5 Smoldering Questions on the Pittsburgh Steelers: Week 14

A1FC1295-1AED-4025-9825-4AC2339004C3Photo via Steelers.com

By Hombre de Acero

Watching the Steelers win over the Baltimore Ravens was watching a legend in the making. The victory at Heinz Field clinched yet another AFC North title for Pittsburgh, but hold off on breaking out the celebratory kielbasa and Iron City Beer (yes, I’m serious about the latter one) as the New England Patriots are coming to town. But before we can see if the Steelers can corral the elephant in the room, this corner of Steelers Nation must first resolve these 5 Smoldering Questions on the Steelers.

1. While Pittsburgh prevailed against the Ravens, the Steelers defense looked like it sorely missed Ryan Shazier at several points. Yet, for as badly as they played overall, the Steelers defense stopped the Ravens cold on 3 of 4 fourth quarter possessions.

Do you think that Mike Tomlin and Keith Butler will be able to coax enough consistency out of this defense for the Steelers to be competitive against New England? Justify your answer.

2. Surprise, Surprise! The Patriots lost to Miami on Monday Night Football. Do you think this loss unmasks a vulnerability or do you fear that it will only serve to strengthen New England’s resolve?

3. After his first stint at returning kicks, Mike Tomlin indicated that Martavis Bryant would get more chances to do so. Against the Bengals, Bryant did it again and had a touchdown called back on a penalty.

Yet, against the Ravens, Bryant only narrowly avoided disaster. When asked about it, Mike Tomlin responded this way:

Do you think that our esteemed head coach is guilty of, as we would say in Spanish double discurso (speaking out of both sides of one mouth.)

4. Hombre asked me to include a question based on the idea of rituals. Players tend to be quite superstitious, but they have nothing on the fans. I mentioned several weeks ago the Steelers T-shirt I wore for the Titans game, and was advised not to wash it. Well, I didn’t wash it, but I didn’t remember to wear it for the next few games either. (Generally I watch the games in whatever I have on at the moment, which is usually church clothes…) You all might note that the only game the Steelers have won by a comfortable margin is the Titans game…

Hombre mentioned the following: 

The Steelers are 11-2 when he watches on tape delay (even if the delay is only via pausing the game for a handful of minutes). His concern is this:

“Although no one’s mentioned it, my guess is the locals will suggest we get together to watch the game, which would mean no tape delay!”

These sorts of decisions aren’t easy. I was quite concerned last Saturday because I needed to dust underneath the Steelers nutcracker which overlooks the computer screen where I watch, and I was afraid I wouldn’t get it back in the exact same position. 

What about you all? Do you have rituals that you believe, in your heart of hearts, can influence the course of a Steelers game, for good or ill?

5. Sometimes in the present it becomes too easy to forget the past. The Pittsburgh Steelers once actually owned Bill Belichick, albeit a long time ago. Recent, Steelers history against the Patriots has been fraught with nothing but frustration for Pittsburgh.

The Steelers have won 3 times against Belichick 2.0, have beaten Belichick-Brady twice with only one win coming in the Mike Tomlin era and the other coming when Ben Roethlisberger was a rookie.

The Steelers average margin of loss to the Patriots has been by 13.5 points, or just shy of two touchdowns (although that margin “improves” to 9.6 at Heinz Field).

What, if anything, makes you think that this time, things will finally be different?

There you go folks.


  • 1- I am a little less sure of a victory without 50 patrolling the middle but I do still have high hopes. Butler has been saving alot of stuff for this game. We will see some things we haven’t before and I think our D will do enough to keep us in it.
    2- No matter who won that game the *Patriots* we’re planning on hitting us hard. They have no intention of letting us think we can win. I’m not sure their head coach didn’t have them lose that game to try and mess with us. Give us hope and a fake blueprint thinking we would use it. (Only kind of joking!)
    3-Yes, Yes I do.
    4- I wear my black #58 for every game. I bought it(my first ever) at Heinz Field during the off-season my only trip to the Burgh in 2011. Also my Black terrible towel is swinging for defense and my yellow Myron Cope Memorial towel for offense. (Both for special teams lol)
    5- I believe we can beat anyone if we are firing off at 75%. If we hit 100%, look out record books.
    If our defense can just keep their qb running for his life our offense will be more than capable of scoring more points. Terrorize Tommy!!
    HERE WE GO!! For Dan, For Shaz and for 7!! HERE WE GO!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  • 1. Can they coax enough consistency to beat NE? Yes. Just not this week. It’s going to take some time, imo, to make this new LB group come together. But this is the NFL, and no one has any idea what’s going to happen week to week. (Remember when losing to Jacksonville was a “bad” loss to a “bad” team?)

