On Second Thought: Raiders at Steelers

 by Ivan Cole

Sometimes it really sucks to be right. Two terms that appeared in the season midpoint report hung over today’s proceedings like a dark cloud; ‘Injuries’ and ‘snake bitten’. They defined the first half of 2015, and now threaten to define the entire year. The team survived in the sense that it was a victory and records were set, but at what cost? Did we see the season begin to circle the drain this afternoon?


Say what you will about Steelers football in 2015, but it is exciting. After nine games there has been only one where there wasn’t a sense of drama in play in the final moments. Unfortunately, there is super hero/action adventure type drama, and then this horror/slasher type drama. And all too often it has been variations on the latter scenario. Today was only atypical in the details—the narrative arch has been similar.

There is, first, the false happy ending. Three players you probably forgot were on the team—Roosevelt Nix (caused fumble), Anthony Chickillo (recovered fumble) and Jesse James (catches touchdown pass), combine to give Pittsburgh its biggest lead of the day. Cue happy flute music.

Among the players there are smiles, high fives and butt slaps all around. In the stands little Steelers Nation cherubs frolic with their parents and siblings under golden sunlight and a clear blue sky. I swear you can hear the birds chirping and you know that somewhere, wrapped in a Terrible Towel, Cam Heyward’s newborn son is smiling. And then…

“Who is that lurking in the shadows?”
Confusion as the sound of a chain saw starting fills the air.


And the high drama begins. Half the time it ends with black and gold dismembered limbs and torsos littering the field as guys in hockey masks cackle and exchange high fives, perhaps munching on Le’Veon Bell’s mangled knee. Other times it’s like this game. Victory, yes, but as Homer J so accurately puts it, Pyrrhic in nature. This leaves even the most devout of Steelers fans stumbling toward the liquor cabinet in a desperate attempt to calm traumatized nerves and to remember that they are supposed to be enjoying this sort of thing. At times like these there is something attractive about the peace and quiet of March.


As I write the news on Roethlisberger is not as bad as it could have been—a mid foot sprain, a type of injury I am personally familiar with. The fact that it happened, as these things seem to keep happening, is distressing. On the other hand if you have to suffer this sort of thing the timing could hardly be better. The team has to manage to find a way to win at home against the Browns and then has a bye week. Ben should be back in time for the Seattle game. Possible we dodged the bullet a second time in this regard?

Antonio and DeAngelo

Hard to believe that one of these performances will be considered just second best. You have to give the nod to AB based upon his last run and catch that set up the game winning field goal, as well as the rest of his record setting performance. But his fumbled punt also put him on the short list of potential goats.

In many ways, given the circumstances, Williams’ day was more impressive. Spectacular runs, solid receiving, but most impressive was his ‘chip’ block on Aldon Smith in the fourth quarter. It was major injustice in my view that there were no replays during the game of that hit.

Physical Steelers

The Williams hit on Smith leads us to one of the clear positive trends of this season. Their record as it relates to beating teams is just slightly above mediocre. They are doing a much more impressive and consistent job of beating other teams up. The Steelers have successful recalibrated in response to new league standards and have regained their mojo of playing intimidating, brutal football.

Mitchell and Blake

Safety Mike Mitchell is leading the way here with Antwon Blake and a bunch of others following suit. Mitchell’s knockout shot of Latavius Murray was just the most spectacular of the hits that Pittsburgh has been delivering in all phases, but particularly by the defensive secondary. These hits are thwarting what would otherwise be successful plays and are also creating turnover opportunities. The quality secondary play continues overall. People don’t throw in William Gay’s direction much these days. Ross Cockrell continues to impress with some nicely defensed passes and one critical interception.

Jesse James

I had honestly forgotten about this red shirt rookie. His regular season debut was auspicious to say the least. This game, two good receptions, including the touchdown grab. And, perhaps more impressively, some very good blocking, including on Martavis Bryant’s touchdown scamper. He gave the impression of someone who can successfully step into Heath Miller’s shoes when the time comes. But the guy whose days may be numbered in the more immediate sense may be Matt Spaeth. Fans being fans, I think it’s a pretty sure bet we will be hearing some of that conversation during the week.

