Category Archives: 5 Smoldering Questions

The Return of the Hombre: 5 Smoldering Questions on the Pittsburgh Steelers

FD31B63C-9465-422A-8750-E29B80695AE1By Hombre de Acero

After getting humiliated at home by the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Pittsburgh Steelers waltzed into the living room of the Kansas City Chiefs and promptly proceeded to thoroughly dominate the NFL’s hottest team, best quarterback and top rusher for 3 and a half quarters. The Steelers of course defeated the Kansas City Chiefs, improving to 4-2 and they head back home to face the Cincinnati Bengals. But before this corner of Steelers Nation can focus on this latest AFC North show down, we first must answer these 5 Smoldering Question on the Steelers.

1. Carlos, an Argentine Steelers fan who lives above, commented to me that the NFL is so unpredictable that he’s stopped betting on games (and believe me, Carlos not betting is a big deal.) Six games into 2017, the Steelers are far from the only team to appear schizophrenic. To what do you attribute the NFL’s flirtation with manic depression, and is what’s happening in Pittsburgh just an extension of the general trend or is there something unique in the Steel City?

2. After standing on the sidelines for much of the season—on the Sundays he was lucky enough to dress—James Harrison entered the game on the final drive, and dropped Alex Smith on the penultimate play.

While T.J. Watt has done everything you could ask of a rookie, do you think James Harrison has done enough to warrant more playing time at Watt’s expense?

3. So Martavis Bryant requested a trade two weeks ago, as various outlets have confirmed, only to have Bryant face the cameras and tell us how happy he is in Pittsburgh. It says here that Bryant isn’t going anywhere, but if you’re Kevin Colbert, what offer tempts you?

4. The Pittsburgh defense currently leads the league in pass defense. This is partially due to the defensive line, but is certainly also due to the defensive backs. Curiously, the coaches haven’t changed and the scheme hasn’t changed—Pittsburgh still plays less man coverage than any team in the league, as per Pro Football Focus, in an article published yesterday. So why this sudden competence?

5. Count yours truly as one who openly suggested that Ben Roethlisberger was too dependent on Antonio Brown, so much that the analogy of Neil O’Donnell to Eric Green was rumbling around my head (oh how I date myself.) Makes sense.

Six weeks into the season Ben + Brown is the offense’s only consistent element.

That’s a common perception in Steelers Nation, but the numbers tell an interesting story.

Thus far this year, Brown has been Ben’s target 33% of the time, caught 35% of his passes, accounted for 46% of the team’s receiving yards and has 64.9% catch rate.

In 2015, when he was competing with Heath Miller, Markus Wheaton, Darrius Heyward Bey and Bryant, Brown was the Steeler’s quarterback’s target 33% of the time, caught 34% of the team’s receptions and accounted for 38% of the team’s receiving yards with a 70.5% catch rate.


…Is the Steelers offense, or perhaps Pittsburgh’s passing game, too dependent on Ben getting the ball to Brown?

5 Smoldering Questions on the Pittsburgh Steelers, Week 6

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Hombre de Acero is still wandering the world, so you all are going to have to make do with more Spluttering Questions this week. Not but what the questions would be fairly spluttery anyhow after the Massacre at Heinz Field. So without further ado:

1. Anybody with a smartphone and the ability to look up a few stats was aware that the Jaguars, while possessing what Ike Taylor declared two weeks ago was the best corner tandem in the league, were not very impressive against the run. That would lead simple folk like some of us to think the Steelers would, well, run the ball. Le’Veon Bell had fifteen carries. Why do you think this is? No profanity, please…

2. James Harrison was a supposedly unhealthy scratch in Baltimore. He was a healthy scratch in Pittsburgh. How soon do you expect to see him on the field, and how mad do you think he will be?

3. Mike Tomlin is not known for wasting challenges. When he does challenge a play he usually wins. Neither challenge last Sunday looked at all promising, and indeed all he did was lose 1/3 of his timeouts. Why do you think he challenged those plays, particularly the second one? Was it sheer desperation, or something more rational?

