On Second Thought: Broncos vs Steelers Merry Christmas from the Steelers
by Ivan Cole
During the years when the team is in the playoff hunt, games in and around the Christmas holiday can have a special resonance, the first and best example being the Immaculate Reception game which took place two days before Christmas. Elimination or irrelevancy can put a pretty gloomy pall over what is supposed to be a festive time. For 2015, the Steelers have us beginning Christmas week with a Victory Monday, not a small thing for Steelers Nation.
A flawed team
Following at least one of the points I made in my piece on approaching the finish line, despite the impressive victory plenty of the team’s flaws, particularly defensive, were on display, causing Homer J. to comment that this group probably won’t go far in the playoffs. Homer can be depressingly accurate when he’s being pessimistic, but the larger point has been missed. Unlike a day ago, if the season ends now the Steelers go to the playoffs.
With full recognition that in spite of their abysmal records, the Ravens and the Browns remain dangerous, if for no other reason that some joy could be salvaged by either one of them if they could drag Pittsburgh into the grave with them, we are now spared the need to watch the scoreboard, not to mention having the opportunity to complete the season by kicking some dirt on two rivals that always deserve rough treatment at our hands.
I made a little off color reference that an impressive performance against the Broncos might make for some bouts of incontinence among the playoff crowd when contemplating having Pittsburgh in the mix. And while Homer’s references to the team’s shortcomings are spot on, there is the matter of spotting the best defensive team in the league four touchdowns, trailing by three scores and then dropping 34 on them and shutting down their offense cold in the second half. America noticed.
So the Steelers just completed a two game sweep of the two best teams (according to their records) in the AFC not named New England, and averaged slightly better than 33 points per game. Yeah, everybody can’t wait to line up against the black and gold.
Who Dey, who dey think they want to play the Steelers? Nobody!
Mike Tomlin pooh-poohed the idea that there were any significant coaching adjustments made for the second half of the game. The Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac wasn’t buying it and neither should you. The team, particularly the defense, was not just playing better, they were playing differently as well as better. I made brief mention of Joey Porter’s influence in Approaching the Finish Line, and apparently he made quite the inspirational speech to the defense at halftime.
I also mentioned that Sanders was one of several former Steelers receivers who were doing quite well in their new homes. As one of the announcers said, Sanders and Brown were once again putting on a pretty good show at Heinz Field. It’s just that they were playing for opposing teams now.
And that would be Mister Antonio Brown
AB demonstrated once again to a national television audience why he is the best receiver in football. Chris Harris is a pro bowl cornerback who hadn’t given up a touchdown pass in two seasons. He gave up two to Brown on Sunday. Nine catches and two touchdowns. Second consecutive 1500 receiving yards season (team record). Third consecutive 100 catch season (tied for league record). That’s just a taste of it if you weren’t fortunate enough to witness it.
And we would be remiss if it wasn’t mentioned that Markus Wheaton had quite the day as well. Martavis Bryant also played well though it seems below standard when he doesn’t have at least one touchdown play.
As good as Brown was, Ben Roethlisberger was recognized as the best player on the field this day, though he made one of the most boneheaded plays of his life at the end of the game. Remember when I made reference weeks ago about Steelers games sometimes mimicking the ending of horror/chainsaw type movies?
The defense, protecting a touchdown lead, forced the Broncos to turn the ball over on downs with less than three minutes left to play. Although Denver still had all of their timeouts, the offense basically just had to run clock and ideally get just one first down to finish the game. Inexplicably, with no real pressure Ben throws a pass into the teeth of double coverage to DeAngelo Williams, who even if he caught it had no chance of advancing the ball for a first down. The ball was intercepted.
Rev up that chainsaw. Denver has the ball on a short field and two minutes and one second to attempt to at least tie the game. Fortunately, the defense rose up one more time and stopped the Broncos again on downs.
And for that little bit of unnecessary drama, Homer’s grade for Ben was a ‘B’.
Personally, I think Ben should reimburse me for the year of my life that he took with that decision.
Personally, Ivan, I think that if NFL players had to reimburse all of us for the pain and suffering they cause, you wouldn’t be able to pay them enough to keep up…