Chris and Martavis

Both our rookie placekicker and second year receiver had challenging moments earlier in the game that will likely be glossed over by later successes. Boswell missed his second field goal attempt and botched a kickoff that provided the Raiders good field position on one of their late scoring drives. Bryant dropped some makeable catches early.

Bryant wasn’t the only receiver to struggle at times. It was not the best day for either Markus Wheaton or Darrius Heyward-Bey. Disappointing I’m sure for Heyward-Bey, who probably wanted to show his old team that he had landed on his feet.

Jacoby Jones

Wherever he might be, Dri Archer is probably saying ‘I could have done that’. The Jones Steelers debut was nothing to write home about, but let’s see what happens after he actually gets a chance to practice with the team.


Speaking of Jones. Homer is reprising “Along Came Jones,” and I’m betting that we will be returning to the season of fickle fandom over these next couple weeks. He did not lose the game and allowed his playmakers the opportunity to win it, which they obligingly did. But this coming week, as in Kansas City, he is going to actually have to try to win a football game.

The Browns

I can already hear a segment of the fan base making ominous references to the ‘T’ (trap) word, while a different segment have already checked this one off in the win column. Both are wrong.

Cleveland needs no extra incentives to put forth their best effort against the Steelers. But with Ben and Bell out the smell of blood in the water must be intoxicating. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the pattern of play we have been subjected to this season continues next Sunday.

Can you hear that chainsaw?


  • All I can hear is the birds singing because Ben will be back sooner rather than later or not at all. I was so afraid his/Steelers season was over. Hope still lives.

    Another fine article, GoingDeepSteelers is truly the site for in-depth Steelers coverage. Thank you all.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Cliff Harris is Still A Punk!

    I think we are seeing in Mitchell’s elevated play this season not just a heightened comfort level in his second year here but also the benefit of playing with a more traditional partner at safety. He really struggled trying to play with Troy. This is understandable, seeing as Troy was a unique football player who was implemented in whatever way Dick LeBeau playing mad scientist could dream up. Troy’s decline last season made those creative schemes less effective, which put greater pressure on Mitchell and exaggerated his growing pains in the new system.

    This year we see a faster, more confident Mitchell playing like a guy who knows what he’s doing and where’s he’s supposed to be. The physical part of his game is back in large part to him being in the right place to make plays. This is the guy we envisioned when we went out on a limb for him in free agency. Along with Cam Heyward, he’s probably been our most effective defender this season.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I remember hearing last season that at Carolina he was a bit of a free-range safety himself, so not only did he have to rein that in but try to figure out what Troy was going to do (or attempt) and figure out how to put out the fire if he didn’t. Add that to two torn groin muscles he was dealing with all season, and it isn’t hard to see why he didn’t play well.


    • Unless he’s the one missing on the assignments when there are WR/TE running all alone down field or in the EZ.
      Wish I knew what the heck was going on when we see that. Or better yet if I never see that again my liver will be better off.
      But man I love the way WR/TE/RB are looking for him first before securing the catch.


      • A whole bunch of possibly unrelated points. I’m way too lazy to comment a number of times. I’m still too lazy to create an account. (Another password! I need a password for my Ace Hardware account and my library card and…at some point, I just want to be anonymous..)

        Ivan the Oracle. really. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve thought of his latest essay as I was watching a game. This one a double wincer.
        The injuries are beginning to exhaust me. Not just to this team,not because of how it impacts the season or the playoffs, but just because. Because it’s not fun? That seems so superficial. Not that it isn’t true but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Because it’s making clear who in this country still thinks it’s worth the risk? For our enjoyment? I don’t really want to go there as it feeds into other things and I’m not as good as Ivan seems to be at separating my enjoyment of a good game from my understanding of where most of these kids come from and what their options are. I don’t want to see people get hurt. I don’t want to see people get hurt because their only path to success in life is using their body in football,, or worse yet failing. Look at Le’Veon’s twitter profile. It says something like “I want to give my Mom a good life.” I could cry over that alone. And maybe we all should. Years ago, I had a minor encounter with someone who had been successful in the NBA and he was explicit: his career didn’t just give his family a luxury home–it gave his family the first home they’d ever owned. “We were the Clampetts,” he said, meaning the Beverly Hillbillies. They’d had nothing before that but rental units in gang and drug neighborhoods. He gave them security and an owned house. He wasn’t much liked. In fact, I didn’t like him. But I understood what was driving him and how hard it must have been for a 22 year old to know that his whole family (extended family, friends…it grows and grows for some of them) depended on him for something they’d not have otherwise. How many 22 year olds can handle that stress?