4. Time to look ahead to next Sunday, when a brighter day will dawn. Except for the fact that the Steelers have to travel to the noisiest stadium in the NFL and play the only remaining undefeated team, on national television. Is there anything you can think of which gives you any hope for a happier outcome than last week?

And finally, with apologies to Hombre:

5. You get a phone call with a 412 area code. You pick it up and are asked to hold for Coach Tomlin. He says hello and then gives you 60 seconds to tell him one thing you would do to improve the offense. He notes that just saying “run the damn ball” is not helpful. Could you give him one specific tweak, either in personnel or scheme, which doesn’t involve anyone not currently on the team or staff?

I completely understand if you’re too depressed to answer these. As you can tell, I’m not over that game either. But if you can bring yourself to pick up your No. 2 pencil, I would be very interested to hear what you have to say. Otherwise, class dismissed…

5 Smoldering Questions on the Pittsburgh Steelers: Week 5

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Once again Hombre de Acero is pottering around the globe, with no consideration whatsoever for the needs of this little corner of Steeler Nation. I may have to cut his salary in half. (Although it wouldn’t make much difference, however much I cut it down.) But seriously, Hombre, be safe and come back with a brain bursting with awesome questions! In the meantime you all will have to make do with 5 Spluttering Questions on last week’s triumph in the Charm City and next week’s tilt with the Jaguars. I am at least going to avoid the low-hanging fruit, so thus there will be nothing about Ben, Bell, or AB:

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5 Smoldering Questions on the Pittsburgh Steelers: Week 3

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By Hombre de Acero

The Pittsburgh’s 2017 home opener saw the Steelers dismantle the Vikings to the tune of 26-9. Yet despite the 2-0 record, much of Steelers Nation is wanting more, particularly from the offense. This week’s opponent brings the men in Black and Gold to Chicago, where they’ve only won once in 13 tries.

But before we can see whether the Steelers can improve on their fortunes in the Windy City, this corner of Steelers Nation must resolve these 5 Smoldering Questions on the Steelers.

1. You could argue the point, but the Steelers post-Super Bowl XLV rebuilding effort hit rock bottom on September 29th in London against the Minnesota Vikings in a loss that dropped them to 0-4.

In looking at all that’s happened since then, the changes on both sides of the ball appear to be mirror images of each other.

There were only three or four of the starters on offense from that dreadful day in London at Heinz Field last Sunday, while only 3 players on defense from the ’13 team remained for Sunday’s “Rematch.”

Which changes do you feel have made the most impact in altering the trajectory of the team between then, now and looking forward to the future?

2. When T.J. Watt went out, Anthony Chickillo stayed in while James Harrison sat on the bench. Mike Tomlin explained the move by wishing to stay with a “hot hand.” What do you think of this decision and do you think it is appropriate to read anything into it?

3. FOX’s commentating team pointed out that Antonio Brown has never had a 100 yard game against a Mike Zimmer-coached defense, a period which covers Steelers offenses of varying potencies.

Again against the Vikings, Antonio Brown was held below the century mark.

What’s going on?

4. Danny Smith has taken a lot of heat in recent years, some of it fair and some of it unfair. In the first two weeks of the season, his special teams have come up with big plays in the form of a blocked punt and a successful stop of a fake punt attempt.

Yet against the Vikings the penalties cost the special teams a shot at a 2 point conversion and turned a field goal situation into a punt (which Danny Smith’s teams downed at the one – something we’ve not seen a lot of.)

So, with 1/8th of the season complete, is your Steelers Special Teams cup half full or half empty?

5. As Homer observed in his game analysis of the Vikings win:

“We are so damned spoiled that the Steelers can win by 17 points against a very good team with one of the best defenses in the game, and we still carp and moan like the worst bunch of yinzers.”

While yours truly agrees with Homer’s criticism of the much of the fan base, the Steelers offense has seemed to be stuck in a low gear, given the talent (and salary cap space) the team has invested in it.

