Packers @ Steelers—Something for Everyone

Photo via Steelers.com

By Ivan Cole…in which Ivan gives the best description of being a Steeler fan I’ve ever read.

Rebecca raises the question ‘Are you entertained?’, and the definitive answer is yes. But let’s delve deeper.

Obviously, for all but the most masochistic of Steelers fans, you don’t need this kind of entertainment. If you were wondering what it might be like to devoured by a tiger while the incident was being taped on YouTube, this was pretty close. You know that the video will certainly go viral, but the next few moments are really going to suck. There was a happy ending, but like some of the best amusement park rides (thrills and chills) there was a lot screaming, cursing, vomiting and petitions to God along the way. On the other hand, for the relatively disinterested observer, and especially NBC and the NFL, this was beyond great. Remember that there had been talk of switching this game to four in the morning because Aaron Rodgers was out, and the contest showed all the promise of being a real stinker, where most of the east coast could tune out after the first quarter and get a full night’s sleep before facing that post-holiday Monday.

You can be certain that Steelers haters hung in until their hearts were ripped out at the very last tick of the clock. I am sure that the league’s media partners are trying to figure out how they might simulcast all of Pittsburgh’s remaining games, because this particular group of Steelers seem to know how to turn a trip to the store for toilet paper into an exciting nail biter.

The Killer Bees

They all showed up and did their things. This included the second tier Bees, Martavis Bryant and Chris Boswell. Then there was the demon child Bee, Artie Burns, who played an essential role in digging the holes that the others had to climb out of at a high degrees of difficulty. Very entertaining.

The Yinzer Cult of Doom

Homer correctly pointed out that last week’s thrashing of the Titans led to something of an existential crisis for the YCOD. What a gloomy holiday season they were facing. No more! They now have the best of both worlds; a victory, and a reason to fire each and everyone associated with the Steelers. Who said you couldn’t please everyone?

Superstitious?

If you weren’t before, you are now. Apparently, having nothing better to do, Post-Gazette writer Gene Collier noted that the Steelers defense hadn’t given up a touchdown in the first possession of a game since the Eisenhower Administration (I may be exaggerating slightly), and then ended his piece confessing that he might have jinxed the team. Guess what? Nothing more need be said. But that’s the least of it, because…

Mike Tomlin loses his mind!

The head coach had a psychotic break during a conversation with Tony Dungy, abandons coach speak, and tells the truth. He says it’s all about the big showdown with the Patriots, which, of course, is just a warm up to Armageddon between the same two teams in January. Nooooo! Let’s not fool ourselves. We all know its true, and most of us have been thinking this since the Bye at least, and even as far back as the immediate aftermath of the Kansas City game.

But the Demons and Imps that punish hubris with trap games and turnovers must be mollified. Tomlin was our rock. Indeed, as Gerry Dulac pointed out postgame, when sane, if you had made that suggestion Tomlin would have been the first to bite your head off.

This led me to have to agree with Rodney Harrison, channeling Belichick, who states that you don’t look past the current opponent and tempt bringing down the wrath of the gods upon yourself. Oddly, Dungy, a conservative sort, smiled maniacally and agreed with Tomlin.

Down is up

And then the Steelers went out and spent the evening dodging the lightning bolts. The YCOD are doing cartwheels. You know who else is doing cartwheels? Marvin Lewis, John Harbaugh and the networks.

Just so happens that there may be the perception that the Steelers are blowing off the fact they are facing both the Bengals and the Ravens before that confrontation with New England. Baltimore and Cincinnati, both staring competitive death in the face, will grasp that straw, and will try to use it to throttle their nemesis, or at least try to cripple them to the point that they at least fall short of the Lombardi.

The Burfict/Pacman Bengals may be quite literal about this, which will be what to watch for this week. Beyond, the Ravens lie in wait, hoping to pounce on a wounded animal. If you can’t win the game, kick over the board.

