The Bye Week Pro Bowl: Insights ‘n At

via Fansided

The Bye Week is almost over. Officially, it is over, but it won’t really be over until the game begins this Sunday.

The Steelers have been back at the Southside facility since Monday, and I’m guessing that, unlike a week ago, the practice has not featured a DJ, player introductions, or radio-controlled cars.

Click here if you have no idea what I’m talking about. The relevant portion begins right around the 1 minute mark. My favorite part? Craig Wolfley talking about how Chuck Noll would feel about this.

The Steelers may be back into full practice mode, but the rest of us are likely still, well, resting. As a result, I’ve axed this week’s AFC North Stats ‘N At, being as not only the Steelers but the Browns were off. Last Sunday’s stats for the Ravens and Bengals will be in next week’s post, never fear. And this week’s opponent preview will air tomorrow. But for today I’m once again going to let you all do the heavy lifting.

At the end of the article you have the opportunity to vote for your favorites, and we will declare the champion afterwards. The numbering is strictly reverse chronological.

And, lest you are wondering, like the Pro Bowl, the prize is pretty much just bragging rights. But if you like I’ll throw in a free one-year subscription to this site : )

Today’s set of my favorite comments from this season are the comments I deemed most insightful.

When we first began discussing the idea of launching our own website, Ivan made the observation that one thing which had drawn him to the original, pre-SB Nation version of Behind the Steel Curtain was the comments. He found them to often be at least as interesting and thought-provoking as the original articles which prompted them. We agreed that one of the purposes of this site would be to encourage an open dialogue. We’ve been very blessed that you all have found us, and have made your feelings known. I’m particularly blessed, because I’m guessing at least half of my commentary articles have their roots in one of your comments. So thanks for the assistance!

Here they are. And I have to say, it was really hard to cut this down to a manageable number. Once again the numbering is reverse chronological:

Category 2: Insightful and Thought-provoking

Travels with Charlie: 

№ 1. Homer J.

This is now Ben’s team. He has walked the walk. Like so many others, he came from a broken home. Like so many others, he walked along the wrong path for a time. Like so many others, he screwed up. But – with the help of others – he has found meaning and direction to his life. So, as you point out Roxy, when LeVeon or anyone else screws up or needs advice, they will listen to Ben. He has been there. He has done that. He’s the real deal. He is the unquestioned leader. “Superman,” is what Ramon Foster called him on Sunday. “All he needs to do is put on his cape.”

And, most importantly, he’s willing to pass it on, as others have passed it on to him. That’s the best part of this story. And that’s why the Steelers are Ben’s team.

Terry Bradshaw article[this article inspired a wealth of wonderful comments!]

№ 2. Homer J:

A splendid and fair analysis of Bradshaw, who remains one of the most enigmatic players in Steeler history.

Terry has battled depression and ADHD most or all of his life. That must be part of any narrative involving him.

Early on, he was treated as some kind of hayseed or rube. Steeler teammates called him Ike, short for Ozark Ike. Several times in the early years, he was knocked senseless on the field and the fans cheered. Most cheered because local boy Terry Hanratty was coming in to replace him, and the cheers were for Rat. But Brad thought at least some of the fans were cheering his injury.

His marriage to Pittsburgh native and former MIss Teenage America Melissa Babish didn’t work out. That didn’t help.

And, of course, the relationship between Brad and Noll didn’t work out either. Terry needed somebody to hold is hand and motivate him. Noll was busy teaching people who were already motivated. His years in Pittsburgh were difficult, to say the least.

Terry needs to be loved, he needs attention, and he needs affirmation. He will put on a show, and play the clown to make people happy so that they will give him that attention and affirmation. I saw that in him when I knew him, and I see that in him now. We all need to be loved, but some of us need it more than others because of insecurities and inner demons.

Just because you are a tremendously gifted athlete doesn’t mean you can’t be a wounded soul. And Terry is a wounded soul. (In a larger sense, we all are.)

But Terry fought through all that stuff to deliver four Lombardi Trophies to Pittsburgh. And he left it all on field until he could no longer throw a football. He was a true warrior. You can’t ever take that away from him.

On Second Thought (Raiders recap:)  

№ 3. 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.

№ 4Earthling:

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.

Midseason review:  

№ 5. Ivan:

A theory as to why Dri Archer failed.

A lack of vision on two levels. I made mention in an earlier article of the importance of spatial intelligence (call it practical geometry if you like). Great players and runners in particular have two traits that may be impossible to coach; the ability to play in the future, (seeing what’s coming as opposed to what is -the present-, or God forbid what was, the past). The second trait being the ability to calculate the angles and possibilities as they are unfolding.

Archer had the physical abilities to successfully exploit that but the light never came on and it was frustrating to watch.

