5 Smoldering Questions on the Pittsburgh Steelers: The Return of Hombre Edition


Keith Srakocic/AP

by Hombre de Acero

We’ve seen a lot from the 2016 Pittsburgh Steelers since I departed for my month-long road trip (which limited me to seeing 2 of the 4 Steelers games), and during that time the Steelers seem to have “found” their proverbial identify only to create far more questions in week six than they seemingly answered weeks 1-5 by getting Drowned by the Dolphins.

To add injury to the (self-inficted) insult the Steelers suffered in Miami, Ben Roethlisberger tore his meniscus leaving Landry Jones to start against the New England Patriots….. With that uplifting thought, we now turn our attention to this week’s edition of the 5 Smoldering Questions beginning with a trip to a more pleasant alternate reality from Steelers-Dolphins past.

1. Everyone who registers a pulse in Steelers Nation knows the Steelers should have drafted Dan Marino in 1983. However, had they done that, is it safe to assume that One for the Thumb would have followed much sooner, as Bryan DeArdo once argued, or is it more complicated, as yours truly countered?

OK, we ease back to reality with another hypothetical, albeit one that’s much more current….

2. News that Ben Roethlisberger would be unavailable vs. the Patriots immediately sparked recommendations that Mike Tomlin should play and perhaps even start Zach Mettenberger. Do you really think that Mettenberger belongs in the conversation?

3. After the game Antonio Brown explained:

I just couldn’t make much of a difference today. We didn’t get it in my hands a lot and we’ve got to find a way to win games, especially games we should win I don’t call the plays. I just run the plays. We didn’t get it done. No excuses.

Given the importance of maintaining unity in the locker room, do you see any red or perhaps yellow flags in Brown’s comments?

4. Getting now to the nitty gritty of what has to be one of the worst performances of the Steelers in the Tomlin era (didn’t we just say that a few weeks ago?), there’s been a lot of venting on the internet, but on Jim Wexell’s Steel City Insider site, Matt C. Steel has produced the most thought provoking one to date. I strongly encourage you to read his long form essay in full, but this passage suffices to communicate his basic point:

It all seems like decisions are made to keep the $100 million QB happy. And this loss starts with Roethlisberger. We see far too many people who live in world of comforting beliefs rather than facts. Never is that more apparent in society than during election season. Roethlisberger is no different. He “believes” he can do exactly what Tom Brady does. But he can’t. Because for whatever reason the facts are that there are 2-4 games a year when Ben looks like a completely different human being out there. He never has shown that he ever will be that consistent when it’s all on him. Most games he hums along beautifully, but then out of nowhere come games of erratic passing and decision-making. Ben doesn’t want to “believe” he never has nor ever will be as consistent as Brady. So he’s pushed and pushed to change the foundation with which this franchise built six championships. Meanwhile if seems like Todd Haley and Mike Tomlin don’t want to rock the boat of a guy who makes nearly a hundred million more than they do.

Do you think that one explanation for the Steelers continued tanking in these trap games lies with the extended autonomy Ben Roethlisberger has in the Steelers offense?

5. Back in January 2006, when the Indianapolis Colts had been anointed “The Team of Destiny” I penned an email to my cousin in Pittsburgh, explaining why “I like our chances against the Colts,” and outlined my reasons why. She politely ignored my message, and out of sympathy told me that many in Pittsburghers assumed the Steelers would lose, but didn’t mind since Dungy was a Pittsburgh guy who’d just tragically lost his son….

Monday morning she wrote to offer her congratulations and bragging rights.

As I sit here today, I can’t honestly outline a similar scenario that for victory this Sunday that doesn’t include New England suffering a rash of injuries to stars like Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski , but I wholeheartedly invite you to if you can.

There you go folks. This is an emotional time so don’t hold back. But remember, emotion must be backed by equal parts of reason.


