5 Smoldering Questions: Post-Browns Pre-Playoffs Edition


via Steelers.com

by Hombre de Acero

Who said Mike Tomlin teams can’t stack wins? The Steelers win over the Browns gave Pittsburgh its 7 straight victory and it came in dramatic fashion as the Steelers backups lead a 4th quarter comeback and then won it in overtime. 

The Steelers of course will host the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Wild Card game at 1:00 pm on Sunday. But before we can get post season pickings, here are 5 Smoldering Questions on the Steelers which this corner of Steelers Nation must resolve.

1. Bob Labriola has as much stated that beating the Browns is little more than window dressing, arguing that the key to the game was to avoid major injuries. Do you agree with Labriola or do you think there was some significance to the victory itself?

2. The lesson many (or at least me) took away from the Cowboys loss was that the 2016 Steelers simply weren’t that good. 

Seven games later, the men in Black and Gold have taught a very different lesson. What, in your view, is the single most important element that contributed to the regular season turn around?

3. In explaining why he benched Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Maurkice Pouncey and Le’Veon Bell, Mike Tomlin referenced the playoff games he’s had to play without these players. 

By doing that is Tomlin tacitly undermining his own “The Standard is the Standard” credo?

4. Dale Lolley, a Steelers scribe who has called out the “Twitter General Managers” early and often this season, has stated that Mike Tomlin’s legacy is on the line in these playoffs, submitting that: “Regardless of what happens, Tomlin needs to get this team to the AFC Championship.” 

Agree or disagree?

5. Aside from key players staying healthy, what do you think is the single most important element to a successful Steelers Super Bowl run?

Post Season bonus question:

6. Time to earn bragging rights – How far will the 2016 Steelers playoff run go?


  • 1. Any and every win counts. The Cleveland win demonstrates the depth of the offense and to a large extent, the lack of depth on the defense. It also shows the difference between really good and really bad teams is about five players, albeit five really good players.

    2. The rapid improvement of Burns, Hargrave and Davis.

    3. No. His credo is an operating philosophy, not a playoff strategy.

    4. One’s legacy is an ongoing process and a failure to get to the conference championship will not damage it as much as getting there will enhance it. It’s no a must do, but you can’t be great unless you contend for the SB on a regular basis.

    5. Ben avoiding turnovers. Turnovers will kill the road to Seven. Almost as important is the defensive play. Consistently punctuated by big plays will fuel the run for a Lombardi.

    6. Three point loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship. I have never wanted to be wrong more in my life.


  • 1. Though on paper the victory meant nothing since we locked up the 3-seed regardless and the browns are the browns, the brown ARE the browns and we were playing in Da ‘Burgh. Can’t let them beat us at any point, meaningless or not, especially at home. I think it went a long way with keeping up morale for the fans and team; and it showcased some of the depth players (Ayers).

    2. The play of the defense, specifically the defensive backs.

    3. No. I think it emphasized it more actually. He planned for the playoffs and expected the players on the field to win the game. Isn’t that the epitome of “The Standard is the Standard”?

    4. I disagree. Tomlin is likely to be here for a long time. I think that, this being his 10th season, all sustaining a non-losing record, reaching the superbowl twice, winning once, his legacy is really in great shape. Also, as Roxanna says, a legacy is an ongoing process and one season will not kill his legacy.

    5. The defense playing at the level they have been the 2nd half of the season.

    6. I will not make predictions. Makes me feel i have jinxed the team or something. So i will say I will be disappointed if they don’t make it past miami.

    Liked by 1 person

  • 1. The win kept going the psychological factor of a winning streak. That’s about it for the win. The real significance of the game was that it gave valuable playing time to reserves – guys like Ayers and Maxey, who may be called upon to contribute in the playoffs.

    2.Experience. The defense started out horribly, but the three rookie starters needed time to learn and adjust. Oh, did they ever step up!


    4.He’s had many legit excuses for not making it into the AFC Championship game lately, but it’s been many years since he entered the playoffs with a team this healthy. Tomlin has the table set this year. He needs to get to Houston.

    5. They need to be able to stop the run on defense, and avoid turnovers when they have the ball.

    6.See yinz guys in Houston. Homer’s got a feelin’…..

    Liked by 1 person

  • 1. The win was just window dressing. If we had gotten Bell injured making sure we won this game would there have been a question asking if it were worth it? The health of the big 3 is overwhelmingly more important than a win that accomplishes nothing and proves nothing.

    2. I don’t want to take away anything from the development of the rookies, but honestly one of the biggest factors in turning things around was strength of schedule. What helped right the ship was that we stopped playing Super Bowl contenders like NE and Dallas and started playing teams that aren’t very good. In our 7 game win streak, we’ve beaten only one team with a winning record and didn’t look like a vastly better team against the Bills, Bengals, or Ravens.

    The other big factor is Ben’s health. In our 4 game losing streak there was only one game that he was fully healthy for, and that was a narrow loss to the #1 seed from the NFC.

