On Second Thought: the 2016 Divisional Playoffs

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via Steelers.com

by Ivan Cole

A successful season

Yes, I know, I know. The line is that the only successful season is one that ends with the hoisting of the Lombardi. That would mean that there have only been six successful seasons in the history of the Franchise. It would also mean that some franchises have never had a successful season ever. So, let’s be realistic.

I am on record as stating that the standard for success for this particular collection of talent is to make it to the Conference Championship Game. Though familiar territory for fans, for some players, like Bud Dupree, winning a division championship was a new experience. For the majority of the roster, participating in a conference championship is something only a relative handful of players know about. Doing so would be novel for coaches such as Todd Haley and Mike Munchak.

It is important to not confuse the organization’s experience with championship level play with that of most players. The fact that Le’Veon Bell has only played in two playoff games, and that Antonio Brown scored his first playoff touchdown last week should be instructive.

I also think it is important to point out that we can now mark the success of Mike Tomlin, Kevin Colbert and team leadership in rebuilding the team and getting them to the brink of a championship. Don’t get me wrong, I will be as disappointed as anyone if the team falls short after traveling so far. Nor am I attempting to inoculate the reader against failure as well. However, I would suggest that we be mindful that given the relative lack of experience in these matters, a winning performance would be a step beyond teams from the 70s and the last decade who needed multiple tries before claiming the ultimate prize.

Behind the mask of political correctness

Antonio Brown presented Steeler Nation, and the rest of the world, a peek behind the curtain of the Pittsburgh locker room via live video on Facebook. During his postgame remarks to the team Tomlin referred to the New England Patriots as “ass—-s”. This is, for some, a shocking (delightful for me) reveal for the normally unfailingly respectful Steelers head man.

But let’s get real here. If we could condense the essential sentiment held by the entirety of Steelers Nation toward the entirety of Patriots Nation to one word, ‘ass—-s’ would pretty much capture it. Although ‘jagoffs’ would be an acceptable alternative as well. In any case, this provides some texture to the whole ‘cheerleader’ narrative. Meanwhile, we can watch this week as the Steelers lie and deny that they really believe the Pats to be a bunch of ass—-s. Of course, the rest of us don’t have to operate under such restraints.

Dallas’ sorrows

Speaking of ass—-s, only slightly less satisfying than the pleasure of witnessing the Steelers advance was watching the Cowboys suffer. Besides the fact that there is something spiritually diminishing about wishing ill of another, it could ultimately prove self-defeating as well.

Can’t help it though. After a generation of, more or less, bottom feeding futility, Jerry’s Nation seemed poised to, with no sense of humility, once again assume the mantle of self-righteous superiority on the path to their sixth Lombardi.

On the other hand, it was the consensus of the group I was with that a potential Super Bowl match with Dallas would be more favorable than to have to deal with a hot Aaron Rodgers. But some of us just couldn’t bring ourselves to root for the Cowboys. Hopefully, we will have the challenge of having to cross that Rodgers bridge in three weeks. For some reason, the network cameras that normally love to focus on the Dallas owner’s box didn’t choose to linger on the tears.

Kudos

The national media will focus upon the Killer Bs, and not without good reason. But we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the heroic contributions of the following:

James Harrison. To this point he has been on the margins for getting into the Hall of Fame. But if he plays a central role in another championship run, it makes for a great case for inclusion.

Ryan Shazier and Bud Dupree. We see the future of great Steelers linebacking developing before our eyes. Despite Shazier’s dominant play and four interceptions in four games, Dupree is probably playing better at the moment. That’s saying a lot.

The offensive and defensive lines. The sputtering and mistakes of the skill players have mattered less because it is glaringly obvious that these two groups are winning the war of the trenches, making Pittsburgh the better team.

Jesse James. It sure would be nice to have Ladarius Green, but Jesse’s performance allows the luxury of not missing him.

Eli Rodgers, Cobi Hamilton and Demarcus Ayers. Almost makes you not notice that Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton and Sammie Coates aren’t contributing. Almost.

The defensive secondary. Remember when we used to hate watching them play?

