5 Smoldering Questions On the Pittsburgh Steelers, Week 15

via CBS Sports

by Hombre de Acero

Denver brought the NFL’s best defense into Heinz Field. For 30 minutes the Broncos got the best of Pittsburgh, but the Steelers rallied to win 34-27. The win improves the Steelers’ record to 9-5 and momentarily gives them the sixth seed in the AFC Wild Card race. But historic rivals Baltimore and Cleveland stand in Pittsburgh’s way….

Before Pittsburgh can confront its demons in Charm City and on the Mistake by the Lake, Steelers Nation must first resolve these 5 Smoldering Questions.

1. The win over Denver was dramatic by any measure. Just how important are you ready to say it is with two weeks to go in the regular season?
2. Mike Tomlin claimed that the Steelers made no fundamental changes on defense between the first and second half. However, Dale Lolley observed that one change included playing Brandon Boykin more and Antwon Blake less. Others picked up on the change, but Tomlin does not seem inclined to start Boykin. Should he be?

3. Unfortunately no exact quote or link can be found, but at about this point in the 2010 NFL season, Behind the Steel Curtain founder Michael Bean observed that if Ben Roethlisberger wanted to be considered to be truly elite alongside the Mannings and Bradys of the NFL, he would have to stop throwing “foolish interceptions” (not an exact quote, my apologies to Michael.) 

Since Todd Haley has arrived, Ben has improved that part of its game, although he’s fallen back into bad habits, with the late interception vs. the Broncos being the most recent example.

With (God Willing) the playoffs around the corner, is this a yellow flag, a red flag or much ado about nothing?

4. Emmanuel Sanders played like he had something to prove to Pittsburgh during the first half. He has thrived in Denver. It is always easy to say “…they should have kept him” about a player. Take a moment and speculate about some of the opportunity costs the Steelers would have incurred had they, in fact, decided to re-sign Sanders in the spring of 2014.

5. First as a child at the end of the first Super Bowl era, and then as an adult, Steelers themed gifts found their way under my Christmas tree. My grandparents gave me any number of Steelers hats and Super Steelers posters which hung on my walls for years and years. As an adult, mouse pads, sweat shirts, T-shirts and the like have come my way.

What are some of the most special Steelers gifts you’ve been given at Christmas time? Have you given away any similarly special Steelers gifts?

Should you wish to send Hombre any Steelers gifts, you may send them c/o Going Deep. I’ll see that they have a good home : )


  • cold_old_steelers_fan

    I wish I could say I am lighting the holiday candles with 5 illuminating answers but some of my responses got snowed on:

    1) This win was critical. I am in agreement with Rebecca in believing this game will be looked on as key if the Steelers win the SB, at least from the outside looking in. How the team views it may be another thing. It certainly has every analyst sitting up and taking the Steelers seriously. I see a team that overcame incredible adversity (a 17 point deficit at half time against the best defence in the league) by digging in emotionally, making the needed adjustments both defensively and offensively and then executing them. When Ben threw the late pick six, the defence rallied yet again to prove not only did they have it in them but that they were a team that had each others backs.

    2) Fundamental. Interesting word but I am not certain we all think it means quite the same thing. Besides replacing Blake with Candy Bar, from what I have read, it seems the Steelers played more man and less zone in their pass defence. I suspect they always played a mix of both so Tomlin could be technically correct in saying there were no “fundamental” changes in the defence. Boykin was part of the mix in the game plan so it could be argued that using him more and Blake less was just a tweaking of the plan but from the outside it looked like a big change.

    3) It seems to me that Ben’s special moments tend to be occurring late in games now. It has me thinking that he is starting to feel his years a bit more and as the fatigue sets in, the mistakes do as well. On the other hand, maybe it is a bit of complacency. Things seem to be going so well that he just trys to push his limits (or the situation) a bit to far and makes a misjudgement. I think complacency may explain his earlier years (he never seemed as good against weak opponents) but I think it is now a matter of fatigue. The window on Ben’s career isn’t closing yet (though he has taken an tremndous beating in his career) but I think maybe he has at most two more seasons before it is time to hang them up. I hope a possible replacement can be found for Ben to mentor before then though I realize this isn’t usually the case with QBs, it would be nice to see the Steelers Way passed on from Ben to his successor.

    4) I have nothing on this one. If I did I would know how the Steelers will be able to keep Wheaton and Bryant when their contracts are up (unless the players are willing to take home town discounts to stay here).

    5) I have never been gifted any Steelers gear or paraphenalia. For many years it was difficult to get here and the only item I had was a plastic double walled coffee mug with a paper insert. The paper had the Steelers logo on it but eventually the cup leaked and the logo was ruined. I did buy myself a Steelers fall/spring coat (actually a winter coat for somewhere that is not Winnipeg) but it was far too small (even though the label inside said it shouldn’t be) so I have hardly worn it.

    Before I go, I would like to share a bit of seasonal music. Our friend’s son is in a duo with this young lady:



  • 1 – It’s a very important win, not just for playoff purposes, but because it clearly demonstrated the grit and attitude of the team. There shouldn’t be (though of course, there will always be) any doubters as to the heart of this team.

    2 – It has been a rotation for a couple of weeks. I don’t care who starts, I care who has more snaps. I am not one to gauge who the coaches should and should not be playing.

    3 – It is neither a bad habit nor a flag. It was a singular boneheaded play — one that everyone, including BB, knew was wrong as soon as he let it go. Though many Steelers fans are more than happy to throw the best QB in Steelers history under the bus over any mistake (not limited to just our fanbase though), this is something you shouldn’t worry about. BB has thrown interceptions, like every other QB, but it is extremely rare for it to be a case of both a bad decision and bad execution. When you throw it 55 times, sh*t will happen.