Must-see TV

However, at the end of the day, after all the thrills and chills, the Steelers stand at 9-2. A winning season assured. While the mathematical possibility exists that they don’t win the AFC North, things do appear dire for their rivals within the division. Jacksonville, who was breathing down their necks as a threat to their possible playoff seeding, lost ground yesterday, leaving the field (truthfully) for now to the Steelers and the Pats.

Still, we have no idea what to expect. Normally, such an effort as last night’s would set off serious alarm bells, but this is, to use a Tomlin term, an arrhythmic group, capable of struggling against the worst while eviscerating the best. Prepare for a December to remember.

15 comments

  • wow, that was well-written, and spot on. nicely done. i couldn’t believe what was coming out of Tomlin’s mouth during that interview with Dungy, but Harrison’s “holier-than-thou” attitude made me sick, since he’s talking about the same Belicheat who videoed future opponents’ practices. still, i appreciated Tomlin’s candor and humanity in that piece. it’s nice not to have a robot for a coach.

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  • “They now have the best of both worlds; a victory, and a reason to fire each and everyone associated with the Steelers. Who said you couldn’t please everyone?”

    this is pure gold…

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  • “you know the video is going to go viral but the next few minutes are really going to suck” Hahaha.

    That is so perfect.

    Exactly how I felt as I forced myself to not change the channel and put myself out of my misery on Sunday night! It’s comforting to know I wasn’t alone.

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  • So I missed the interview, but read the transcript. I thought the way people were talking, Tomlin literally said, “I’m going to ignore today’s game because who cares, amirite?!”

    But reading the transcript, he doesn’t say anything a fan of football shouldn’t be thinking.

    In my opinion Tomlin SHOULD be at least thinking about the Patriots. I get that sports “media” is essentially nothing more than gossip these days – which is why the media loves this story – but what kind of leader (of any business) doesn’t at least think about “the end game.”

    I suspect, although have little evidence to prove this, that the Steelers “playing down to their opponents” has all been with the direct intension of getting ready for the Patriots and the playoffs. When I watch some of these gams, it looks like the Steelers are trying to use other teams to practice on. So we see more man coverage (that gets blown for a long TD or 2). We see Ben throwing to Bryant whether the play calls for it or not – why? So he can be confident going into the playoffs. There are other examples, but I think some of the “struggles” are just playing the long game, and not playing the Fantasy Football game.

    Here’s hoping it works…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have often wondered the same thing. I know they do this in pre-season games they do this, and I remember reading that many in the media thought Tyler Matakevich was terrible in coverage from watching practices, only to discover that the coaches were deliberately hanging him out to dry to see if he could be relied upon. Given the lack of padded practices and so on, and given that the stated intention by the staff is to win a Lombardi every year, it would make sense to play a long game if you think you have the personnel to do it…

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    • IMO the problem with this theory is that the best way to win a lombardi is to get the 1 or 2 seed and get a bye. If you don’t stack wins and beat the bad teams on the schedule, you’re not likely to get the bye. If you get cute and let bad teams hang around, they have a nasty habit of ending the game in their own favor…

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      • I totally take your point. Nonetheless, I equate it to a choral director taking a choir on a tour prior to making a recording or performing at an important event—in other words, deliberately taking your group to venues which may not be comfortable or familiar and audiences who may not be receptive and running the same program over and over. Having been on such tours, I can tell you that the first few performances are generally quite rough, “adjustments” are made, things are tweaked as necessary, and so on. Said directors are generally quite aware that things aren’t going to be perfect, or anywhere close, for even a good bit of the tour, and to a point that’s what you want—you’re trying to find out where the weaknesses are.

        Admittedly the stakes are possibly not quite as high in such a situation. But it’s a matter of walking the fine line between putting on an acceptable (or as MT might say, “above the line”) performance and wasting rehearsal time before the performances at less crucial locations that you would prefer to have prior to the really important one. No matter who you are and what sort of a performing organization you run, there’s a cost-benefit calculation which must be made (and generally adjusted on a regular basis.) My contention is that the successful teams have people who are good at making these calculations. (And other stuff as well, naturally.)

