improved tonight, enough to come up to perhaps junior varsity level, but Alex Collins frequently ripped through them like a hot knife through butter. Or Javoris Allen. Or the friggin’ fullback.

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5 Smoldering Questions on the Pittsburgh Steelers: Week 14

Sobering. That’s the only way to describe the Steelers win over the Bengals in light of Ryan Shazier’s injury. Nonetheless, we will sally forth with our 5 Smoldering Questions on the Steelers.

1. Many are commenting on the brutality evident in Monday Night’s game and for good reason. When the announcing crew on ESPN Deportes brings up 1990 Eagles-Redskins “Body Bag” game you know things are bad. However, Shazier’s injury, by far the most serious injury of the night, came on a completely legal hit.

When that dawned on me, I wondered if it wouldn’t have been wise for defenders to heed Rod Woodson’s call for rugby style tackling. Do you think this could have made a difference?

2. The Steelers didn’t just lose Shazier, they also lost Tyler Matakevich, yet they reacted by re-signing Sean Spence, whose own injuries, ironically, contributed to the Steelers’ decision to draft Shazier.

In two years of play, Spence validated the faith the coaches showed in keeping him on IR for two years, yet he nonetheless was unemployed in early December.

Does that fact count as a yellow or even red flag for you?

3. JuJu Smith-Schuster was (rightly in my view) suspended for gloating over Vontaze Burfict, yet after the game Colin Cowherd had this callous comment:

https://twitter.com/ColinCowherd/status/937870744326778880

How do you react to such statements, and do you think that his employers should sanction him for such remarks?

4. Here at Going Deep we endeavor NOT to repeat questions as much as possible. Yet sometimes events take control. And such is the case with the Steelers’ corners Coty Sensabaugh and Cam Sutton.

After taking exception with Jon Ledyard’s comment that fans couldn’t wait until Cam Sutton pushed Artie Burns for playing time, yours truly made this observation:

One reader pointed out that the more realistic scenario would be Cam Sutton  pushing Coty Sensabaugh for playing time. Both scenarios breathe new life into the old cliché of “grasping at straws….

…Should a serious Super Bowl contender really entertain the thought of replacing that kind of experience with a raw rookie 12 games into the season? That’s one’s hard to get your head around.

So. I’ll take an order of crow, white meat (yes, deserve to sink my teeth into something dry) and then follow with a healthy portion of humble pie because that is exactly what Mike Tomlin did at half time.

How do you assess Cam Sutton’s play, and do you think he should start in place of Senasbaugh against the Ravens?

5. Sunday brings the Ravens to Heinz Field for yet another December show down with the AFC North title in the balance. Keeping in mind that the Steelers haven’t swept the Ravens since 2008, here a little statistic I’ll share to stir up the pot:

What does this tell us about James Harrison?

Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 Third Quarter Report

Photo via Steelers.com

By Ivan Cole

Over the last several years it has been the intent of these quarterly reports to allow for taking a quick breath and giving an interim evaluation of the Steelers as they navigate the season—both the successes and failures experienced as well as the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. Occasionally, circumstances are such that a view to a more expansive landscape becomes both possible and appropriate. I believe this is one of those times.

So, I invite you to consider a somewhat broader, nonlinear evaluation of where Pittsburgh stands as they transition into the fourth quarter of this season.

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On Second Thought: Steelers @ Bengals and the State of the NFL

Photo via Steelers.com

Well, it’s official. JuJu and George Iloka both got hit, so to speak, with a one-game suspension for their hits on Monday night. Not that I want to be missing JuJu, but at one level I’m glad. I think the Iloka hit was worse than JuJu’s, despite AB seemingly not being affected and Burfict putting on an Oscar-worthy performance, but whatever. If the league wants to legislate such hits out of the game, they are going to have to do more than they have so far. Fines don’t seem to be getting the players’ attention, especially when you can be fined more for wearing something non-regulation than you can for potentially endangering someone’s life or livelihood.

And I’m frankly appalled that Rob Gronkowski only got one game for his hit. If you haven’t seen it, look it up. It was sickening. It was long after the play was over. JuJu’s could be viewed (as some already have) as just good football, but where he hit Burfict is illegal, whether he meant it to be or not. Iloka’s could be viewed (as some already have) as a bang-bang play where he couldn’t redirect at the last moment (although he probably could have.) But there was no excuse whatsoever for Gronk’s hit. It was late, it was deliberate, and it was ugly. Am I just a Steelers homer and conspiracy theorist to think that there is something suspicious in Gronk getting only a one-game suspension, when they play the Steelers week after next?

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