    4 – Sanders has played well in Denver since Day 1. He didn’t play poorly while in Pittsburgh either. Sanders simply became the whipping boy for that season…everyone focusing on a drop and ignoring the receptions and yards. There’s always one player that draws the ire of a fanbase. Sanders was it. As for opportunity cost, signing Sanders likely would mean no tall receiver for BB as there would be less of a need for it. He’d still be the #2 WR and the offense wouldn’t work as well as it does now.

    5 – Had a gf give me a Fossil watch with the Steelers logo. Nice gift. But I don’t wear watches.


  • 1. It is the difference between being just a playoff team and a Super Bowl contender. We needed to prove we could play a good defense and put up big points. We did that. Both in Seattle and now against Denver. It is now up to the defense.

    2. I don’t think Coach is going to tell any outsiders what his plans are. So far, the coaches have done wonders with a defense which was, at season’s start, a mess. I’m not sure he views the big picture the same way we do. I hope not. He is the coach, he is not blind to the total change in performance between the first and second half and has a lot more insight into its genesis than we do.

    3. Covered above. THAT was a bonehead throw. That’s outside his norm. BB does may throw a pick when he needs to make a play. That happens. He doesn’t normally force it when the game is pretty much in hand as this one was. Not an issue.

    4. They would not have Bryant. Manny is a good receiver. Not top ten but maybe top 20. That said, we’re paying much less for Bryant who has a good chance of exceeding what Manny can do.

    5. Got Steelers tickets for my first trip to Heinz Field. LD and I buy Steelers stuff all the time for each other and for my Steelers room.


  • 1. I think it has greater importance long term. Teams have to learn to win at a championship level. It doesn’t happen automatically, and some teams never get there, e.g. the Bengals up until now. The Steelers have the institutional memory for it, but the players who have the experience of having actually done it are now small in number and longer in tooth (Ben, Will Allen, Deebo, Heath, Spaeth, Warren, Gay). You can tell the younger players until you are blue in the face, but it is something that has to be experienced. Hopefully the Denver game was a big step in that direction. If so, then indeed, this may be one of the moments when the foundation for a new dynasty has been laid.

    2. Seems we always need to have a scapegoat, someone whom we can blame for the team’s shortcomings. Interestingly, that’s the position that we put Emmanuel Sanders in, such that we couldn’t wait for him to go, absolutely no regrets. We have decided that Antwon Blake is that guy this year (How soon we forget that his play almost won the first Bengals game). There are things about Blake’s game I don’t like, but he is far from all that ails this team.

    3. Interceptions like that one, as frustrating as they can be, basically the price of the ticket. If Ben confined himself to just safe throws the Steelers wouldn’t be in the position they have enjoyed for the past decade or so.

    4. As long as Ben is the quarterback, receivers will have little in the way of economic leverage. Its amazing how well receivers get playing with him.

    5. My daughter gave me a Steelers comforter last Christmas. Cherish it.


  • 1) Extremely important. Almost impossible to overstate the importance IMO. Yes, the Steelers could possibly have still made it into the playoffs if everything fell right, but would have the feeling of a team that snuck in and is not likely to make much noise. I think the bonding that occurred as the team figured out how to work together to make it happen was invaluable.

    Liked by 1 person

  • 1. The first half of this game reminded me of the 2005 regular season game at Indy. The Steelers lost 26 to 7, but when I watched it I felt like they could win if they played that team again (and of course they did play them and they did win). I heard later that the team left the stadium that loss thinking the same thing, basically that they left a lot of plays on the field on offense, and on defense they could compete with the best offense in football at the time. In my opinion, if you wanted to point to any one game that started the run from 2005 to 2010, it would be that one (even though it was a basically a blowout loss). Now here we are in 2015, and the team has proven that they can hang 30 points on three of the best defenses in football. At halftime of this game, their talk was that they were beating themselves, which is easy to say, but they more or less proved that in the second half. It leaves me very hopeful for this year and the next few years.
    5. I got a Steelers night light which I used with my daughters for about 10 years. It means nothing to them (unfortunately) but a lot to me.


  • 1) It saved the sesson. Had they lost, they would no longer have controlled their own fate. Their playoff hopes could have been Succoped out of existence.

    2) Tomlin wants to play them in a rotation. He wants to put the heavier hitter and the better run support guy in there first. I’m not sure I agree, but I trust Tomlin, Butler, and Lake to know more than I do….a whole lot more.

    3) High-risk, high-reward. The pass to D-Will was a bonehead play, but you see very few of them any more from Ben. I don’t see anything in the NFL standings delineating “truly elite.” I just want Ben to be Ben. That’s fine by me. Elite, schmelite! Let Ben be Ben.

    4) Two dogs, one bone, was how Tomlin described AB and Manny fighting over a hat during their rookie season. The team got into some serious salary cap hell with all those veterans, so one had to go when they hit free agency. Considering how Brown has become the league’s marquee receiver, and Wheaton and Bryant have stepped up, we haven’t really missed Sanders at all. Letting him go was the cost of doing business, and it speaks volumes that a team can lose a guy as good as Sanders and not miss him.

    5. The best Steeler Christmas gift ever occurred December 23, 1972. I kept my locker room press pass from that game for 40 years, but the excitement and memories will stay with me till the day I die.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!


  • 1. It was huge. The atmosphere at Heinz felt like the playoffs. Being able to stay (or get) focused and turn the tables after being so far behind is a strong statement. This team doesn’t give up (or they didn’t want Tomlin to cut off their eyelids). Like others have said, it kept our fate in our own hands.

    5. My mother bought Steelers season tickets as a Christmas/Anniversary gift for my Dad in 1972, when I was about 1 1/2. Technically, that was his gift, but I continue to benefit from it, to this day!


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