Steelers Spin: Remembrance Of Things Past

After the Jacksonville Jaguars mauled the Pittsburgh Steelers by a score of 30-9 in front of a Black and Gold home crowd growing increasingly restless, questions are beginning to surface about team’s quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Questions like: “Dude, did you really just throw the ball to the other guys FIVE TIMES?”

Coaches and fanboys alike are circling the wagons around the local legendary passer, with Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley trying to publicly convince fans that the big fellow is playing better than ever.

Even Big Ben is in defense mode as he responded to criticism this week by saying, “I don’t question myself.”

Why would he need to, with millions others volunteering to handle the task for him?

Is this the beginning of the end of Roethlisberger’s reign in Pittsburgh? Are the Steelers Super Bowl hopes already doomed? These histrionics and more to be addressed in this week’s Spin.

Readying The Panic Button

The Steelers are a respectable 3-2 and share first place in the AFC North. So what me worry, right? Well…that depends on whether your sights are set on barely squeaking into the playoffs this year or if you were hoping this would be a triumphant return to Lombardi glory for the Steelers. The members of the “It’s Always Sunny Society” would argue it’s way too early to be concerned, and that all that matters is that the team has momentum going into the playoffs. But the reality is the vast, vast majority of Super Bowl winners since the league went to a 16-game schedule in 1978 had a regular season record boasting at least 12 wins. League parity has changed all that, you say? Actually, the past four Super Bowl winners have had a dozen or more victories in the regular season. The proven formula for Super Bowl success is to be dominant throughout the entire regular season. No, it’s not time to hit any panic buttons, but the Steelers inconsistent play is beginning to dent preseason hopes that they’d be a truly elite team this year.

Undefeated Season

The most unpleasant lingering vision of last week’s gag-inducing loss was RB Leonard Fournette running 90 yards towards pay-dirt as the Steelers safety Sean Davis enjoyed a Sunday trot behind him. But that was nothing compared to the utter incompetence of the Steelers offense. With the possible exception of the Steelers loss to the Chicago Bears, it could be argued the team’s defense has outplayed their much more famous teammates on offense for each of the games this year. Time and time again, it’s been the defense that has kept the Steelers in games, including against the Jaguars. On my scorecard the tally is 5-0. Who would have thunk it?

Give The Man A Helmet

Despite the relative rise of the defense this year, Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler still has yet to earn the full admiration of Steelers fans. Perhaps, it because of decisions like making LB James Harrison a healthy scratch on game days. The problem with having James in street clothes is that he can’t get into the huddle and slap some helmets. Never mind that he’s the team’s best player in protecting the edge, do you really think the Steelers would have been run over repeatedly by Jordan Howard and Fournette if Harrison was in the huddle glaring his teammates down? It’s important to give significant time to the young players on the team, but it’s a remarkable failure by the coaches to so grossly devalue Harrison’s leadership contributions on the field.

Bottle of Wine

So what exactly is wrong with Big Ben? Is it a loss of physical skills as many claim? Nah. Ain’t nothing wrong with that arm. Is it that he’s lost too much of his mobility? Ummm…have you ever seen Tom Brady run? Roethlisberger certainly isn’t as nimble as he once was, but he’s still stronger and more agile than half of the quarterbacks in the league. So what is it? What it seems is that the bottle of wine isn’t improving with age. He just doesn’t seem to have the command of the field as the elite quarterbacks in prior generations had when they reached his age. Maybe it’s like John Maxwell once said. In most cases, wisdom accompanies age. But sometimes age arrives alone. I don’t remember Ben ever being described by his coaches as a dedicated student of the game and that career-long approach may have caught up with him in his later years.

Finishing Well

In Pittsburgh, you’ll be hard pressed to find someone walking down the street that doesn’t believe with absolute certainty that Big Ben is a sure fire, first ballot Hall of Famer. The problem is that Steelers Nation is not who gets to vote him into a gold jacket five years after he retires. The reality is he has not been the most liked NFL player in the league. That shouldn’t matter, but it does. Whether he (or the Pittsburgh fanbase) likes it or not, he will be remembered for the last few years of his career. It’s almost been a decade since he won his last Super Bowl. There will be a fair argument that he should have done more with the offensive weapons he’s had the last few years. Let’s hope he finds his focus and his game soon. It would be a disappointment if the Steelers don’t right the ship and go all of the way this year. It would be an equal shame if the Steelers great quarterback doesn’t finish well, whether this is his last year, or if he’s still got a few more to go.

Andy Reid’s Playcard

Let’s face it, Kansas City Chiefs head coach and chief playcaller Andy Reid makes you nervous when he’s glancing down on his sheet to choose the perfect call for a critical third down play. You get the sense you’re doing battle with a chess master who’s probably going to take your queen. Do you think opponents have that same fear when Steelers Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley makes his calls? When an offense is failing it’s hard to know who it is to blame. Was it a bad call or did the quarterback audible out of the right plan? Or is it a matter of player execution. At the end of the season, it won’t matter. Haley will be on a very hot seat if this offense doesn’t reach its potential soon.