        That said, I know perfectly well what Mike Tomlin would say to such a theory. What I don’t know is to what extent he would be lying.

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        • I just think the consequences of losing, and the chances of losing if you put anything less than your best effort out there, are unacceptably high. I think I would buy this argument more if we were regularly hanging 3 touchdowns on other teams (wouldn’t that be nice!) and then doing weird things instead of, say, running a lot to try and burn the clock…

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  • Go ahead and add the Purple Browns to the “out to injure” list with the Bengals.
    Did you see them last night. Wow it was pure cheap shot practice. And if the refs had called even half of the PI’s the Texans win going away. They look to be ready for the match up in two weeks.

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  • Toronto Steeler Fan

    1. Let’s keep something in perspective here about the two matches against NE* that we are expecting. Only one of them is actually relevant – the second one. If we lose the first one, that’s too bad, but winning the first and losing the second doesn’t do anybody any good.

    2. I agree with ebarrett above, in that I think the coaches are actually playing to a season-long plan with this team. It’s tough to do because you want to win each game on a stand-alone basis, but there seems to be a conscious decision to go more run-heavy earlier in the season, to try to put certain things on film and keep certain other things off the film, etc. Why else would we not use the end-zone fade to Bryant/Hunter/etc. EVER this season until last weekend, for example?

    3. With respect to Tomlin’s comments, I sure as hell hope that he and the coaching staff have been obsessing for the last 10 months on how to beat NE* and have built a team that can do it. I would be really disappointed if all they were doing was putting together a generically good team and then trying to figure out during week 16 how to deploy such a team to be the Asterisks. I would hope that our team has done nothing less than what the Ravens did after 2010, when they spent the entire offseason figuring out how to construct and deploy a team that could beat the Steelers, and then went out and kicked our butts that season (twice).

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    • Regarding point 1 … that’s right if we actually play them twice. I am still holding out for the possibility that we don’t play them in the playoffs. Of course I am thinking they could lose in the playoffs to another team before getting to us, but it is also possible that we could do the same. As I watch the other teams jocky for playoff spots and seeds, I keep thinking in terms of which team has the best chance to beat them.

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  • I think there is something else that we might consider here as well. When asked recently about his weekly press conferences Tomlin confessed that it was a vehicle for communicating with the team. I believe that is the target audience in this instance as well. Risky? Absolutely. That is the entire point. If you are living in your fears you avoid putting yourself in such a position. They fall short and Tomlin is labeled a complete and utter fool. On the other hand, what a faith statement! Instead of taking the timid, safe path in the face of the boogieman Pats, they have said to their faces what all of us have been saying in whispers behind their backs. He has bet his reputation on his team. Leadership.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sort of reminds you of Chuck Noll’s one famous locker room speech, in 1974, after Oakland beat Miami in a divisional game, and the Steelers were preparing to face Oakland in the AFC Championship. Noll said some people in Oakland were saying that the championship had been decided the day before, with the two best teams in football playing. And that it would be all downhill from there.

      Noll said, ‘I want you guys to know that the Super Bowl is played three weeks from now. And the best team in football is sitting right here in this room.’

      Noll was the last coach you would ever expect to give a rah-rah speech (“you don’t win games with noise,” he would say), so when he made those remarks, Joe Greene and the guys went wild. And there was no stopping them.

      Tomlin broke Coaching Kayfabe Sunday by telling the truth, but Ivan is right. He put his reputation – and that of his team – on the line. Audacity, thy name is Michael Pettaway Tomlin. Don’t think for a second that his remarks weren’t directed at his guys..

      Liked by 1 person

  • cold_old_steelers_fan

    Great article and great comments. I have nothing to add.

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  • How well have traditional one game at a time, safe, pussyfooting around the elephant worked in the past? If you say you don’t live in your fears, how best to demonstrate that by NOT LIVING IN YOUR FEARS. I like it. Walk, talk and act the winner. Tis a way to build not just confidence, but an iron will to win, no excuses. Risky, yes. Foolish, not for me.

    Liked by 1 person

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