Steelers Spin: Bye, Bye Blues

They walk aimlessly through the streets of desolation; their minds lifeless, their bodies dragging, without purpose, or even without a pulse.

Are we describing the filming of the next episode of the Walking Dead? No. It’s Steelers Nation during a Bye Week.

The horror. The horror.

I mean, if they are going to give the Pittsburgh Steelers a Bye on the schedule, why not just cancel football for the week?

We can all use the weekend to go to the Third Annual Apple Peeling Festival, or something equally exciting.

But, even though Coach Mike Tomlin and the boys are kicking their heels up this week, this is not so for your faithful servants of Steelers Depot. The Spin goes on…

Faded Memories?

One of the biggest questions leading into the 2017 season was how much the Steelers would miss departing Pittsburgh favorite Lawrence Timmons. His successor, Vince Williams, was quick to state he would help fans forget about Timmons. So halfway into the year, how is that prediction faring? Well…if we judge it purely on sacks, Williams is doing phenomenally well with his forecast. Even in Timmons best years, he wasn’t a sackmeister. Williams currently has four sacks, and if his pace continues he would end the season with eight, which for a Steelers inside linebacker is top notch.

Yet, if you look at total tackles, it isn’t hard for Steelers Nation to pine for the days when the Law Dawg was ruling the middle of the defense. During his Steelers career, Timmons was almost always the team leader in tackles. Last year, while being considered “over the hill” by many of his detractors, he had 114 total tackles (78 solos, 36 assists). Williams, on the other hand, is on pace for only 84 total tackles (66 solos, 18 assists). His current totals put him at 55th in the league for combined tackles, not where you want your tackling linebacker to be if you’re competing to have a Top Five defense.

The assist total is particularly troubling because it means, as a middle linebacker, Williams is too often out of the play. Whether it’s a lack of explosion or merely the inability to get off of blocks, Williams will need to improve in this area if the team is going to perform better against the run. In his defense, the scheme has changed this year for the Steelers as compared to last year. Also, this is his first year as a full time starter, so he is deserving of patience. As for his linebacking partner, Ryan Shazier, the one Steelers fans mistakenly malign for missing tackles? He’s on pace for 128 combined tackles this season, which puts him tied for sixth in the league.

Mad Shopping Spree

The word is out. The Steelers top brass have sent their scouts out to the farthest reaches of the Seven Kingdoms. They are seeking their next franchise quarterback. Only those with a strong arm, pin point accuracy and a chill in their veins need apply.

The plan is pure brilliance with the 2018 NFL Draft aiming to be one of the richest quarterback crops since…well…the 2004 draft where QB Ben Roethlisberger was joyfully and historically plucked with the Steelers eleventh pick. My request, on behalf of myself and all Bloggers and sports journalists, is that his replacement has an easier to spell last name. Even though it’s on the back of the jersey I wear each week, I still have to Google it for every Spin.

Here’s The Better Plan

I think the Steelers should spend their 1st, 2nd and 3rd draft picks on a quarterback in 2018. I’m a Josh Dobbs fan, so I’d include him in the mix as well. When it comes to franchise ball throwers, you’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs to get your next prince.

But this isn’t the BEST plan. The best plan is Big Ben decides to fully rededicate himself to the game and puts in another three to five solid years while his successor develops. No more retirement talk until your last day Ben, because Chuck Noll was right all along. For the first time in a long time, just focus on peak performance and top form in the offseason. And for inspiration, watch more James Harrison video posts, please.

Anyone who is still going to argue that Ben’s retirement talk at the beginning of the year wasn’t both a major distraction to the team’s offense and a detriment to his preparation for this year is wasting Internet bandwidth with mindless garble.

And Then A Wrestling Match Broke Out…

So…the “Weight Lifter” touchdown celebration is the next performance of this year’s regrettable series and…apparently…Steelers fans are eating this up like the rainbow colored marshmallow treats in a bowl of Lucky Charms.

And now…we hear the breaking news that rookie WR JuJu Smith-Schuster has literally dozens of these Hollywood B Movies sketched out? Gosh…I truly want to love the kid. I mean, he blocks like Hines Ward and is a talented young man, who is well respected in the locker room and has high character to boot, it would seem.

But now I never want him to score again…ever.

Shame on me, I guess, for being a purveyor of the tattered glories of classic football. You know, back to the time where players shared spontaneous expressions of joy and teamwork when they hit paydirt. But, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe football should not be about the game itself, but should be all about entertainment.