        I don’t know if I can make links and I have nothing at my fingertips but the NYTimes did a profile of a rookie Jets player and his reunion with his father when the Jets played the Raiders. Yes, it was a feel-good story on the surface. But more than that, it revealed where an enormous number of these players come from and what their lives are really like. Yeah, those spoiled, entitled athletes with their free rides through college and their “strange” problems with drugs, alcohol and anger management. As Ivan pointed out with the Kemo story, if you think for just a moment about what this story is really about, it’s heartbreaking.

        And if you really want to torture yourself, stop and think about the kids who had talents other than AB’s football talent. Kids who were good at art or music or science or computers, but darn, schools cut those programs, underpaid even the teachers who cared and they had no one to point them to a place where they could succeed. We throw away and ignore too many needy kids in this country. They’re sleeping on couches, their parents are addicts or in jail, they have brains and talents but no one cares or cares enough. (Join Big Brothers and Sisters or Boys and Girls Clubs. Please, even for an hour a week. Foster a kid even if you tell yourself it will make your life miserable. It might. It might do quite the opposite. Ivan once expressed disbelief and perhaps disgust that people rescued dogs but not people. Dogs are easier, Ivan. They only occasionally break your heart. People, especially foster kids, rip it right out of you and sometimes no matter what you try to do, you fail. Dogs work for cheese and ear scratches. You often succeed with animals despite your own failings. Not so with kids.Doesn’t mean it’s not worth it but you have to be half brave and half stupid.)

        As for the injuries. Was it always this bad? I can convince myself it was and it wasn’t, but I really don’t remember so many season ending fun-killing injuries. And I don’t mean the concussion protocols. Those seem like a very good thing, if a bit hit and miss. I mean the terrible moments like Bell and Ben and Romo carted off, and seattle Seahawks Ricardo Lockette motionless on the ground for so long that several of us here were nearly nauseous with fear that he was dead, half dead, forever disabled. When he lifted his finger in the L shape for either Legion of Boom or Love Our Brothers as he was carried off the field, everyone here leaked tears, very few of us Seahawks fans. He was immobilized on a board and yet he raised his hand to give a signal to fans, to his brothers. He didn’t know what his injuries were or what would happen to him,yet he thought of everyone watching. It was brave and generous. So did we dodge a bullet as Steelers in this last game? Ben did, at least in the short term. His career isn’t over. Not even his season. Or ours I suspect we’ve gotten so used to thinking of him as nearly indestructible or able to hobble out and lumber to victory or at least the end of the game or season that we don’t think past that, but not all injuries are the same. I think we, as fans, got lucky.

        On at least one of those Amari Cooper catches, a young and enraged member of our household was shouting, “WTF, Steelers?!” at the gigantic space around him. Not the words, the initials. Kids these days…And then she made rude sounds she later revealed was her “Gronk” honk: TD coming, no Steelers in sight. I imagined Rebecca shouting, “Oh bother!” and throwing her can of Red Bull in the direction of the t.v. Like 3Swn, we don’t understand, but we hope to not see it again

        A much older person in the household predicted last season that Mitchell would become a force to be reckoned with–for all the reasons some people don’t like him: the way he immediately threw himself into trash talking, bragging, using “we” with passion, celebrating near nothing. I can’t say it bothers me. Maybe that’s just what he needs to do, and is that surprising? Ryan Clark and Ike Taylor were big trash talkers and taunters, and wasn’t Hines Ward’s famous grin in part a taunt? I once heard either Ryan or Ike claim they’d perfected their trash talking as they got older because they no longer got so much into it that they lost their temper–the point was to make everyone else lose their temper. I’ve heard them both brag that they were good at getting under people’s skin. For some reason, I’ll always remember a moment long after the whistle when Ike stood in front of someone, pointed at him and then headbutted him.

