5 Smoldering Questions On the Pittsburgh Steelers, Week 14

via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Peter Diana photo

by Hombre de Acero

The Pittsburgh Steelers went into Paul Brown Stadium and defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 33-20. In so doing they improved their record to 8-5 and gave their AFC North Title hopes another week of life.

This week’s contest brings the Denver Broncos to Pittsburgh, but before we find out if the Steelers can buck the Broncos, Steeler Nation must first struggle with these 5 Smoldering Questions on the Steelers.

1. Many in Steelers Nation were up in arms over Pittsburgh’s loss to Seattle three weeks ago, but at the time, much of the media took a lot of positives away from their performance. Steel City Insider’s Jim Wexell expanded on that theme following the Bengals win observing:

“I believe one of the biggest keys to maturation is learning to become comfortable in uncomfortable situations. Nothing does that better than playing difficult road games. I thought much was gained in the near-win at Seattle a few weeks ago and I believe the Steelers showcased that sharpened iron in Cincinnati.”

Do you agree or disagree with Jim Wexell? Defend your choice.

2. Throughout the 2015 season, Mike Tomlin has never hesitated to go for 2, at least when Ben Roethlisberger is playing. Yet against the Bengals, the Steelers didn’t attempt a 2 point conversion, even though this was their biggest game to date. What conclusions do you draw from that decision?

3. The Steelers-Bengals show down was marked by its “Chippiness” to quote CBS’s commentators. After the game, Marcus Gilbert continued to stir the pot with a tweet, which has since been deleted, but which apparently said:

All I want for Christmas is the bengals. Would love to see them in the playoffs where they choke. The talking is done between the lines 🌕🌑

— Marcus Gilbert (@MarcusGilbert88) December 14, 2015

Mike Tomlin labeled such missives as “Childish” and Dale Lolley predicted they would stop, at least in Pittsburgh. How do you see such “Trash Talk?”

4. Yesterday afternoon I got an email from Homer imploring me to stop what I was doing and view the video embedded in this Tweet:

What does this say to you?

5. With his pick-six of AJ McCarron, William Gay now has tied Steelers Hall of Famer Rod Woodson for the franchise record of interceptions returned for a touchdown. Thanks to research done by Neal Coolong of USA Today Steelers Wire, we know that the Gay is the 4th least targeted cornerback in the NFL, quarterbacks only have a passer rating of 77.4 when throwing against Gay and, knock on wood, Gay is only one of four NFL corners who has not given up a touchdown.

Yet, per the page Over the Cap, of the 212 NFL cornerbacks listed, William Gay ranks 97th in total contract value and total guaranteed money, 71st in annual average compensation and 93rd in percentage of guaranteed money.

Beyond, “Bruce Arians was dumb to dump him and Kevin Colbert was smart to snatch him back” what do such disparities between pay and performance say to you about today’s NFL?

It looks like the Steelers are one cornerback shy of a full load. There’s always going to be a last position in any unit overhaul, so I refuse to blast Kevin Colbert about not addressing the position in the draft. It’s becoming obvious that he’s done a pretty good job drafting another guy at another position, whomever that guy or position may be.

Discuss. I’m verklempt…

19 comments

  • 5 confident answers

    1. I came away from the Steelers loss to Seattle feeling good about how our team had performed. I also took away a lot of positives from the loss, and that is unusual for me. It looked to me that the Steelers were the better team, and playing at Seattle was a good test.

    2. I have no idea. We have been so successful with it that I am just now starting not to be upset when Coach T decides to go for two.

    3. The tweet was truth, everybody from Mr. Rooney to the youngest Steelers fan would love to meet the Bungles in the playoffs. I just hope that Andy “choke artist” Dalton plays in the game. Sorry, I know this site is better than that kind of comment but I am still feeling kind of chippy myself in relationship to the Bengals.

    4. Don’t make me angry, you wouldn’t like me when I am angry.

    5. Gay is playing his best ball later in his career, he missed out on the big second contract money because he wasn’t nearly as good back then. BPWG is much better than his reputation, but few people have caught up to that fact. I remember a couple of years ago Rebecca showed where he was ranked in the top 15 at his position and everyone including me was surprised.

    Bonus Question – Everybody have their Christmas shopping done? I got most of mine done on Black Monday, was the first time buying gifts online, it is the only way to fly.

