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.
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.
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.