        Some fans seem to want these guys to play their best game but not play the way they play. Which makes no sense to me. And I get tired of hearing about Heath Miller as a comparison. Heath is great, but that’s his way of playing. Why does no one complain that he doesn’t celebrate? Richard Sherman is great too, just Richard Sherman. He’s a funny guy, Ike was funny and did that “you can’t see me” thing I never understood, on and on.

        My probably (definitely?) odd analogy is with the dogs I love, terriers from working lines. Ratters and groundhog killers (just about any of the terriers if you get them from people who breed for instinct), Airedales who chase and tree cougars and bears, Bedlingtons who take on foxes in their dens. (I don’t encourage any of those things BTW, but I’ve lived on a series of farms in rural areas–my dogs chase, harass and kill things. They keep rats and raccoons out of the chicken yard, manage the mouse population in the barns and usually destroy my gardens for a few moles. The coyotes keep their distance. I don’t take the dogs hunting; if they occasionally bag a cute little rabbit or quail, I’m not upset or horrified but I don’t like it.) People sometimes describe terriers in general as “irrepressible” as if that’s cute–but it isn’t funny when there’s barbed wire between them and something they want and you can’t stop them from ripping themselves to shreds before you can grab and drag them away. Or if what they want is your ham sandwich on the dining room table and 500 times after you say, “Stop that” they make another leap to get it. Or if after someone brags that their dog killed a cornered rat, they’re upset that it also targets the neighbor’s cat or is up for a fight with a dog it caught staring at them. It’s part of what they are, and if they didn’t have theat personality, they couldn’t do the useful things like kill all the rats living under your chicken coop.

        So a long-winded and silly way to say, the Mike Mitchell characters in the NFL are groundhog killers–you can’t always turn that stuff off because it appalls people who think it’s rude. Some can. Ryan Clark was smart and sometimes sweet as soon as the last whistle blew. In fact,he got crap for going into the Ravens locker room right after a Steeler loss to talk to that safety whose name I can’t remember now. (Ed is all I’m coming up with.) Ike comes across as a generous, often kind man. He once stayed for an hour after his radio show to sign things for a woman who had to work so got there late. Troy was Troy.But game-mode is game-mode and doesn’t mean these people are full time jerks. Sometimes it might be the opposite. I suspect Richard Sherman is a nicer guy off the field than Tom Brady and crotch-grabbing interview-hostile Marshawn Lynch once drove 20 minutes out of his way to return a wallet he found at a gas station.

        Ugh. Too much here. I would edit it but that would mean I didn’t reply at all. Didn’t I imply that we all should take the good with the bad?! :0

        Earthling, who takes way too seriously the “introspection” part of this blog. I’m just very very glad this place exists so people like me can be boors.

        Liked by 3 people

        • Sir, I am glad that I made the effort to come back and see if any commentary had been added. Thank you for the second good read on the site this morning. If only I could put my thoughts into words like you and the writers at this site, oh well, we have to take the good with the bad.


          • You do put your thoughts into words in ways that matter. You have conversations, you’re funny, you support people’s efforts and give them reasonable disagreement. I don’t do any of those things. So maybe we all do our part when things work.



        • If I had caught this comment earlier it would have been excised—so I could publish it as an article : ) I’ve been mulling over many of the same things and will be quoting you freely in my bye week article. I think we should come up with a cryptic symbol for you, like The Artist Formerly Known As Prince.

          And just to set the record straight, I don’t drink Red Bull. Ever, but especially during games. As it is I’m a quivering ball of nervous tension. In some ways I was a lot happier before I found football : ) And I would never throw my drink of any description at my TV, because I watch on my computer monitor in my (home) office, and I couldn’t live without it. I just murmur (okay, scream) “oh bother” or whatever words come to my lips, generally GET HIM DOWN NOW in the case of a wide-open opposition player heading for the end zone unopposed. I also shout useful pieces of advice, such as “guys, that’s why they are called the opposition. You are supposed to oppose them. Could we please make this a bit more difficult for them!!!!… ”

          Thanks for being a part of this site. The wonderful, thoughtful comments are what makes it all worth it.


          • I really will try to come up with an account. I think it keeps telling me I have one, I end up flummoxed (when? how?) and I decide if I don’t reply, I never will. That kind of thing. I’m more than a little embarrassed that it calls attention to itself. I hoped the opposite.