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  • PS. All I want for Christmas is the Steelers to win the Super Bowl, if anybody was thinking about getting me something 🙂

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    • I’ve searched and searched and nowhere can I find “Super Bowl Guarantee,” except Rex Ryan in 2010, and we all know how that ended—in tears at Heinz Field…

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      • You know what the funny thing was?

        After the Ryan granted a detailed interview to Peter King following the Jet’s triumph in the AFC Divisional playoff game.

        DEEP into the article was an ironic quote, discussing the personnel changed they’d made because, “I need to be able to beat the Colts and New England….”

        As I said at the time, I couldn’t understand why he was so upset when Ben completed the 4th down conversion to Antonio Brown – Rex Ryan had gotten his is wish, he’s beat New England and the Colts….

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      • Does Joe Namath have a website and does he take Visa?

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  • 1. Seattle was a wouldq/coulda/shoulda won game. They went into a notoriously difficult stadium 2500 miles away from home and outplayed Seattle. They didn’t suffer any major injuries. They have not only learned to win, they have learned not to dwell in those games where they fall just short.

    2. I was wondering about that, and still am. Especially given how Ben sliced and diced the Bengals with short passes all day. My guess is that they figured Cincy’s D could stop the run (don’t give me yardage – tell me how many times D-Will was stopped for less than 3 yards), and their very good back seven wouldn’t be playing the cover two on a two-point conversion, so they might also be more likely to break up the quick pass. My guess is they didn’t like the match-ups, and trusted Boswell more.

    3. We had the last word on the field, and you still won’t stop. So we’ll have to kick your butts again.

    4. It says watch Ryan Shazier knock the living hell out of a guy who weighs 78 pounds more than he does. And now watch Deebo pick up another pachyderm and toss him like a Hefty firm-flex trash bag. This gif needs music by Sam Spence and narration by John Facenda. Or, better yet, it needs to be in the next edition of Renegade. It says the Steelers had had enough of the Bengals chippiness, and decided it was time to be done with them.

    5. It tells me that Gay has gone from being a fair player in a gambling secondary featuring a Hall of Famer to a solid and vastly underrated player in a secondary featuring a lot of guys who are – at this point – marginal at best. Since a secondary plays as a unit, it’s often hard to judge one player, especially if the world has a preconceived view based on his past performance. Gay has become a far better player than he was. It’s just much of the football world hasn’t noticed.

    Merry Christmas one and all. Ho-ho-ho from Homer!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Five brilliant answers, blazing brightly:

    1. Wexell is a smart guy and is absolutely correct. The mere fact that the argument could be made (it could and it was) that the Steelers should have won and missed an opportunity was a huge plus. Homer is right – woulda/coulda/shoulda game that nobody should have expected a win. I will hopefully be remembered as the day the seeds were sown for this team to make its run at the Super Bowl.

    2. I conclude that our coach knows what he is doing and while I don’t always agree with his decision, that’s my problem, not his, because he’s a great coach (and I am not).

    3. I’m not a huge fan of yapping outside the lines, but the Bengals are too stupid to shut up when they have been beaten. That said, I am a fan of yapping on the field, so long as focus is maintained and the players can back it up. The Steelers in the seventies talked plenty of trash. So did Greg Lloyd, Larry Foote, Peezy and many others.

    As long as you back it up, I believe it is an essential element of a dominant team. Teams that win championships will themselves to excel. You need confidence, fire and a desire to dominate your opponent. Even though Gilbert’s tweet was after the game, I’ll give him a pass this time. This team is coming into its own and has a lot of young players. Tomlin will correct the mistakes. Besides, no one on the Steelers is afraid of the Bengals.

    4. It is the proof of what I said above. Bengals talk and Steelers hit. Dalton’s injury only made the path easier, there was no way this team would have been denied. It shows a young player and an old player playing with fire and all the way to the whistle. It is awesome and of championship caliber.

    5. It tells me that the Steelers Coach and FO know talent and know what type of player is needed to excel. They see the potential of players before they excel and thus are able to sign them before they are highly sought by others. While they are wrong occasionally, they have proven their ability to sign players who outperform their contracts. Gay. AB. Deebo (still). Moats. Mitchell. Foster. Deangelo. Gilbert. This isn’t luck, somebody in Pittsburgh knows what they’re doing.

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Now let’s go get them Broncos!