№ 6 goffthesloth:

As for Dri Archer, I see two problems. One is vision. He doesn’t seem to see where holes are developing fast enough, and fast is key, lanes don’t stay open long, you have to recognize and hit them immediately. This is why he runs to the sideline so much, he just doesn’t react fast enough when a lane appears.

Two is he doesn’t elude tacklers. Small, fast guys that make it in the NFL either break poor tackles or dodge them. Archer doesn’t. He tries to outrun them. Willie Parker had speed, but he also would break bad tackles. Barry Sanders would dodge the tackles, and break them too, he was amazing. Archer can’t do either. You just can’t get through a hole without someone touching you. Those opportunities are very rare. You have to run through them or dodge them, mostly a combo of both for little guys. Archer doesn’t dodge, dip, duck, dive or dodge contact, and he doesn’t break poor tackles.

The NFL isn’t going to let you make plays untouched very often as a running back or returner, and Dri doesn’t have the vision to take advantage of the opportunities when they are there.

The Culture Which Made The Immaculate Extension Possible: 

№ 7. Mark Grice:

Interesting observations… but it can be looked at both ways. It’s like the old “Red cars are more dangerous” statistic. While that is true, red cars are in more accidents, that is not because red cars are more dangerous, it is because people with personalities that like red cars tend to take more risks.

In the same way, maybe it isn’t that stable teams are more successful… maybe it is that successful teams tend to be more stable. Why would an owner fire a coach if he is winning? (Unless, of course, your name is Jerry Jones. Then you do it for ego…)

№ 8: Homer J., commenting on Mark Grice’s comment:

Interesting point, and exhibit A would be the Chief and Walt Kiesling. Kiesling was a great friend of Mr Rooney. He was also a stubborn and unsuccessful coach. Coached for nine years. Hired, let go, hired again. Had only two winning seasons and a record of 30-55-1. Was stuck in the past, and insisted EVERY game would begin with a run up the middle. (“Hey, diddle, diddle, Rogal up the middle.”) Famously, one game the Chief demanded they pass on the first play, and it was a TD. But Kiesling ordered one of his guys to go offsides on the play, so the TD was nullified. Even so, he was the Chief’s pal, and Mr Rooney stuck with him as a coach – on and off – from 1939 to 1956. Kiesling was also the guy who benched and then cut that Unitas kid. Somehow, Walt Kiesling made the Hall of Fame. Probably because of his great play for the Pottsville Maroons and Duluth Eskimos. He also played for the Chicago Cardinals.

The difference between Rooney pere and Rooney fils was not about loyalty. Both were fiercely loyal. It’s just that Daniel Milton Rooney did a much better job of hiring than AJR.

Mike Tomlin Doesn’t Care If You Think His Management Principles are Clichés: 

№ 9. dudehitt:

I think the main difference with Tomlin is that he actually believes all those Tomlinisms.  A lot of coaches will spout off similar cliches, but Mike Tomlin not only believes them, but he gets his players to believe them as well.

Chargers recap:  

№ 10. Ivan:

As Hombre has noted in his Steel Curtain Rising blog, Tomlin took a leap of faith and put his trust in his team to deliver with one play. Nobody can remember actually witnessing something like that before which shows how uncommon this kind of thing is. And he did it in such a way that the lions share of the blame would fall on him if it fails. So all of you reading this, you tell me. If you played for the Steelers how are you feeling about things today? Young guys like Dupree, Tuitt, Cockrell and Shazier. Do you believe? Do you see the possibilities? When that man talks are you going to listen? Free agents like Vick, Blake, Mitchell, DeAngelo Williams and Moats. Feeling fortunate to be here? Not the same old, same old as in Philly, Carolina, Buffalo or Jacksonville. Think Ben, Heath, Deebo, Gay and Spaeth don’t see it? None of this guarantees a championship this year, or even a win this week, but I do believe that the potential of this being the next great Steelers team is real and if it manifests they may very well point to this moment as to when it began in earnest.

№ 11. Pittboss:

For Ben to notice a tendency in the San Diego D and to draw up a play, and for Haley to give that play the green light, and for the O to execute a play they hadn’t practiced speaks volume about the mentality of this team and the lack of individual ego of the players and coaches. That, more than anything, highlights what this team is all about.

№ 12. Hombre de Acero:

One of the reasons that Tomlin went for it all is because he has job security. Aside from the extension he signed in the off season, Tomlin knows that the Rooneys look at the long haul regarding coaching. As “Homer J” has said time and time again, they follow the Rooney Rule, “Hire the right guy and stick with him.”

That type of environment is conducive to coaches making decisions aimed towards trying to win vs. simply hoping to avoid losing.

