Steelers Rapid Fire Conclusions 2015-16: Wildcard Weekend

The Pittsburgh Steelers needed a defibrillator to rescue their playoff hopes, as did many of the fans who endured one of the most heart-stopping dueling television viewing experiences of their lives.

Fortunately the venerable Dr. Rex Ryan was on scene to perform the delicate procedure which included taking a large surgical spoon and sticking it down the throats of the New York Jets and their Harvard educated quarterback.

Front door…back door…who cares now as the Steelers got a ticket to ride, and they don’t care.

Time to hit the reset button on one of the most manic-depressive seasons in recent team history.

Steelers Nation has their NFL Powerball tickets in hand, and it’s time to let the numbers roll.

Is this where the 2015 glass slipper falls? Or will Big Ben Roethlisberger take his team on a Hall of Fame vote garnishing ride to Lombardi-ville? Hold on for a Wild ride for here are your Rapid Fire Conclusions:

The Walking Dead

Let’s be real. The Steelers should have been snuffed out last week. Instead their playoff hopes rose from the dead. If not for an Empire State Building-sized choke by the New York Jets the Steelers would have been spending this week cleaning out their lockers and speed dialing their travel agents. Zombie teams have an advantage in that they have already experienced death and grieving. At this point there is no fear as every step forward is one they never expected to take. Beware NFL. The Walkers are coming.

Who Dey?

The hardest task the Steelers faced this year was just getting into this sandbox without tripping over their own shoelaces. Now that they are in, what’s there to fear? The Cincinnati Bengals with a back-up quarterback? The Denver Broncos with a quarterback controversy? The New England Patriots with an ailing quarterback? The Kansas City Chiefs with a vanilla quarterback? No…there are no big, hairy audacious teams in the AFC this year. Every team has a bit of a limp to them. The Steelers are not a dominant team by any measure, but they have as good a chance as any. It’s all about having the will to win.

Martavelous Bryant

Martavis Bryant’s best game of the year was actually during the preseason…just days after it was announced he would be suspended for a bad case of Gangha-itis. He burst out of the smoke that day to flash a brilliance that had respected football minds calling him the next Randy Moss. Now he’s back under the media heat lamp with bus axle grease on his face after his quarterback called him out. Expect Martavis to respond with one of his best performances of his young career as Big Ben will make nice-nice by giving him enough looks to make Antonio Brown jealous.

The Other Freak

A big, tall receiver with freakish speed who can stretch the field in Cincinnati? It’s not just Bryant. You could easily be talking about Darrius Heyward-Bey who reminded Big Ben in Cleveland that he knew how to go deep. And has there been a better example of the quintessential Steelers teammate? Here is a former top ten NFL draft pick who is cheerfully blocking middle linebackers and charging safeties. Teams win championships because of super stars…and players like DHB.

Now…That’s Entertainment

Antonio Brown gets it. He is just smarter than the rest. While so many other players look at their NFL experience as just another day at the office or merely a launching pad to their future career as a car dealership owner, Brown realizes it’s so much more. For him it’s a trip to Disneyland each Sunday. The Golden Ticket to visit Willie Wonk and the Chocolate Factory. With his world class smile beaming, Brown exudes the joy of the sport. And not in some, let’s go to Vegas, show me the money, self-aggrandizing form. The man loves to train. He lives to compete. He’s a one-man Broadway show. He is what the NFL someday longs to be. There have been tough guys who have worn the Black and Gold. There have been Hall of Fame players who have represented the pride of Pittsburgh. But has there ever been a greater all-around entertainer for the fans than Downtown Antonio Brown?

The French Guy  

Too many people are worrying about the déjà vu angle of heading into the Wildcard round without a starting running back. No. He isn’t Le’Veon Bell. Nor DeAngelo Williams. But, don’t be surprised if Fitzgerald Toussaint surprises with enough yards to keep the Bengals honest. He is a patient runner with decent power and a short burst much in the mold of the players he’s replacing.

Dissing Deebo

In 2008, James Harrison became the only player in NFL History to win the Defensive Player of the Year award as an undrafted free agent. The following year he had 79 combined tackles, 10 sacks, 2 passes defended and had similar stats the next season in 2010 as well. While many ungrateful fans described his play this year as being washed up, Harrison ended up with 40 combined tackles, 5 sacks, 4 passes defended and 1 interception. In other words, if you doubled his stats to compensate for him having to share the position with Jarvis Jones, Harrison’s performance was on par with how he played five or six years ago. He remains one of the best at holding the edge in the league, and the pressure he consistently provided helped contribute to the team’s success in total sacks. His interception last week against the Browns not only reminded some of his great Super Bowl feat…but it may have saved this season. Deebo done? Nah. He’ll let you know.

Under Pressure

The worst thing the Steelers defense can do against the Bengals is bleed slowly. Allowing eight and nine minute drives will be a recipe for a Steelers loss. If the defense is going to fail, it should get it over quickly so Big Ben and his powerful offense can get back on the field. Just another reason why Keith Butler needs to throw all caution to the wind. Have your players press, and compete. It will be all right. You’ve got Number 7 playing safety. Just need to keep him on the field.

Tomlinator

At this point, the Steelers have at least broken even with what they accomplished last year. Coach Mike Tomlin made several decisions this season which have rattled the team’s faithful but he and his coaches now has the team poised for the bonus rounds. Here’s how the Tomlinator will score the results:

Wildcard Victory = Making progress. Steelers Nation is grateful for extending the season at least two more weeks.

Divisional Victory = Now we’re taking the team in a positive direction! It’s been years since we’ve been able to heckle our office mates about Steelers greatness.

AFC Championship = Mike Tomlin for President! Or at least time for a contract extension.

Super Bowl Victory = We were wrong all along. You are a Hall of Famer. Go ahead and sign Antwon Blake to that 5 year, $50 million contract and we promise not to bat an eye.

The Bar Fight

Forget about the cheap shots. The glares and the late hits. Or even Vonataze Burfict crossing the fifty yard line during warmups…and James Harrison giving him the streaking fan treatment. This game is simple. It’s Ben Roethlisberger against one of the toughest and most talented defenses in the league. It’s Head and Shoulders time for Big Ben. Can he use his head and make good decisions, avoiding the bad mistakes he’s made the past few weeks? And when it comes down to the end of the game, can he carry this team on his shoulders? The answer here is “Yes”. It’s homecoming time. Nobody beats Ohio like Ben Roethlisberger.

About the Author

Michael K. Reynolds

Longtime Pittsburgh Steelers fanatic and author of the acclaimed Heirs of
Ireland series. MichaelKReynolds.com

  • Citizen James

    One vote for “Lombardi-ville”

    Please Burfict, visit Suplex City.

  • Steel PAul

    Ya know it’s such a slippery slope. Had this team NOT made the playoffs this year, I actually believe Tomlin would have needed to make the playoffs next season to keep his job. Think about that..

    Now he’s safe, for the time being, and possibly the worst player to ever play the CB position in the NFL starts for a playoff team. I guess we’ll see how that works out.

  • Fred Weiner

    Good Ben or Bad Ben? Down to that. Our Mr Reynolds comes down on the Good Ben from Ohio side. I get that, and, due to the incurable, irritating fandom that I suffer, would hope that he’s right. I would welcome the pleasure of a win.

    A take I ascribe too, is Ben has traces of post-concussive trauma, mostly from that MC accident. Head hit the windshield hard and fast enough to smash it. Of all the current great QBs, he seems to make the most and most often really “dumb” mistakes, where, this story says, his brain just drops out of focus.