    2. They were coming for us no matter what. I don’t believe in the existence of “playing down” at the pro level (at least on well coached teams like Pittsburgh and New England.)

    3. Maybe the coaches do know more about their players than the media and fans….



    I do have one true habit though. I have a Terrible towel in a drawer that I was given in 1995. The problem is, every time I touch the Towel, the Steelers lose. So it sits in a drawer, dutifully awaiting the day I can use it. I accidentally bumped it before the Bears game, and well, we all know what happened. I’d like to move it to a more secure location, but I’m afraid of what would happen. Maybe when Ben decides to retire, I’ll pull it out so we get a #1 draft pick for a QB….

    5. Tom Brady owns us, not Belicheck. Also practice film owns us, and Bill owned some of that at least at one point….


    • LoL! Honestly, the tape delay thing is more of an issue of convenience than anything else. When I moved to Buenos Aires in the early 00’s, it was the first time I had to watch games (at 2:00 am on delay, with full commercials no less) by myself rather than in a sports bar.

      And the commercial interruptions REALLY stuck out.

      So often times I’ll live pause it at the beginning, while finishing a meal, or cleaning up after one etc… and then watch it that way. It only takes about a 20 or 30 minute lag to be able to watch a game and be able to fast forward through most of the commercials.

      While I don’t REALLY believe in the superstition, they are 11-2 on delay this year…..


  • 1. This team has been a second half performer all season. I used to get very frustrated with Cowher coached teams as well as early Tomlin era teams when they never seemed to be able to make an adjustment at half time or otherwise during the game. I realize as a fan that changes may be subtle and execution by the players is a significant part but the last few years, the tweaks have been much easier to see.

    An important point about last week is that the coaches and players only had 4 days to try to pull together a D (Tuesday Players off so Wednesday-Saturday walkthrough) after the loss of 50. No one was surprised they weren’t very good Sunday. We’ve seen this team not be good in other facets of the game earlier in the year but as the weeks progressed, there were notable improvements and adjustments. Its too bad to be at square one at this juncture of the season, or maybe square 5 would be more accurate, but at least the coaches and players know each other well and the coaches know what they are working with.

    This will certainly be a test for them and I expect a high scoring game, ie I don’t see them pulling a Miami without Joe Haiden and Ryan, but I do think they may be able to do enough to win. The problem is waiting to the end to see.

    2. As much as this New England living Steeler fan hates listening to people talk about the “genius” of Bill Belichick, I will give credit where credit is due and admit that his teams come ready to play and they are prepared. They will be ready to play this week and last week will be in the past. By the way, I would assume No. 1 seed in the AFC might be enough to get them up for the game regardless of the outcome of last week or any other game prior to this.

    3. With Tomlin I always assume there is a message to be sent and it isn’t just to give a snarky reply to a reporter. What I’m surprised by is that Bryant has been thin-skinned this season and I’m surprised this is the way he chooses to call him out. I’m assuming he thinks its the right message at the right time.

    4. I set in my Steeler man cave when they are on local TV but I have to go to a local bar with NFL network for the games not televised nationally. No other real routine when I am at home but when I go out to watch, I where my leather Steeler jacket and set in the same seat at the bar.

    5. As many of you can do, I can recite to you the absolute awesomeness of the 1970’s Steelers. During that time, they had “IT” which allowed them to win the close ones, even if the other team might be a little more talented. Eventually however the fear factor subsided because the Steelers of the 80’s were no longer named Green, Bradshaw, Greenwood, Swann, Stallworth………and they didn’t play like them either.

    This Patriots team is not the Patriots of the 2000’s. Their wins in the SB the last two times have been gifted to them by the opposing coaches and players who were victims of their fears. The Raven’s have gone into Gillette and beat them in the playoffs twice because they aren’t afraid of anyone. That’s what I hope to see Sunday, a team that’s not afraid. We have a lot to overcome on defense but if they believe they can do it, they have a chance on Sunday especially with this offense. Even if they lose, I think they have an even better chance of beating them in the playoffs given the time to meld this defense back into the best unit it can be over the next month.


    Liked by 1 person

  • 1. I don’t think they will have the consistency for this game, that will take time. Spence may be better this week and after having a better look at their options, Butler may be better able to come up with a better scheme, but it will still be a weakness.

    2. Teams already know how to beat the Patriots, it really isn’t something mysterious. the problem is doing your job better than they do theirs, and that is hard to do when Brady is playing. The problem with Brady is that he doesn’t have this unique skill set that gives you something you can take away (like teams tried to keep Ben in the pocket or from extending plays.) Brady’s unique skill set is just being the best there is now or maybe ever at the same skills that many QBs have. That’s just hard to beat.

