A Blast from the Past: 13-9 is Better than 9-13…

Todd Haley

Dang refs…

In the November 30, 2011 edition of Five Burning Questions Hombre de Acero opined:

The Steelers’ performance at Arrowhead Stadium had more of an escape quality to it than that of a victory. The bright side of it is that is that it’s given us plenty of combustion to fuel our “5 Burning Questions.”

Sometimes we as fans think every post could begin this way. How often do the Steelers have a game so well in hand, so early in the proceedings, that you can kick off your shoes, relax, and eschew all those little OCD routines we all have to some extent to assure a Steelers victory?

However, this game was even more of a cliffhanger than usual. Ben Roethlisberger was playing with a fractured thumb, Troy Polamalu concussed himself on the leg of an opposing tight end, and a Mewelde Moore fumble just shy of the Chiefs’ endzone was recovered by the Chiefs. However, Tyler Palko obligingly threw the ball to Ike Taylor, who actually caught it and returned it back to about where Mewelde Moore had started the whole mess. Perhaps Palko was playing “catch-and-release” football?

Whatever the story, thank heavens, because as you can see from the score, points were at a premium. and Kansas City had three more of them (3) than the Steelers (0) at that juncture. Shaun Suisham turned Palko’s gift into three points, and, not content with helping out the team from the city of his old alma mater to that extent, Palko threw the ball to Ryan Mundy, who also caught it.

Tamba Hali hit Ben good and hard on the next series, and would have had a turnover had the defense not been called for holding. You may surmise that the grumpy Todd Haley face at the head of the article is from when that call came down, and you would be correct. The sole touchdown by either team was Ben scrambling out of the pocket to find none other than Weslye Saunders, who caught the ball in the back of the end zone and managed to stay in bounds while doing it. As you can tell, the game was mainly a festival of minimal to no competence, best characterized by a Chiefs running play in the fourth quarter in which the runner would likely have had a touchdown, or at least converted a 3rd-and-2, had he not run into his own blocker. Sometimes you just have days like that.

Strangely, though, the Steelers secondary was the lone bright spot in the game. Keenan Lewis sealed the game for the Steelers by picking off a Palko pass, after the Chiefs had driven a long way down the field in a sudden fit of what passed for inspired football on that particular day. This gave the secondary, without Troy, three picks in the end. Remarrkable!

As Hombre reported:

After the Chiefs game Casey Hampton down played the closeness of the contest  and asserted “You know, when we get it all together, it’s going to be scary.” Do you agree with Hampton’s “scary” comment or do games like the Escape at Arrowhead merely scare you?

Hombre also noted that, given Troy Polamalu’s concussion history, ESPN suggested he might consider retiring. Interesting that he didn’t even consider doing so two years later, and had to be shown the door. And to continue with the depressing subject of head injuries, here is the question I chose:

A few weeks ago yours truly asked Gerry Dulac on PG Plus if the Steelers might be skirting NFL rules by diagnosing “concussion like symptoms” and Dulac said in no uncertain terms that the Steelers would never do that. Now, Mike Florio is suggesting that the Steelers are in fact being deceptive. Who do you believe? 

Here’s what some of the 2011 readers believed. I’ll skip the Mike Florio bashing, as it doesn’t really add anything to the discussion.

Anthony Defeo, pragmatic as always, said

I don’t know how Gerry Dulac or Mike Florio, or any of those guys can say for sure whether or not the Steelers are being truthful about concussions.

tannofsteel84 disagreed, sort of:

I trust Dulac way before I trust Florio. Even if its to tell me what the weather is. Florio is way more liable to make up some stuff than Dulac is.

I just had to include the answer to both the “scary” question and the concussion question, as the magnificently-named Bradshaw’s index finger was so funny:

Scary is the Steelers inconsistency, week to week, and always having the knack of playing down to the level of their opponent….

Florio has been suffering from concussion like symptoms for years..

bornem was pretty prescient in these remarks:

I have too much to say on #2

2. I think football as a sport needs a gigantic culture change in regards to concussions. This whole “fine after the fact” process is just alienating the players from the commissioner. Three things need to change about concussions: players need to be tested right away, players shouldn’t be the ones deciding whether or not they come back, and hits that cause concussions need to be penalized on the field.

I hope you all agree with these principles. Making rules to make them happen is another problem. I’d institute the following changes: (1) if an injury timeout is called because a player was hit in the head, they need to be taken off the field to a dark room to be evaluated for a concussion. (2) the doctor testing the player makes the decision about whether the player goes back to the game. Maybe a league/neutral doctor, not a team doctor? (3) During an injury time out, the referees should look at instant replay and determine if a 15-yard personal foul penalty is warranted. Make this the only situation in the game where the refs can call a foul that they didn’t see during the play.

I think the NHL is doing a lot better job with dealing with blows to the head this season than they ever have, and the NFL needs to follow suit. In particular, I like that Brendan Shanahan, who does discipline for the NHL, posts online videos to explain every suspension that he’s handed out. This makes the decision-making process transparent, and helps whittle down the grey area that naturally occurs when you’re deciding whether to fine or suspend a player.

Billy52 had an interesting take on journalists in general:

2) Neither version is credible. Keep in mind that all journalists ever do is come down from the hills after a battle and shoot the wounded.

barnburner had a lot to say, making some interesting points along the way:

2. I’m not really sure what the issue is here – Troy wasn’t allowed to return to the game despite his lobbying, regardless of whether it was “concussion-like symptoms” or a straight up “concussion”. Ward wasn’t allowed to return to the Ravens game either (again, despite his lobbying) when Lewis initiated a straight up helmet-to-helmet hit, and regardless of whether that was “concussion-like symptoms” or a straight up “concussion” either.

Diagnosing things can be finicky – I’m not saying they’re always Dr. House level of finicky, but a short list of symptoms that have not yet been evaluated over a period of time can almost always have multiple potential causes.

Is a stinger “just a stinger”? Or could it actually be a herniated disc? It takes time to diagnose the latter, even though the initial set of symptoms are pretty much identical to the former.

To me, skirting the issue would be labeling a head injury as just “concussion-like symptoms” then saying they quickly disappeared, and letting the player back into the game because they said they were “fine”. This sounds more like whining by media personalities that want to be able to report everything in black-and-white terms. And they can shove it as far as I’m concerned.

The one thing you can say for sure is, whatever the reasons, the league has changed a good deal in the interim.

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