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.
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.
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.
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.