    3. Bryant is good running north and south, but if he is going sideways or has to make a cut nothing good is happening. I’d consider putting Bryant and JuJu back there, a burner and a beast. Or maybe JuJu and Fitz, that may make a gunner think twice.

    4. I haven’t changed my underwear since they one their first game. My wife can’t wait for the season to be over, but I think I should carry this over until next season… Actually I don’t have any superstitions. My wife and I usually watch the games together wearing some sort of Steelers apparel with our towels waving, but not any specific shirts, hats or towels, and if we don’t wear them it does affect the outcome of the game.

    5. This game is this game. What happened in the past has no bearing on what happens in this game.


  • 1. I think the game is between our team’s offense and their defense. So, I am hoping for a competent defense.

    2. I don’t think that the Patriots were playing down to the Dolphins, Belicheck does have a losing record against Miami. They will be motivated to play the Steelers. Jay Cutler’s success in picking apart the New England defense is encouraging.

    3. Mystery to me.

    4. I mentioned this before. I always have on my lap if not in my waving right fist a threadbare family hand-me-down terrible towel. Whatever tee shirt I am wearing will go straight to the dirty clothes hamper after a loss.

    5. Tomlin’s recent addressing of the “elephant in the room” has convinced me that there will be no weakness in his preparation for this Sunday’s game and that history will have nothing to do with the outcome.


  • 1. The game will definitely be won by Offense, but one defense is going to have to be the first to make the other make a mistake. Typically, whichever defense can do that first, will win. However, I have a gut feeling that our defense is not going to be as bad as everyone thinks. We really weren’t THAT bad against Baltimore. Multiple special teams blunders and a certain type of terrible officiating that we haven’t seen all year, turned Baltimore’s 17 earned points to 38. Most of those 17 points were also gained as Baltimore took advantage of our new personnel at MLB. I expect this phase to be greatly improved after practice and film. But giving up 17 earned points is nothing to be ashamed of. Without the two phantom pass interferences called, we give up no more than 24, which is nothing to be alarmed about.

    The defense will be better but will need a stroke of luck to get some turnovers. A couple of field goals and a sprinkle of 3 and outs will be enough to win defensively.

    2. It will probably give them more resolve. This game is more important to New England than it is for us. New England hasn’t made it to a Super Bowl by going on the road in a LONG time. They NEED a bye and home field. If they lose, they could drop to the 3rd seed and potentially have to go to Jacksonville after playing a tough opponent at home. This would give Tom Brady no rest before going against the most ferocious defense in the NFL. Jaguars are better than the Dolphins defensively at every position. Patriots have too much to play for, and of course they just had their asses handed to them. I expect them to have their best game of the year.

    3. Not at all. I think he is a bit peeved that he caved into the media circus; because he had to. The media and others (Martavis Agent) played up the idea that Martavis *should be* performing better, something like an average #1 receiver numbers. As a result, Tomlin had to have a conversation with Martavis and may have promised some things. Now that it almost backfired in his face, Tomlin couldn’t resist making a comment about it to the press. Of course, since we won, nobody thinks about it. But had we lost, the media would have thrown that decision in his face and used it against him, even though the Media helped spark the decision in the FIRST place.

    4. I am superstitious about what jersey I will wear. Every season I try to wear a jersey that suits the game, like if we need defense, I go for a defensive guy. I don’t wear throwbacks unless it is a special occasion (Had to wear the Bus when he was being honored). But typically, after a few games, 1 jersey becomes lucky or cursed. This year, Big Ben is my lucky jersey and my bumble bee Bell is cursed. Bell has actually been cursed for a few years now.

    My dad is weird though. He has a chase in our family room that HAS to have two legs sitting on the rug. No more, no less. And the chase cannot be crooked. He puts three terrible towels along the sides (I guess for each river?) to complete the ritual. I usually lay on that chase too. That’s the cherry on top to make us undefeatable. We have never loss with the complete ritual, because now I live in a different state.

    5. This year. This entire year has been remarkable and full of ups and downs. So many odd things happen that just make this year special. It’s gotta be the one. When the Steelers win the Super Bowl, it is never an average year. Crazy things happen in Steelers Super Bowl seasons. Typically those things the Steelers don’t always do, like go over 90% win percentage in close games. Not to mention the ‘drama’ that we need. Furthermore, the Steelers are going to play against Brady for the 1st time with all of our offensive weapons. Not to mention it is the first time in a long time we are playing them as the team with the better record, at HOME. Previously, our teams were so young and inexperienced. They were no match for the veteran Super Bowl savviness of a Tom Brady. In earlier years, we now know Brady had our signals, or the defense was too old, slow, and misplaced as the type of football being play continued to evolve. But all of that is irrelevant, because our offense will be better than their offense for the first time. That is why we will win.


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