Unnecessary Head Trauma

№ 13. Ivan:

The game is such that its very difficult for players to remove themselves unless they are literally at the verge of collapse. Many players don’t want to do anything that could be viewed as ducking out of a fight. And there is the perception of giving in to weakness. And then there is the matter of career survival. Pressure comes from a variety of directions, including the fans, that is very unsympathetic to injury. The issues that fans had with Shazier and Jones last year, and Cortez Allen are at injury related. There are limits to what we will tolerate in terms of injury from the players. After that they are seen as liabilities.

It this aspect that may be the hardest to transform.

Mrs. Strangelove:  

№ 14. elpalito:

The draft is a crapshoot only if you expect that a draft position equates to NFL performance. I see it more as finishing off your undergrad. That diploma signifies all you have done up to that point. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll excel in that field going forward.

I think scouts and FO folks, generally, do a very good job of grading a player out based on his playing history and his measurables. After all, if a player excels under football situations in big programs, one can reasonably hope that he has room to grow at the next level. You hire a new college grad hoping he pans train him, you let him do things on his own… and sometimes, he just can’t hack it.

Truth is that the most important factor for any player is the same factor that no scouting team can truly quantify — the mental and emotional side of the game. How a player will react to the situations he will be in going forward.

Had NFL FOs known how AB’s brain was wired, he would have been a first round pick.

Tomlin Clock Management article:  

№ 15. Homer J:  

As they try to escape the old silver clock

When day is through.

it tick-tocks oh so slow.

It says yes. It says no.

It says, “I’ll wait for you.”

That old, old silver clock that’s hanging on the wall

That waits for us


Jacques Brel, “Les Vieux.” English translation by Eric Blau and Mort Schuman

Randy Grossman Part 2:  

№ 16. earthling:

In the last year of her life when [my mother] was more erratic than ever, she met Hines Ward, who she’d always loved. It was the last year he played and she insisted they were trying to push him out and he had more left to give the team. But for some reason on this occasion, she decided to tell him, “Piss or get off the pot.” (Sorry for swearing.) According to my brother who was standing beside her, he looked confused for a split second, then he smiled and nodded and kissed her cheek. She beamed and cupped his face. She was about 80 then. He held up the line to talk to her quietly for another full 5 minutes. Yes, yes, she was my mother. But how could anyone know that and not love the both of them? I still wonder what he said to her. I still love him for saying anything. Things like this are the best part of being a Steelers fan. Or any fan. Some of these people give back to those who love them.

Patriots preview

№ 17. mad anthony wayne: (now known as roxanna firehall)

The most incisive comment is Revis’s description of the will to be the best as a “sickness.” As a general description for the drive of great players to win, it is a colorfully apt description. In the case of Brady and Bellichick, it is literal. In light of the latest allegations by ESPN of the breadth of Spygate, it is a sickness which threatens the league.

Without being overdramatic, cheating of this sort much be addressed and eliminated now. I find it hard to gather the swirl of emotions and disgust churning within me I learn of the newest allegations. The dominant one right now is fear. Fear that the game I love will suffer irreparable damage if cheating is not stopped. The beauty of sport is the purity of the competition. Best man wins. The game is won on the field. The Patriots (ironic, no?) threaten that essential element of pro football.

№ 18.  elpalito:

It is that business attitude about Belichick that probably alienates fans the most. The cheating issues add substance to the aura, but it diverts attention from how the team is actually run. It is absolutely all a system in New England…one that is buoyed by having an elite QB.

Even had the Patriots not cheated, I think fans would dislike Belichick and the Pats simply for how players are treated. For most fan bases, casually tossing aside core players is usually only called for by the fringe elements (ie. those wanting BR traded 3 years ago). In New England, that’s the expected MO. It’s a strange dichotomy that in a sport filled with so much emotion, passion, and attachment…there’s one rogue team cutting through all that on a regular basis.

Meet the New Steelers Stats Guru: 

№ 19geoffrey benedict: 

I’d love to see him evaluate Cortez Allen. Talk about freezing under fire, he spirals into doubt and indecision easily, makes me doubt he can keep it going.

The economics of athlete motivation is really cool, especially training.

Take Troy, it is a spiritual process for Troy, digging into and pushing yourself beyond limits, he’s like a marathon runner.

Antonio Brown lives in lowest moments, Micheal Jordan was that guy too, everything was a slight, a challenge to prove himself again. Brown won’t lose to anyone, whether it is Richard Sherman or lesser receivers in a basic camp drill. Brown has to prove himself.

Richard Mann talked about work ethic and new receivers, stating once they got in the room they would work. Because everyone in the room works. No one wants to be the low guy on the totem pole, so they all work at least a certain amount. With AB setting a crazy standard, everyone works hard.

Figuring out how someone will fit into the room is something the Pirates are doing well with in Free Agency—it will be very interesting to see if the Steelers can head in that direction with the draft.