Vince Williams. The antidote to Tyrek Hill.

10 comments

  • I am with you on the dallas-greenbay game. I really couldn’t bring myself to root for the cowboys, despite the fact we favor better with them.

    As for the patriots, I hope we frustrate blount so badly he gives up and walks off the field.

    Like

  • Applause.

    Great commentary, Ivan. I agree that this season is officially a success. I believe a win in New England is truly possible, though not likely. It is foolhardy to expect that this young defense will be able to slow Brady’s offense down enough to enable the Bs to outscore them. I do not expect it, but I do believe it is possible and not just a remote possibility. We have a real chance. It will take big plays from players who have not previously played on the big stage. It will take playing without big mistakes by young players, some rookies, who are still learning.

    Coach T has this team believing, and that, more than anything, is the vital factor to getting to the SB. I am prepared to be amazed. GO STEELERS.

    Liked by 1 person

  • This upcoming AFCCG is where Roethlisberger needs to validate his monster contract, and where Bell and Brown need to prove they’re worthy of receiving their own monster contracts.

    Regular season stats, like the Cowboys’ regular season record, don’t mean squat, if they don’t get their respective jobs done in the playoffs.

    I’m not saying they have to defeat NE themselves; I’m saying the BR who earned the big contract by carrying the team on his back has to show up for a full 60 minutes; that the AB who “wants paid” has to find ways to add value despite being double/tripled covered because NE doesn’t respect our other receivers; that Bell who wants “15 large” has to make NE worry about his receiving as much as his running…

    But most of all, Ben Roethlisberger has to demonstrate why he deserves to be in any conversation of the modern great QBs that includes Tom Brady.

    If “Bad Ben” or even “Indifferent Ben” plays in New England, he will have relegated himself to the second tier of modern QBs with the likes of Eli Manning, and not with the TRUE elites like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady…

    …and this may be his last chance to do so.

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    • Really! Homer agrees that when you come down to it, it’s all on Ben to produce in the clutch and on the rookie DB’s to keep their cool and not to get overanxious and faked out.

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    • As I said elsewhere, we need two appearances from Good Ben. OK Ben won’t get it done against the Cheatriots or the two teams on the other side of the bracket.

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  • This is sort of Bell’s team now, he’s the one who is allowed to get into a rhythm, which is better for time of possession and puts less pressure on our defence. Ben’s job these days is to loosen up the D and also make the crunch time drive to win the game, which he has also done. Jim Plunkett is the only multiple Super Bowl not in the hall of fame. If Ben retired today he’d belong there, and there is NOBODY else, including Brady who I’d rather have the ball in their hands when it counts. One game is not going to make Ben anything other than one of the greats because he’s already earned football Valhalla.

    And yes, Ivan, I was soooo looking forward to seeing Mr. Burns, I mean Jerry “fool for a GM” Jones defeated because the networks love to show his feeble attempts at a high five when the Boys win. Hopefully we’ll get some juicy shots of Mr. Contrasting Cuffs and Collars Kraft weeping on Sunday.

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  • Thanks for recognizing Vince Williams! I spent a lot of last week wondering what a few hits by Shazier and Mitchell would do to Tyreek Hill, reminiscing on the glory days when the the Steelers defense owned Chris Johnson, and hoping that the young guns on today’s Steelers defense would have the same ability to utterly negate an opponent’s speed. Turns out Shazier and Mitchell never got a crack at Hill because he kept sliding feet first like a wuss, but Vince Williams (who else?) was there on KR to do their work for them. Man, I love VW.

    Talk about Tomlin being a cheerleader. A week after he calls out our not-so-special teams they respond by absolutely smothering the best return man in the league. The Chiefs return game looked like ours the week before, and that was instrumental in this game. A single short field resulting in a FG for the Chiefs would’ve changed the outcome of this game.

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  • A$$holes? Coach T is much kinder than I am. The word I use for them is not fit for print in this family blog, but understand that it something about cheating and children born out of wedlock. And that’s the word I use in the company of ladies.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Looks like this group is ready!

    Liked by 1 person

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