5 Smoldering Questions: The Post-Giants Pre-Bills Edition


via Steelers.com

by Hombre de Acero

Eli Manning’s latest visit to Heinz Field resulted in the Pittsburgh Steelers first home win over the New York Giants since 1971, as the Steelers extended their winning streak to 3 games and improved their overall record to 7-5, which allows them to keep pace with the resurgent Ravens.

But before the Steelers can think of felling their winged rivals from the sky, they have a challenge to overcome on the ground in the form of Rex Ryan’s Buffalo Bills. As this corner of Steelers Nation anxiously awaits Mike Tomlin’s sixth matchup against Buddy Ryan’s offspring, we must first resolve these 5 Smoldering Questions on the Steelers.

1. In crafting last week’s question about the how the recent matchups vs. the Giants serve as milestones for the personnel transitions the Steelers have undergone during the Tomlin era, another factoid occurred to me:

The 2008 Steelers lost to the defending Super Bowl Champion Giants after a bad long snap by emergency long snapper James Harrison that capped off a bumbling afternoon. The Steelers of course rebounded to win the Super Bowl.

In 2012, the Steelers again played the Giants and mustered an impressive 4th quarter comeback fueled by big plays on offense and defense. (Hey, it was Red Zone Redman’s career day!) They defeated the defending Super Bowl Champions and extended their winning streak to 3. Super Bowl dreams seemed realistic then, yet the Steelers would close the season by going 3-5.

With that juxtaposition in mind, what does the 2016 Steelers win over the Giants tell you…?

2. Ladarius Green’s breakout performance is garnering him praise, as he was a very real difference maker. With that understood, how do you rate the development of and contributions from Jesse James?

3. When word of Le’Veon Bell’s second suspension due to missed drug tests broke, a number of commentators suggested the Steelers should take advantage of the opportunity to re-sign him. Whether the move was discussed or not is unknown, but the Steelers obviously opted not to go down that road. Yet a fact that Rebecca Rollett shared caught my attention:

With that in mind, does anyone want to Monday Morning Quarterback the decision by the Steelers brain trust?

4. By now most of you have probably seen the incredible documentary “Chuck Noll: A Football Life.” What did you learn, or what stood out to you about the Emperor?

And do you think that efforts like this and the book “His Life’s Work” will allow Noll to get the recognition he deserves as one of the greatest coaches of all time?

5. While Mike Tomlin prides himself on keeping his players from riding the emotional roller coaster, Rex Ryan follows in his father’s footsteps as a coach who leans heavily on emotion to motivate his players. As Washington sports broadcasting legend Ken Beatrice used to warn, coaching tactics like those of Ryan’s father and Jerry Glanville resulted in both tremendous highs but also tremendous lows in performance.

We perhaps saw the full range of that dynamic on display in a single game in the AFC Championship a few years back.

Given that Mike Tomlin is only 3-2 against Ryan, what do you expect for Sunday’s game?

You know the drill. No. 2 pencil, color the little bubbles in completely, and no copying from your neighbor. But you can certainly take into account what your neighbor has to say...


  • 1. It remains to be seen how significant this win is beyond the need to keep pace in the divisional race with the surging Ravens. As streaky as many teams have been this year, it is yet to be determined whether this will be just be viewed in hindsight as a necessary win over an above average opponent, or a huge win over a contender. But if the team doesn’t take care of business from this point forward no one will remember or care about this game.

    2. Green has had a lot more experience under his belt than James. I am happy with what JJ has provided the team so far, and is a real asset as the number 2 tight end.

    3. To be blunt, I think that is a dumb assessment. Yes, the Steelers had the leverage to get Bell to sign low, but if I am Le’Veon and his representatives then I would lobby for an adjustment or else. If you want quality, you pay for it. The dividends, and there are many to a thinking person, will be worth it. But, if you want to cheap and wanna be slick, then cut him and give Toussaint a raise. See where that gets you.

    4. Unfortunately, no. Those who should be pushing the issue, and all too many fans have been dumbed down to the point where they can’t get past the flavor of the week.

    5. The jury is still out as to whether this group is over the roller coaster phase. I think they are, but with so many young players you can’t be completely sure.


  • 1. The Steelers win over the Giants tells me that they are like the mischievous little boy. When they are good, they can be very, very good. They’re not always at the best, but they were on Sunday. It doesn’t tell me more than that. Yet.