And finally, this could have been a comment to a great many articles. As you can perhaps guess, I’ve forgotten which one it was actually in regards to:

№ 20. earthling:

I have a small odd faith in things that come to us when we least expect them–a painting seen in a book, the words of a poem one hears repeated, the novel you find on a train, a photograph in a magazine. Not faith in anything large but just that these things become part of us when we aren’t looking for them and that’s enough. All these things surround us all the time–what other people imagine and create and think and paint and write and sculpt–and we get so used to the idea that we forget the sheer wonder that we can listen and read and react to what someone else created with their brain and heart. Not an original thought but what my grandmother insisted was civilization–appreciating the gifts of other people’s imagination and intelligence.

For weeks now, I’ve been turning over something in my head that Ivan mentioned in passing–a profile of Kareem Al Jabbar in the New Yorker, I think. It was a strange profile, one that made me feel as I were invading his privacy (Jabbar’s, not Ivan’s) but what has stayed with me is that Kareem, a man who is accomplished, proud of his life and his race given his other books, who is–that terrible cheap sounding word–a superstar at something real and physical , who is internationally famous, would choose to spend his time writing a novel about Doctor Watson and so must find something worthwhile in imagining the world of a fictional Victorian age middle class middle aged white sidekick. The sheer strangeness of that astounds me, and again it was a line in an article about football and now it’s part of me.

You may stuff the ballot box and vote for as many as you like. Have at it : )


  • Best commentary in Steelers Nation is found right here. I am disappointed that not one single comment contained a Go Steelers!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Please bear with me since it may be difficult to not read a self congratulatory tone into what follows. That is not my intention.

    As Rebecca has said, a major motivation for my role in the development of this site was to salvage and reinvigorate a level of exchange that made the earlier incarnation of BTSC a great site, and is, unfortunately rarely seen in the current reality. The current piece, a celebration of what is building here, is affecting to me because it is such a concentrated display of the wisdom that characterizes this community. This also reflects what I think are two great truths about sports fandom.

    The first is that though sports can be quite enriching seen strictly at face value, its at its best when viewed as a metaphor for more central life issues that may not be as accessible to our consciousness otherwise (great science fiction serves this purpose as well). Those whom I considered to be the greater sports journalists, Frank Deford, Shirley Povich, Red Smith, Kornheiser, Wilbon, Sally Jenkins, even the bombastic Howard Cosell seemed to get this. Closer to home, you can be pretty certain tucked into a piece about Landry Jones, Homer J will insert a few nuggets about larger truths. Comments from earthling and others are often only tangentially about football. And so, a reflection of how humans wrestle with their demons show how the struggle can drive us to greatness (Antonio Brown), or push us off the rails (Terry Bradshaw). Just one of many examples. Sadly, given the greatly increased number of vehicles and hours devoted to sports in general and football in particular, this level of discussion seems rarer than in the past.

    The other has to do with the democratic, horizontal nature of wisdom. News and information serves as a catalyst for an ongoing conversation about the continuing struggles of our protagonists (the Steelers) in a competitive and shifting environment. Our discussions serve to enhance our understanding of their struggles and our own. They provide a space for like minded individuals (who would probably have never found each other save for the common passion for the Steelers) to find comfort and nourishment in each other’s company.

    Liked by 3 people

  • I want to thank fever for his sig line that lead me here from BTSC. I was getting more and more frustrated and actually angry over the tenor of the articles and comments.

    My hat is off to Rebecca and Ivan for creating a site which I believe is better that the original BTSC. The great thing is, as it grows, it gets better.

    “They provide a space for like minded individuals (who would probably have never found each other save for the common passion for the Steelers) to find comfort and nourishment in each other’s company.”

    Ivan said it all.


    • And thanks for your place in “the site getting better.” I think the various “voices” we have here are so fun, and you started with a bang with the Football Jamboree. And when Homer J. sends me a random article. I certainly never know what is coming. Holiday shopping tips, (I actually gave all my guys Pou-pourri one Christmas. It didn’t help…) Travelogues and travel advice. Amazing stories from yesteryear. It’s been a joy for me to see things take root and grow. Thanks to everyone who has helped us along thus far with stories, comments, encouragement, and just your attention. That’s a precious thing we don’t take for granted in these days of serial multitasking!

      Liked by 2 people

    • The ironic thing is my brand of commentary is a much better fit for BTSC than here, but I have so much respect for Rebecca, Ivan, Home J and now yourself, that I truly wish there was more I could do to benefit this website than advertising in a signature line.


      • Fever, we couldn’t manage without you. First of all, who would be our relentless optimist? Second, who would have known that great Shakespeare quote? No, you are a crucial part of this site : )

        Liked by 1 person

  • Thanks for posting these, Rebecca. They clearly demonstrate what makes this site unique and worthwhile. The folks who post here really do care. What they post is often carefully crafted and thought provoking. And with a sense of history. It is rewarding to read these comments. Take a bow, kiddo. You run a helluva good show here.

    Liked by 1 person

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