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  • 1) I was sick as a dog when I wrote the game recap, and was doubtless therefore more pessimistic than usual. I wasn’t so much down that it was a loss—I had more or less resigned myself to that before the game—but that in the event it looked like the Steelers could have won it. Perhaps a bit more attention from the referees to Richard Sherman moving in with Antonio Brown—come on, Sherman, there’s only room for one in that uni—or a few less drops from Martavis, who I think was jittered by the crowd noise—and victory could have been ours. But in retrospect I believe it was an opportunity for the young (mostly) Steelers to learn some things—how to handle a loud environment, how to deal with very aggressive coverage, and so on. If it means the Steelers have learned how to deal with aggressive, powerful defenses like Cinci and (gulp) Denver, which I think may be a much stiffer test, and come out victorious, it was worth every tear I shed. (Okay, I don’t cry after Steelers losses. I am, however, as my singers have pointed out, more crabby at the next night’s rehearsal…)

    2) My conclusion is, MT wanted to save some of his 2-pt/TD plays for when they might matter more. You’ve got to save something for the playoffs…

    3) I can understand where it comes from, but I think the Steelers would be best served to take the “talking is done between the lines” literally and shut up otherwise. That sort of “trash talk” looks weak to me, although I realize it’s a time-honored tradition. All Gilbert has to do is look at how much good Dre Kirkpatrick’s “village idiot” remark did the Bengals…

    4) That’s the kind of talking between the lines Gilbert is presumably discussing. I can understand the frustration and anger which they were playing with. I’m just amazed they weren’t flagged.

    5) It says to me that it is a very great mercy the FO doesn’t listen to the fans.

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  • cold_old_steelers_fan

    1) The Steelers out played Seattle only to lose to the officiating* and then to run out of steam at the end. They knew they were the better team and showed it to Cincy. Wexell called it right.

    2) My take is the coaching staff did not like the match up with Cincy’s defence on the field on a short field. It is one thing to take three shots from inside the 10 but a 1 shot and done for a single extra point must not looked like a good gamble. Cincy can consider that a benefit of having a top 5 defence.

    3) Most of my favourite Steelers have been the strong quiet types who do their jobs and let their actions on the field do the speaking. In this digital age, young men may respond too quickly without thinking but at least they (or the organization) realize when to step back. The Bengals don’t seem to get this. I have to think it is a mixture of individuals and organization. The Bengals still have some things to learn as an organization.

    4) There isn’t a link to the tweet. I am assuming there was supposed to be a link and from Homer’s comments it was the thing of beauty that was Golden’s interception return. Offensive linemen like to put linebackers on their butts. Offensive linemen don’t like being put on their butts by linebackers. I am happy when the opposition’s offensive linemen are unhappy. That clip made me very happy. I really want to see a new version of Renegade.

    5) Players who wish to have a legitimate shot at a SB will take a discount for the chance to get one or conversely, players demand a premium to sign with teams that never have a shot at the SB. The Steelers don’t pay premiums. They sign players who want to win it all.

    **** my footnote turned into a rant ****

    * Maybe I have just become hyper aware of poor officiating but I seldom watch a NFL or NHL without becoming angry about the quality of the officiating (it often seems quite biased). I no longer watch NHL hockey with my wife as my comments about the officiating are ruining the game for her. Part of it is the difference between the ability of the on-field officials to see the field as compared to the state of the art electronic coverage. This gap needs to be closed.

    The other part of the problem relates to activities off the field. There are billions of dollars being spent on these sports between media/entertainment and gambling. With the huge amounts being spent on gambling it isn’t beyond belief that some games are being fixed. In some games the officiating seems to favour one team over another to a tremendous degree. The NFL is in a tough place to deal with something like this as a scandal seems as likely to emerge when cleaning it up as when covering it up. A sport that is already taking body blows from the concussion scandal will end up being knocked out if it is found that games are being fixed.

    Sorry about the rant but unless the NFL wants to go the way of the WWF, it needs to seriously fix the officiating problems with more than just lip service and a band aid.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In re 4), it shows up for me. Anyone else have trouble seeing it?

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    • In re your rant, I thought the idea of part time officials who have good day jobs was to make them less susceptible to bribery and corruption. It would be interesting to know if this works. I personally think it makes sense in theory but, like most things involving assumptions about human behavior, it ignores the fact that people don’t act strictly in accordance with what is rational. And frankly, there is no way on God’s green earth to make sure the referees aren’t being tampered with. Perhaps some sort of advanced analytics could identify the possibility of it. It doesn’t help that, at least so far, the penalty for a big screw-up is a paid vacation…

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      • cold_old_steelers_fan

        Part time officials are more subject to pressure from outside the league. Their very jobs may be at risk. Full time officials should be spending their time boning up on the up coming game and improving their craft.