    2. The Outlaw has been a pleasant surprise and far better than expected. Remember his youth and lack of experience. And remember what our fears were coming into this season regarding TE. He’s been fine, and will get better.

    3. You don’t become an enabler and reward a guy who has just screwed up his drug testing for a second time. Period. You handle Bell exactly like the Steelers did. This is about much, much more than dollars and cents and salary caps.

    4. The thing that stood out to me was Noll’s unceasing loyalty to family and family obligations in the face of everything – from the time he was a boy. And how whole and complete was his love of Marianne, and how she loved and cared for him till the day he died. This, like Pride of the Yankees, was essentially a love story. Chuck Noll was one of the greatest coaches in NFL history, but he was an even better human being. The Football Life documentary and Michael MacCambridge’s exceptional biography will result in more people getting to know the real Chuck Noll.

    5.I expect the Steelers to come in on an even plane, and I expect the game to be decided in the trenches. Ryan will try to out-physical the Steelers up front, and will win or lose based on the success of his running game. If the Steelers can stop the Bills in the wintry mix of a Buffalo December Sunday afternoon, it will end well. A lot depends on J-Wobble. And the weather – whether it’s rain, snow, or sleet.


  • 1. Nothing, really. The problem with such factoids is that the sample size is way too small. What tells me more (but still not much) is the way the Steelers beat the Giants—with a patient, ball-control sort of game punctuated by some splash plays on both offense and defense. If they can reproduce this sort of game against the Bills’ top-ranked running game, that will tell me more, and I’ll feel better about the Ravens game…

    2. I echo Homer’s sentiments—James was never expected to be a No. 1 TE, and he’s coming along just fine for a No. 2.

    3. Bell is amazing. But Homer is right as usual—you don’t reward stupidity with a long-term contract. Besides, I get the definite impression Tomlin is determined to get the team’s money’s worth out of Bell. I believe the term is “run the wheels off him.” If he continues to show that his wheels are just fine, and stays clean, I expect the Steelers will at least attempt to pony up…

    5. I wish I knew what to expect. What I expect to find out is who has the better offensive line.


  • 1. I don’t think we’ve learned anything about this team that we didn’t already know. The Steelers needed another receiver to step up in order to get the offense to look some what like it did before. Green provided that spark. But the defense I fear hasn’t been tested yet, at least not what I fear to be its true weakness. The running game. What you say? They are averaging allowing under a 100 yards a game on the ground against opponents? Well I think that number is very misleading for a couple of reasons. One Heyward is out and since then we’ve faced three of the worst running teams in the NFL. Two when we did play teams that could run the ball, Cowboys and Dolphins, we lost and allow a pretty decent chunk on the ground. So now that we’re facing the number one running attack in the NFL, it makes me very worried that McCoy could be in for a big day. We’ll learn a lot more about the Steelers, if they are ready for a Championship run, against the Bills than we did against the previous three games. Steal a win on the road, in buffalo, against a good running team, who is playing for their playoff lives, is a mark of a champion.

    2. I never expected JJames to be a #1 TE. Some Steeler fans did. I honestly would like a better blocking tight end for my number 2. But I wouldn’t be mad if we went out and got OJ Howard from alabama in the draft. Would it push JJ to the #3 spot, sure but at the same time having two tightends on the field that can stretch the field, Ie what the patriots like to do, to go along with Brown, Bryant, Coates, and Rogers, next year would be devasting. I’m happy with JJ’s progression as it is and if the Steelers want to keep him as the #2 he’ll be fine in that role, I’m just greedy. 🙂

    3. You know how good Bell is? It can seem like the defense is stopping him all game and then you look up in the 4th quarter and he has 95 yards and then he breaks 20 yard run and you realize, the guy rarely loses yardage, he falls forward and find those cracks in the line and the yards just pile up. He wears the defense out and breaks them down piece by piece. I think you franchise tag him and then get a done late in the year once he proves he can at least go through one offseason without getting suspended.

    5. I have no idea what to expect from the game. I would hope that we try to establish the run we are able to have some semblance of a passing attack, although I think the weather may play as the 12th defender in that regard, making the game more even than I feel comfortable it being. I expect a really tight game, with the Steelers needing a score or a stop at the end of the 4th quarter to pull out the win. Will they get it? We’ll have to find out.


    • In re No. 3: you are so right, Tann – and nice to hear from you! Just today I heard a fantasy stats analyst talking about Bell, and she said that an “elite” back gets stuffed between about 8 and 9% of the time. Bell is at 3% or so. She said it is unreal.


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