  • 1. Its tempting to think that the answer would be a no brainer, but I am not so sure. My understanding was that there were character concerns that fueled the decision to not choose Marino, and I am not sure what the consequence would be for him to remain in Pittsburgh under whatever influences that made the Steelers balk. Otherwise, we might be talking about one for the other thumb, or our toes right about now.

    2. I really don’t have anything insightful to offer in this regard as far as a backup quarterback controversy is concerned, except to say that I sure miss Charlie Batch.

    3. Not necessarily given Brown’s competitive nature. But it could be if it is related to the issues addressed in item # 4. But I also believe that Brown has to be cognizant of the fact that the combination of the recognition of him being the best receiver in the game , combined with the fact that the compliment of Sammie Coates and Eli Rogers is a step or two down from Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton, making it harder for him to operate.

    4. Steel brings an interesting perspective that is somewhat in line with my recent criticism. Care should be taken however, with how this may be interpreted. For example, if it is possible that Tomlin and Haley might feel pressure to defer to the high priced quarterback, might that quarterback also feel pressure to perform at a certain level as well. In other words, it might not be a simple matter of ego or a sense of entitlement, though that can’t be ruled out either. What I think can be agreed upon is that the offense is being handicapped by decision making emanating either from the Ben, Haley or both that is often ill advised, risky, low percentage and totally unnecessary given the tools that they have at their disposal. This resulted in games against Washington, Cincinnati and New York that were more closely contested than necessary, and a loss to the Dolphins.

    5. What we could learn is Bell and D-Will behind a quality offensive line might be enough to overcome mediocrity at the quarterback position. If that could be pulled off that may provide just the wake up call and leverage necessary to move beyond the offensive dysfunction.


  • 1. There would have definitely been a much better chance of The One for the Thumb happening with that piece of the puzzle in place during that time, but having a great QB does not ensure a superbowl win. I mean, look at Dan Marino. He is one of the best to ever play that position yet he never won it all.

    2. He is such an unknown at this point to the fans. The coaches are obviously more comfortable with Landry. I would hope that if the game gets out of reach that they throw in Mettenberger to test him out in a real game situation.

    3. I don’t really see anything there. To me he is saying he wants the ball to help the team win. it does seem a bit that he was not the primary receiver on a lot of the play calls by what he said though. I won’t see yellow or red flags unless this starts to repeat.

    4. I don’t agree with that at all. I have never heard about Ben trying to be brady until i just read the above. I think it is more the play calling and trying to be cute, as discussed in yesterday’s article.

    5. Ben Roethlisberger decided to dress as Landry Jones for Halloween and torched the New England Patriots Defense for 400 yards passing and 6 touchdowns. Le’Veon Bell added 125 rushing yards and a rushing TD to add to the melee. The Patriots high powered offense could not keep up. Score – Steelers 48 Patriots 42.


  • I’ll defer commenting on 1) because I never saw Marino play.

    2. The assumption is that naturally the backup (Mettenberger in this case) is better, because—why do we always think that anyhow? You would assume that the coaching staff, who has the training and perhaps their jobs on the line, will have a better idea than we do about which guy should be used. The trouble is, just often enough the replacement comes out and looks better. But this is perhaps because there’s little tape on them, or they weren’t prepared for at all. I’ve noticed that the back-ups who do really well typically do less well as they get more game exposure.

    3. AB always wants the ball. We want him to want the ball. Unless he starts whining a lot more and a lot more publicly I’m not worried.

    4. I think it will take a whole article to answer this – one which I think I will write.

    5. I prefer to just pencil this into the loss column so that I will be pleasantly surprised if they manage a win. I think there’s a chance they can pull it out, but the percentages are rather low. On the other hand, I think the chances anyone would have given the Dolphins of beating the Steelers as thoroughly as they did were also pretty low, so there’s the “Any Given Sunday” aspect of it.


  • Pingback: Ben Roethlisberger: Necessarily Confidence or Unbridled Egotism? | Going Deep:

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