Steelers Spin: Is This The Real Thing?

A scoreboard pleasing win by the Pittsburgh Steelers by a tally of 26-9 over the Minnesota Vikings has the Black and Gold fandom abuzz leading into this Sunday’s match against the Chicago Bears.

Is this the real thing? Because there ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby.

Let’s face it. It’s been about half of QB Ben Roethlisberger’s career since the Steelers looked like the real thing. It was February 11, 2011 when several anemic pass attempts by Big Ben ended any hopes the team had in defeating the Green Bay Packers in the waning moments of the game.

Since then–as a people noted for unreasonable expectations and an extraordinary lack of patience–we have endured talk about “reloading rather than rebuilding”, a series of disappointing draft picks and an extreme frustration in the fact our should-be-galactica offense falls short because of long tokes, tendons broke and a page that players and coaches seem to not be able to share.

But is this the real thing now?

Let’s get to sifting through fact and fiction in this week’s edition of the Spin:

All Wins Are Created Equal?

All wins are created equal. It’s just that some are more equal than others. Famous coach and farmer George Orwell once postulated this line of reasoning with his tongue in cheek and it remains as ludicrous today as it was back in 1984. A 2-0 record against the Cleveland Browns and the Case Keenum-led Minnesota Vikings is the same as a clean sweep against the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons? C’mon folks, that’s participation trophy nonsense.

Even if you beat both Tom Brady and Matt Ryan in your first couple of games, it doesn’t mean you’re an ungrateful, treacherous fan if you criticize an aspect of the performance. Despite being 2-0, the Steelers offense is nowhere near its potential and that is a fair critique, even as you vigorously wave your pom-poms in celebration of the win.

Groundhog Day

So, why do ungrateful, treacherous fans criticize anything after a win? I mean, shouldn’t we just shut up and twirl our Terrible Towels? It’s because we’ve seen this movie before. The issues that the Steelers are struggling with early on are the same ones that are going to cause them to exit unceremoniously in critical games leading up to the playoffs, or during the postseason. The plain truth is that if you leave points on the table in the first half, it will haunt you in the second half. Efficiency and excellence matters and it’s the stuff of champions.

If you’re going to beat the elite teams, you need to blow away the mediocre ones. But it’s early, you say. The team will continually improve during the season. It’s better to peak at the end. Really? What do you think every other team in the NFL will be doing? Just chilling in the freezer, while the Steelers hone their craft? Do you think those other teams are strategizing on how they will be able to peak at the beginning of the season and sputter towards the end? No, you don’t judge a team by its future forecast.

Championship seasons are not made by peering hopefully into a crystal ball. They are forged, typically, by one dominant performance after another. You judge teams on the field of play. Every minute, every play. The Steelers are on a roll. 3-1 in the preseason, and 2-0 to start the real season. This team looks more prepared for early season battle than any of the squads coached by Mike Tomlin in the last seven years. But this offense needs to find itself…and quickly. There will be teams in the upcoming schedule that will greatly challenge the Steelers defense…but it shouldn’t matter. This offense should be able to win the day…and do so every day.

Stupid Fans

The condescension of Steelers fans seems to be an ongoing strategy by the “media elite”. They always seem to know so much more than the “general fan sentiment”. But here’s a question…when has Steelers Nation really been wrong? I mean, yes, you have those on the fringe who want to fire everybody after every loss, but that’s not the voice of Steelers Nation.

Many of the fans who make it through to the radio talk shows don’t represent us either. Those often are guys with too much time on their hands who like to hear their own voice. The Steelers have one of the most shrewd, savvy fan bases of any in all of sports. If there is a grumble…it’s a knowledgeable one and shouldn’t be so easily dismissed as the collective chattering of morons.

92 Reasons

Speaking of stupid fans…we would like to see James Harrison, please. Why isn’t James making it onto the field? He remains the team’s best run stopper on the edge, and against the Bears that will be helpful. He looked dominant when he was on the field during the preseason. Then, of course, there is this: We like to see him play. More James, please.

Winning What They Should

There is one clear thing to celebrate with the Steelers 2-0 start. They are winning the games they should. The Browns are the Browns and the Vikings aren’t half the team they can be with Sam Bradford on the sidelines. The game against the Chicago Bears fits in this mold as well. They haven’t taken on any behemoths, but if Tomlin can lead his team to a 3-0 start against three teams they SHOULD beat, this will be a major improvement over seasons in the past. If the Steelers can avoid having to utter post-game cliches like “on any given Sunday” or “the Bears are getting a paycheck too”, and can remain undefeated, then it is genuinely time to get excited about this team.

Preseason Comes Lately

For many of the Steelers players like Big Ben and RB Le’Veon Bell, their little use or complete absence during the preseason has meant they’ve needed to use these initial regular season games as their preseason tune-up. Thank goodness the schedule has been light. In truth, the real season for the Steelers begins after the Bye week November 9th. Because of the oddities of the scheduling process the team plays a remarkable seven of their last eight games against AFC opponents.

Their last five of seven games will be home games. Two of those games will be against the New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers which could foreshadow both a potential AFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl.

Don’t Feed The Bears

The Steelers will be facing a Bears team that is weak on offense even when their team is fully healthy. When you consider that their star running back Jordan Howard has a bum shoulder, and several of their receivers are either on injured reserve or partially there, this should be one of those games where the Steelers display their class. This should be another showcase performance by the Steelers rising defense, and it’s a great opportunity for the Steelers offense to finally start using more than four cylinders.

