It’s Monday and I am pacing around pondering the question. There is no doubt that yesterday’s victory was a very important accomplishment. The Pittsburgh Steelers sit alone atop of the AFC North. Still nine more games but the Green Bay Packers lost Aaron Rogers and the Baltimore Ravens continue to have injury woes making the second half of the season significantly easier. The Black & Gold was moving the ball of offense the defense shut the Cincinnati Bengals out in the 2nd half. Chris Boswell was a perfect 5 for 5 on field goals. The end of this game was never seriously in doubt with the Steelers in the Victory formation at the 2-minute warning. Yet, much like when my kids would bring home an A on their report card; I would ask why isn’t it an A+?
The Steelers had their first opening drive for a touchdown in quite some time. JuJu Smith-Shuster was wide open for another touchdown on their 3rd drive of the game. Andy Dalton, the “Red Rifle” or as I like to call him, the “Red Ryder BB Gun”, managed a couple touchdowns himself to make it a 14-14 game early in the 2nd quarter. But then, the Steelers just seemed to physically dominate. Even Le’Veon Bell was putting a hurt on people. As Darth Blount 47 commented on the Steelers Depot 1st half discussion thread, “That stiff arm hurt ME!!!!!!!!!” A couple promising drives ended in field goals. One due to failing to convert on 3rd and 1; the second because we ran out of time after running with 12 seconds left in the half. Still it was 20-14 but a little too close for comfort.
The second half saw the Bengals inexplicably failing to use Joe Mixon on a running play after he had gained 48 yards in the first half. I guess Marvin Lewis decided to win this game on the arm of the Red Ryder BB Gun. The Bengals also inexplicably only targeted A.J. Green six times all game. One of those targets ended up bouncing off his back into Joe Haden’s grasp. William Gay added another after a great effort by Sean Davis. Apparently, the Bengals playing Renegade at practice to prepare for the game did not pay off. Bud Dupree started with a huge pressure that Tyson Alualu finished by sacking Dalton. Dupree added his own sack to make it 4th and 34. I listen to Bill Hillgrove, Tunch Ilkin & Craig Wolfley on Steelers Nation Radio but this morning watched it again and after hearing the accolades of Tony Romo’s analysis. I must agree with commenter Rob who stated on the 2nd half discussion thread that, ” … Romo has been incredible so far this season. Already my favorite color commentator.”
A high school classmate of mine, Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer opined in a column the “Pittsburgh wants to take it to you physically, so you fall apart mentally.” Mission accomplished as evinced by the Red Ryder BB Gun throwing the ball out of bounds on a 4th and 2 with the game still within reach. Poor Paul, he has covered the Bengals since 1994. But Paul is rich too; and knows that there is much more to life than sports. He is a fine writer and I highly recommend his book: An Uncomplicated Life: A Father’s Memoir of His Exceptional Daughter. An account of his daughter Jillian who has Down Syndrome.
So why the angst? After all the big off field drama coming into the game was the debate on whether Mike Mitchell was as dirty as Vontaze Burfict. That seems to have been put to bed for now after a game that had only six penalties. Mitchell had two clean tackles and Burfict was neutralized with just a lazy kick at Roosevelt Nix’s head after the whistle early in the game. (Nix could be seen with Burfict several times during the game. Mitchell behaved, and Burfict demonstrated his thuggery meek as it was. But a story that had been put to bed earlier had the blankets ripped off. Martavis Bryant has assured Steelers Nation that he was not looking to be traded. No less than Art Rooney II assured us the Steelers are not looking to trade him.
Now we have the Instagram post where Martavis expresses that “he needs to get his” and that he is better than JuJu. ESPN says a source claims that Martavis, indeed, does want to be traded. I am not sure what to make of all this. I liked seeing Martavis block downfield on Bell’s stiff-arm play. I do want him to be hungry for the ball. I hate seeing the social media that appear to counter what he had said in interviews. Is it an emotional outburst or is it a calculated move by a dispassionate agent that has no allegiance to the team only to his client’s bottom line? I really don’t know, but my most optimistic view is that all of this has a much greater impact on Steelers fans than it does with his teammates in the locker room. Maybe this will be no more than Antonio Brown throwing a Gatorade jug. Had he scored on the short play action pass near the goal line. Or if he had caught the long play action pass that he appeared to have a hard time tracking all of this would probably be moot. I’m not ready to give up on him just yet until I know more … as I type this a message pops up on the screen – Bouchette: Martavis Bryant Missed Team Meetings, ‘Called In Sick’ Yoi!
Back-up a couple paragraphs; I mentioned Paul Daugherty and being rich with the knowledge that there is much more to life than sports. I hope Martavis Bryant is okay. I am not going to hate on him or demand he be traded. I want to understand what is going on. Perhaps a change is needed and if so; so be it. I just want to make sure he is okay first. I have faith that the Steelers organization feels the same way; although they are a business first. After all, the Steelers mission statement as stated in Dan Rooney’s book is: “The mission of the Pittsburgh Steelers Football Club is to represent Pittsburgh in the National Football League, primarily by winning the Championship of Professional Football.”
If Martavis is deemed to be an integral ingredient to achieving that goal this season; something needs to be worked out. I have faith that the organization will exhaust those possibilities before moving on. This is not the only cause for concern. Chris Boswell is kicking way too many field goals when he should be kicking extra points. Whether it is game plan or execution – something is not working in the red zone and on short yardage plays. Last couple games fans complained there was no play action. Steelers try play action and come up short. Earlier in season, complaints that Steelers were not running the ball when close to the goal line. Try running in close and it does not work. Sunday the defense did not wilt in the 4th quarter. Hope that becomes a trend; followed by the offense scoring touchdowns in the red zone.
If this roster stays healthy and mentally strong; if the defense and offense play to its potential; this can be a special team. I will celebrate the wins but continue to express concern … well because I’m just an average Steelers fan and that is what we do.
Defensive Captain Cameron Heyward was on the Steelers Unite Weekly Huddle. He mentioned that Gary Clark Jr. was one of his favorite sounds. Here is Bright Lights . I was never much into heavy metal; but did listen to Black Sabbath back in the day. For Martavis hoping you stay in the Iron City and say to any naysayers who will pass him there and don’t even care: , I am Iron Man and vengeance will be mine.