        I agree that human nature being what it is, it would be difficult to prevent tampering but I notice that if it is important enough then a solution will be found. It was difficult to prevent people from tampering with over the counter nostrums but solutions were found. They aren’t fool proof but they greatly reduced the chances for random tampering. Nothing can be done if high level officials in the league decide to intervene in a games outcome but something like that would be the death knell for the league. I think any tampering would be from outside the league structure. This is a question that requires a lot more thought and consideration than I have atm (yet another Doctor’s appointment and we are experiencing a Colorado Low which means snow storm) so I will leave it for now. It is more of an off-season question I would think for when we are tired of mock drafts.

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    • Let me cut against the current here?

      Is officiating really worse now than “before?” (Mind you, this is not an argument to say that officiating has been “good.”

      Let me put this into context. Shortly before Super Bowl XL, Chuck Noll’s wife was interviewed by the Post-Gazette (Noll had stopped giving interviews by then). She said that Noll still watched all the Steelers games, but didn’t have much to say on the team but, complained about the officiating, as he always has.

      My point is that for as long as I can remember, fans have always been complaining about calls or non-calls. Raiders fans still complain about the Immaculate Reception. Oilers fans complain about the 1979 AFC Championship. The NFL admitted to blowing 2 calls that came in critical junctures in the Steelers last minute loses to the Eagles and Browns in 2000.

      I grew up in DC during the heart of the first Joe Gibbs era, and thanks to Sonny Jergenson, Redskins fans from that era can make excuses tied to bad calls to explain away EVERY Redskins loss of a touchdown or less from 1981 to 1993 (no folks, I’m NOT exaggerating on this one.)

      Is is officiating now much worse than it was then?

      Honestly, I don’t know.

      But do know that one other thing different now. The advent of the internet, social media, and video capture technology, in tandem with a gazillion sports shows that need “content” to fill their time slots makes it far, far easier for fans and the press alike to discover, dissect, and disseminate evidence of poor or questionable calls and non-calls.

      This infrastructure/eco system probably isn’t even a decade old.

      In the past, most bad calls would get talked about in person, on TV, on the radio the evening after a game. The conversations would continue the next morning at work/school. Perhaps replays would get recycled on the evening news that Monday or on talk radio call in shows. Then, unless they were very egregious, they’d die.

      Now these things can have a life as long as fans wish to discuss them.

      Just a thought.

      Liked by 1 person

      • cold_old_steelers_fan

        Your point is taken and I think it is a good one. The officiating may be just as bad as it was in 1973 but the next question should be, why hasn’t it improved to keep paces with all the changes in the game?

        There is a lot of meat on the officiating bone. We can gnaw at it when the afterglow wears off after the season when we have won our 7th SB.

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        • I think the media, that is…the announcers and PBP guys; ESPN… are much more willing to talk about bad officiating during a broadcast. I feel that that is a relative change over the years.

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  • 1. One of my favorite bible quotes. In this instance when you play good teams you get better. This week will be another opportunity to sharpen metal and the offense is the tip of the spear.
    2. Match-ups I would guess?
    3. Coach is right. Not needed. The Bengals tried being the bully and it did not work.The Steelers walked into their house party and punched the host right in the mouth.
    4. Much respect for #50
    5. Timing is everything

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  • 1 – Agree. Seattle is as tough to play as any location in the league, their defense is very good, and they have ‘earned’ the benefit of the doubt from the refs. Yet the Steelers were in that game all the way. There won’t be a tougher road game the rest of the way, even in the playoffs.

    2 – Respect for a very good Bengals defense, perhaps. Or maybe just to keep folks guessing. No sense in being obvious about anything.

    3 – I see it as childish. Especially from a player who also doesn’t have a playoff win.

    4 – That Shaz probably should have been checked out for a concussion. Maybe he was.

    5 – I sometimes wonder if hype plays into an FO paying a player more or not. Gay isn’t talked about as a great player, and he doesn’t get paid like it. Others don’t have to worry about that.

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    • I’m not sure the “hype” as such impacts who much the Steelers pay someone, but I do think it impacts a player’s market value.

      As for the video, you’re the first person to hone in on what I was thinking, beyond the Alpha male “Yeah, that was a great hit” indulgence, I thought, “At least three of the players involved in those blocks should have gotten reviewed by the concussion spotters.”

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