What type of effort against Chicago will be necessary to stop the carping?

You know the drill. Use only Number 2 dark pencils, and we strongly caution against using Faber Castels. You must show work to get full credit, and looking at your neighbor’s paper is strongly encouraged.

5 Smoldering Questions on the Pittsburgh Steelers, Week 2

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By Not-Hombre de Acero

Hombre is off pottering around the world somewhere, and thus the Smoldering Mantle falls on my shoulders this week. It’s a pretty hot place to be. So let’s get this started:

1. One could scarcely even ask this question in an ordinary year, but with the big flurry of horse-trading in which the Steelers engaged just prior to the season, it’s reasonable to ponder this. After watching last Sunday’s game, if you could upgrade any one player with a modest free-agent signing, who (or which position) would it be? [For the purposes of this question we’ll assume such a player would be available to be signed.]

2. And, in a similar vein, from what you’ve seen so far, do you think the trades/signings the Steelers made just prior to the season are going to be a success? Specifically, do you prefer Haden to Cockrell, McDonald to David Johnson (since that was the effective result,) and Wilcox to, I suppose, Golden?

3. I’ve heard theories as to why the offensive line seemed to be quite effective in pass protection but not in run blocking last Sunday, including it being a silent conspiracy to punish Bell for missing training camp. Do you have any thoughts on this?

4. A number of people have been upset about the massive number of penalties the Steelers took in the first game. Do you think this was due to any of the things I’ve heard expressed, as listed?

A. Mike Tomlin runs an undisciplined team.

B. Referee bias

C. Just another problem with Le’Veon Bell’s holdout (although it wasn’t technically a holdout)

D. A result of the cutting of padded practices and meaningful pre-season games (if I may be allowed to posit the latter.)

E. Other (Please elucidate.)

5. When looking at the league-wide scores in Week 1, it struck me how few really close games there were. There were only two decided by 3 points—Steelers @ Browns and Chargers @ Broncos—and only one other decided by less than a touchdown (Falcons @ Bears.) The average difference was 10 and a half points, with the high being Colts @ Rams (in which the Rams won by 37 points. Really!)

And, curiously, four of the six games decided by more than two touchdowns were a win by the visiting team. Including, of course, the Chiefs embarrassing the Patriots. (That was unnecessary but oh so satisfying to point out…)

So do you find it worrisome that the Steelers were on the bottom end of this scale against the Browns? Or do you think it’s a matter of what Mike Tomlin calls September football?

Bonus question: Since I’m really into the trade questions, here’s a more-than-usually frivolous one—if you could trade Antonio Brown for the entire 70s Steel Curtain defensive front, just for this year, would you do it, and why or why not? If so, how would you deal with the penalties they would certainly incur?

Five Smoldering Questions on the Pittsburgh Steelers: Week 1


By Hombre de Acero

Well, fellow citizens of Steelers Nation, the 2017 season is almost here. By the time the Pittsburgh Steelers kick off against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, 232 days will have passed since their (latest) defeat at the hands of the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship.

In that time, Ben Roethlisberger has mused about retirement, Antonio Brown has become the NFL’s highest paid wide receiver, redoubtable understudies who helped return this team to the playoffs, namely Cody Wallace and DeAngelo Williams, have seemingly begun their “Life’s Work,” and of course the Pittsburgh Steelers have lost Dan Rooney.

A lot has been done, and even more has been said, but before Pittsburgh can kickoff against Cleveland this corner of Steelers Nation still first resolve these 5 Smoldering Questions on the 2017 Steelers.

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5 Smoldering Questions on the Dan Rooney and the 2017 Draft

1934 team

From lovable losers to Super Bowl champions

The 2017 off season has been an eventful one as Steelers Nation said good bye to Dan Rooney while welcoming the 2017 NFL Draft class. And while the “real” off season will begin soon (you know, the dead period where it gets hard to find, much less make, news articles), there’s still plenty of material here for us to wrestle with these 5 Smoldering Questions on Dan Rooney and the Draft. Read more

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