            The article in the NYTimes is called “Everyone’s Son.” If you haven’t already, please do read it and write about it. The guy’s a Jet but as I read I kept thinking about Willie Gay and Antonio Brown whose life stories aren’t much different. And I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve forgotten his name for the third time.

            The Red Bull comment was an attempt at a joke. I tried to come up with something I couldn’t imagine you doing. Maybe I should have imagined you getting into a fist fight at a sports bar?

            I sometimes watch the games with someone who pleads with the players or scolds them, and who feels like you that perhaps life was happier before football. All the stress and disappointment and shouting and irrational anger, and that’s before and after the games! If I watch by myself, which happens fairly often, I end cleaning my whole house with all the nervous energy, organize paperwork, resort the mess in the freezer. Anything to keep me busy when I can’t sit still. A lot more useful than drinking.

            Thank you for having me. I tend to read things here and brood about them for days, and then it just pours out in a big stream. I don’t intend to be so long-winded. In any case, it’s inspired by you and Ivan and the great comments here. In other places, my reaction tended to be a single short sentence: are these people crazy?



        • Thanks for this.
          I don’t feel like I can enhance your comment by adding anything, so I won’t. 🙂

          Other than to say that, yes, I will actually consider the participating in the Boys and Girls Club.


          • I don’t know what to say that won’t sound smarmy, so I’ll leave it at this: take a look into the local Boys and Girls Club and then think about it and keep turning it over in your head until you know if it’s right for you. I’m very happy just to have planted a seed or perhaps encouraged one that was already there. It can be a bit scary or upsetting, there’s only so much you can do, but sometimes the odd game of pingpong or a gift of books means a lot. And sometimes it’s just plain fun.



  • The old dirty Browns coming to town isn’t a trap game at all. You could maybe call it that if Ben was going to play. I am not in the automatic W camp either. Not with Landry playing. Defense is going to have to make some big plays for them to win this week.


  • good article Ivan, I agree with Fever that hope is still alive but she’s being chased by old leather face…..


  • “This leaves even the most devout of Steelers fans stumbling toward the liquor cabinet in a desperate attempt to calm traumatized nerves and to remember that they are supposed to be enjoying this sort of thing. At times like these there is something attractive about the peace and quiet of March.”

    Damn, you’re good, Ivan.

    Homer will drink to that. A toast! Glenkinchie, I believe. Save the Lagavulin for later.

    Liked by 1 person

  • “Possible we dodged the bullet a second time in this regard?”
    I have to disagree with this one, just too many injuries to the top guys too have dodged anything. Just cause we may get one star player back and some of them are healing this is too depressing.
    If Ben and Pouncey return, and there are no more major injuries, and thier replacements play well, AND everyone who is left is healthy by week 13, then maybe I’ll see a bright side, but I’m not holding my breath.
    Well, I’m going to start holding my breath every time it looks like the Steelers have wrapped up a game for the rest of the season. Too many times have my hopes been dashed renewed and dashed again. This team will kill me eventually. (I will go quietly, cause I love them so much.)


  • Oh, I didn’t say in that previous long long post–pretty terrific writing here, Ivan. Sharp and funny and all around smart. Do not stop. Neither you nor Rebecca. I comment rarely, read often, think to the point where you fill my head with stuff for weeks on end, and you should be glad about the commenting part of it. Sometimes it takes me a good week or so to even digest and even then there’s so much good stuff banging about in my head like pingpong balls that I’m not sure where any of it ends up.


    Liked by 1 person

  • Nice roll up and fun read. Forgot about Jesse James. He had a nice catch on a tipped ball at the LOS. Just watched the game again:) Thank goodness we got D Will. I did the 10 sec rewind several times on his block on Smith. Trying to cover AB one on one is suicide. The reporter asked Tomlin about it at halftime. “We are going to challenge them when they do that” I loved the deep ball Ben threw him. Put his head down and ran to a spot before he looked for the ball, just like a center fielder chasing a ball smashed deep over his head. Brown has superb body control and can adjust to balls like few can. So smooth and big time YAC. Don’t look for the Clev Brownies to test AB one on one. Yes, this team is exciting.

    Liked by 1 person

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