Will it be a big win? Or will they win just barely? Apparently, there are quite a few folks who don’t care how the win comes, but the Spin is hoping the offense and the entire team will begin to truly show it is championship grade.

About the Author

Michael K. Reynolds

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

  • Joseph Shaw

    Michael, just need to point out: props on the Orwell quote…but that’s “Animal Farm,” not “Nineteen Eighty-Four.”

  • Michael Mosgrove

    i would love for it to be a blowout. i dont see it happening though. 25-23 since 2012 against teams tat are sub 500 at that time.

  • derp_diggler

    While I agree in theory with the basis of this article, a great showing in one game does not guarantee future successes. We only need to look back to last year when they trounced the Redskins in the first game of the year but then looked like a JV squad two games later against the Eagles. That said I’d still like to see the offense live up to it’s potential a few times before the really tough games start. If nothing else it’s entertaining!

  • Yes…that’s why I called him “a farmer’. I guess I got carried away with trying to squeeze in both classic references. See…I told you Steelers fans were brilliant.

  • Hagen Rinde

    there will be no blowout but a game i can’t barely stand which will turn out to be “so so” after rewatching. Like every other game, lol..

  • Steeler Nation!

    Yeah if we are to have a great explosive offense, they should look that way more often than not. All offenses will have off days. Defense should always travel well. But if we’re going to have the firepower required to win shootouts vs Pats, Raiders, Falcons type offenses, we need to start clicking consistently. And it starts with the run game. Ben and the Passing game will be fine.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Well spoken MKR. I think you are absolutely 100% correct here and even our own Dave and Dave have been quick to scoff at certain arguments they disagree with and it isn’t a great look during those times and I have said as much.

    And David Todd takes a similar approach to you. Even if the result is good you can always look to improve the process and make sure you are getting it right to help ensure future success.

    Have you gotten that podcast invite yet? Lol

  • Lambert58

    It was actually Feb. 6, but who’s counting. 😉

  • Feb 11 was when I started emerging from my depression coma.

  • SteelersGeek4Lyfe

    Each win so far has been highly dependent on one star player (Antonio Brown vs the Browns, Martavis Bryant vs the Vikings) dragging an otherwise sputtering offense along while an opportunistic defense takes advantage of either a rookie quarterback in his first start and Case Keenum behind a swiss cheese offensive line… not exactly staggering performances. They haven’t had any horrendous slip-ups that could injure their postseason positioning down the line, but this offense has to get it’s s*** together. In my opinion, they have yet to play up to their talent level and demonstrate their elite potential.

  • Jacob

    Condensation or condescension?

  • Both

  • DSG

    This is a very good article and i agree. If these teams werent weak we might not be 2-0. Here is my question, when has the offense ever lived up to its potential? It seems there is always an excuse for why they don’t perform. I completey agree that elite offensive teams leave few points on the board and put teams away when given the chance. This offense hasn’t done that yet but luckily so far, as has been the case in the past, the defense is carrying this team.

  • mokhkw

    Agree with everything you said and especially glad to see the first 3 points mentioned.

    Having watched about half the games from the first 2 weeks I have to conclude that most of the other teams aren’t playing to expectations either, tbh some of the 2-0 teams have been as inconsistent as some of the 0-2 teams and at this stage I’m can’t really pick the legit teams from the pretenders.

    I think our Offense will round into shape as players like Bryant & Bell get into game shape and the rookies start to contribute more, the X factor is Ben on the road and whether he gets onto his annual hot-streak after the Bye week. If we can get to 6-2 without Ben playing at his best or getting injured then we will be in great shape imo.

    The Defense is much trickier to work out atm, there is a definite lack of quality QBs in the games before the Bye ( Smith & Stafford being the 2 real tests imo) and I think we will have to wait until after the Bye to find out exactly how good they are.

    I’ve been encouraged by the STs but again we have to wait until we face some better ST units.

    Most exciting part for me has been watching the 2 “bloodline” players playing on the same side of the D. Heyward & Watt have all the signs of being a dominant tandem on the right side ( The Bloodside?) and if Artie Burns can be consistent he has the ball skills to take advantage of the pressure on the QB. Even better news is seeing Chickillo emerge on the other side who along with Tuitt & Dupree could be just as good.

    I’m actually happy not seeing Debo atm, as fit as he is any player aged nearly 40 who isn’t a QB, K or P needs to be managed correctly and as we have seen with Watt it only takes an injury for him to be let loose again (which he will be this weekend I’m sure).

    What did concern me was an apparent lack of communication to Debo about his playing time. No excuse for that and I’m sure it partly led to the Blount incident a few years back. George Allen said to “always tell them why” when it comes to players getting promoted or demoted and he was known for handling veteran players in the right way.

  • Lambert58

    Ah ok. 🙂 Feb. 11 is my birthday and I knew it wasn’t on my birthday.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    I’m excited about being 2-0 with our defense and ST units being major factors while the offense finds its way instead of it being the other way around because once the offense gets going the the whole team will gel and be a force to reckon with facing the pats,k.c.,and GB

  • Alan Tman

    The wins are in no way equal, but at the same time players can only get hyped for so many games. We are notorious slow starters, so I’m going with Tomlin’s logic. It’s an awesome thing that we can get better and win at the same time.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    It’s enjoyable to read your articles even after the game, because so much rings true, especially the latest ‘should win’ loss.

    I saw 92 once, on a replay, dropping in coverage. And the run D was weak, clearly. *sigh*

  • And here is proof that I read all of the comments…even after the game. I always appreciate your words SRP.