    3. No more than the fact that we don’t cut Roethlisberger and make Mettenberger our starter because he’s cheaper

    4. Not a chance. We could lose in the second round this year and go on to win the Super Bowl in back to back seasons behind the unstoppable Killer B’s of Ben, Brown, Bell, and Bryant and 3 All Pro DB’s on defense in Burns, Davis, and Gilbert, and who would care that we lost to the Chiefs in the divisional round in 2016?

    Honestly, I think it’s a little overly optimistic to say that a team starting 4 rookies (counting Eli Rogers) “ought” to make it to the Championship game, and the road there is not an easy one. I know we pasted the Chiefs in Pittsburgh early in the year, but that was a long time, the Chiefs are a legitimately dangerous team, and we’ll be playing in KC this time. Road games have not been good to us, and Arrowhead is a particularly hard place to play. The fact that the team that plays there beat Oakland twice (by a combined score of 47-23, with Carr healthy) and beat Atlanta in Atlanta should be enough to point out the foolishness of looking past this game like it should be a breeze for any coach worthy of the name to waltz into their stadium and kick their butts.

    5. I don’t think any element stands out head and shoulders above the rest. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and the re-emergence of Coates and Green would go a long way, but so would the development of our young defenders Burns, Davis, Hargrave, and Dupree. Then again, Ben could simply elevate his game and carry the team himself. Most likely all of them will have to happen to some degree.

    6. In case you didn’t notice, I have a bad feeling about KC…


  • 1. Complicated. A loss wouldn’t be that significant, but a win, particularly under those circumstances, was. Certain players got the opportunity to prove that they could carry the load in a winning effort. Also nice to maintain some winning momentum.

    2. A young defense is growing up and learning how to win. All teams are works in progress, either getting better or worse over the course of a season, sometimes yo-yoing and doing both. Think Baltimore. Miami started getting better at our expense. Philly got worse after playing us. Kansas City got better. This and one of your other questions reveals the tendency of Steelers fans to want to rush to judgment.

    3. Agree with Roxanna. We take that statement much too literally. Star players are paid like stars for a reason. The Standard is a winning effort no matter what. Stars make that easier. In high caliber situations, their absence may make winning impossible. To suggest that plugging in, say, Eli Rogers and Fitz Toussaint for Brown and Bell can actually make a mockery of the realities of competition, and is to a degree, a set up for criticism. If Landry Jones can deliver a Ben-like performance, then he should also be getting Ben-like money.

    4. For some, Tomlin’s legacy will always be on the line regardless of the outcome. What position does Tomlin play? Did Tomlin fumble in Denver last season? Was that a coaching failure? That being said, I believe getting to the conference championship is the least that needs to be achieved to avoid a lot of off season acrimony. Beyond that will require what a Tomlin team has not been challenged to achieve in his tenure; win a championship on the road.

    5. To not kick their own butts. Smart, intense play with a minimum of errors and other self inflicted wounds. Until proven otherwise, when healthy, only the Steelers can beat the Steelers.

    6. A Packers/Steelers rematch in Texas sounds good to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Toronto Steeler Fan

    1. The win showed that Landry Jones can, at some level, run the offense and lead a late game-winning drive. The other value in this game was getting the various backups a lot of reps which will be useful going forward.

    2. Burns and Davis turned the corner and allowed the defense to be more aggressive in getting after the quarterback. They also got better stopping the run (especially Burns). This, and the offense unleashing Bell and the running game, made the difference.

    3. No. It’s an expectation and an attitude, not a promise of results.

    4. I think expectations are getting high in Steeler nation, but a lot of how this season is viewed in retrospect will depend on not just how far they go, but if they lose, then how they lost. Nobody will blame Tomlin for a loss if there are a lot of injuries, for example, but the feeling is that this team can win it all and should at least get close to doing so.

    5. They need to stop the run. And especially with KC, they need to avoid turnovers at all costs. Look at where KC gets all of its points – their offense puts together very few long drives that end in touchdowns. In that Atlanta game, Eric Berry scored more points than the KC offense, and IIRC, KC scored 28 points in that game. If you protect the ball against KC, you have a good chance to win.

    6. No comment, no jinxes. 🙂


  • 1. Bob is right. However, rallying the troops and coming back to win with the stars sitting should be a helpful motivating factor moving forward.

    2. Guys playing their positions and not trying to do too much.

    3. No. His job is to win. He is putting the team in the best position to do so.

    4. It certainly wouldn’t hurt his legacy to get there and win, but a legacy is career long. He still has many years ahead of him (hopefully!).

    5. Hard to choose…I will go with Ben. If he plays well, we win. He stinks up the joint, we lose.

    Post Season bonus question:

    6. If this team can hit on all cylinders offensively, (which they have yet to do, IMO), and the D plays well, they can go all the way. If they revert to playing sub-standard, they could lose in Arrowhead in the Divisional playoff.


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