Let’s Hope The Trampoline Works

Defeating the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday would go a far way to bring a much needed case of amnesia to Steelers Nation when it comes to forgetting Big Ben’s abysmal five interception performance. The team’s win against the Baltimore Ravens helped fans get over the hangover of the Chicago Bears loss. Now it’s up to the Chiefs to provide some much needed, plop, plop, fizz, fizz for Steelers Nation’s throbbing headache. Will it happen? That’s a question that will be answered by Big Ben.

About the Author

Michael K. Reynolds

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

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    Excellent.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Mostly spot on MKR.

    I will just point out that people keep talking about Bens mobility as if he ever had any to begin with. Dude has always been a lumberer so I don’t see that as even a tiny bit of an issue. And it isn’t like he needs to be as mobile as in years past since our OL protects him pretty well most of the time.

    I tend to lean towards you theory that Ben has never been a big student of the game.

  • No…Ben’s never been a world class sprinter, but in his early days he was extraordinarily elusive and able to create miracle plays out of nothing. Part of that certainly was his strength, but his agility played an equal role. I actually think he has plenty of that left–it’s mostly mindset issues now.

  • pittfan

    good read as usual! count me in on the “always sunny crowd”. why be anything less?

  • A lot of us old timers had our sun burn out in the ’80’s. Bless you for keeping the lights on for the rest of us.

  • pittfan

    Sir, I’ve been following this club since 72′ so I hear ya about the 80’s!! But nowadays, having been thru the ups and downs of life, I just cant get too wound up about a football team.

    So if I’m gonna follow them, I’m gonna strap on my Pollyanna hat and pull for them till we pick up #7 or the last ash is extinguished. I just don’t see the upside of being negative other than the dubious glory of being able to say, “see, I was right”!

  • Michael James

    Excellent read and great points.
    As for Keith Butler: I think highly confusing playcalls like playing two high safeties against 13 personnel are simply not instilling any confidence.

  • All right. Let me push back on that a little. My job is to be realistic with these and speak truth as best as possible. Saying Big Ben is not at his best right now is not being negative…it’s having eyes. Observing that most Super Bowl winners are dominant in the regular season is historical evidence. So…my wife thinks I’m hopelessly positive in just about everything. I actually drive her crazy. But here I try to report what I see. THAT being said…I salute your cheerful demeanor with the Steelers. ESPECIALLY since you survived the 80’s!

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    I was on the “one for the thumb in 81” bandwagon; never in my dreams did I believe it would be a quarter century before we started on the other hand.

  • pittfan

    LOL! My wife is the same way! I’ve learned to hold my tongue! That said, there is nothing wrong with being objective and recognizing facts for what they are. This site provides us with tremendous detailed analysis on every facet of each game and players. It would be fair to say the team is playing like crap (for whatever reason). However, this team was a consensus 30 pt/gm team and a 1/7 shot at winning SB. The talent is there. It just has to wake up and emerge. As we sit here today, I’m of a mind that this humiliating loss to the Jags will jar everyone’s noggin enough and shake them from whatever ego trip they’ve been on (I think the troubles are 90% mental, missed blocks, untimely penalties, dropped passes, bad reads etc etc etc) and realize they potentially could go down as a team that squandered talent as few have done in the past. I’m looking for a hard fought game in which we may not win but we’ll regain some level of respect. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!!

  • pittfan

    good thing we werent waiting on a drink of water!

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    after such a run in the 70’s never imagined going thirsty.

  • Steel-on-Target

    I always enjoy your articles Mr. Reynolds. Thanks!

  • Ryan Alderman

    Million times over on paper we win this game going away. Maybe I’m sipping the Kool-Aid, but I see a Steelers offensive resurgence in this one…31-14, Steelers.

  • Ryan Alderman

    I disagree in every sense and then some regarding him not being a student of the game.

  • Ryan Alderman

    I’d rather be hopefully optimistic that eternally pessimistic…Go Steelers!!

  • I appreciate that…

  • Tomlin does seem to get his teams up for these difficult games. I do think Ben will bounce back. Let’s hope so!

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Fair enough. No way for any of us to know really but the tape and Bens history lean in my favor a good bit.

  • Steve

    Or waiting for a Beer.

  • Steve

    With all the recent draft picks on the Defencive side of the ball, they should get better and be able to hold there own. Our coaches need to rotate the line and backers more to get winded players a break. So that we don’t see 97 yards runs at the end of a game. IMHO Bell has lost a step. When I see him not being able to keep up with a lineman or TE, this becomes apparent.

  • pittfan

    Noll forgot to book it!