I say if we’re going to do it, we should go all in. Push them chips into the center of the green felt table. Let’s replace authentic, heartfelt celebrations with totally cheesy entertainment. Heck…let’s get rid of that meddlesome authenticity and purity of the sport and replace it with highly entertaining contrivance.

Our first step will be to replace Commissioner Roger Goodell with Vince McMahon of the World Wrestling Entertainment who REALLY knows how to entertain. For now on, each team will choreograph all of the plays in the game for the purpose of maximum entertainment.

Imagine this! Every snap of the ball, is a diving, game winning reception. Shoot, there will be Immaculate Receptions every other play. The coaches will run across the field three or four times a game and smack each other with folding chairs. The referees will be pantsed and given wedgies as they ride unicycles and, on occasion, are shot out of canons to start the game. Maybe they’ll just be shooting Goodell out of the cannon as he will be looking for another job anyway.

This is GREAT! You all have convinced me of your vision for the game. I LOVE the new touchdown celebrations.

And That’s Why They Play The Game…

They play the game, so I can have more substance to write about in the Spin. While we’re banning touchdown celebrations, can we eliminate bye weeks as well? That’s it for now. I’m off to wander the streets aimlessly, seeking out those hard to find brains.

About the Author

Michael K. Reynolds

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

  • Dan

    Bah! The celebrations are great, Captain NoFun! All kidding aside, I love the positivity that JuJu has brought. This team absolutely needs it after some of the grumpiness this year.

    VW has been ok. Upgradeable, and I do miss his presence on special teams, but he hasn’t been horrible. Shazier has been an absolute monster this year.

    I still think this is it for Ben. His timing and accuracy has just looked off this year, and he’s taken a ton of hits in his career. Not to mention openly pondering retirement this past off-season. It would be irresponsible not to look for a successor.

  • Jaybird

    “Ben decides to fully rededicate himself to the game” – what a load of crap. The guy is getting older , he’s been the toughest QB in the league for the last 13 years. He’s body has taken a beaten. No QB has played better injured, played more often injured, or come back faster from injury than Ben. This narrative that Ben is not dedicated, out of shape, or his head is not in it any more is just ridiculous. He’s getting older- it happens to everyone. Peyton, Elway,Unitas- it happened to them as well. Ben not might be as good as he once was , but to say he doesn’t train enough, is out of shape, doesn’t watch enough film, overweight…..etc, is just B#llsh*t. And to say he isn’t dedicated is so out of line.

  • You made this same argument in January. You were wrong then and posted a similar tirade. Yawn. Ben has 9 interceptions and is ranked 24th in pass accuracy. Not a $100 million quarterback and you know it. I would be THRILLED with Ben’s play this year if he was costing $3 mill against the cap. Drew Brees and Tom Brady have much more wear and tear on their bodies and they use the offseason to prepare for the next. That’s why they are still at the top of their game. Ben never has. He could…and I think he could be a Top 5 quarterback for the next five years. That’s a compliment not a bash.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Not to say you are completely wrong Jaybird but MKR has a point and really it is fair to question any aspect of a players game when the dropoff is so noticeable. I can’t speak for Elway and Unitas but as far as Peyton goes his downfall was an actual physical deterioration of his body. His arm just flat out didn’t work and he physically couldn’t make the throws.

    With Ben we have seen nothing that explains a dropoff other than something mental. He still has an arm and is actually overthrowing guys on deep balls whereas he used to underthrow them. Phyiscally we have seen nothing new. He is hit less now and as far as we know is dealing with no serious injuries and he was never the most mobile guy even if he is slightly less mobile now.

    Point is, with all of that consider why would it be out of line to basically look at the only other possible explanations? You don’t know Bens motivation or what is going through his head day in and day out.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    I agree with your general sentiment MKR that the celebrations are highly overrated and the staged aspect can be somewhat offputing but in fairness I think you are going a little too Scrooge on the point. These guys are just having fun and it really doesn’t have any impact on the game so long as they don’t do anything that draws a penalty.

  • Jaybird

    Mike I said his play dropped off . But you and everyone else who says he’s not dedicated has no idea how hard the guy trains or studies. Your not there with him in the offseason, so I think your just using an UNeducated guess. And to compare him to Brees and Brady is ridiculous. Becuase by that logic then Jack Lambert must not have been dedicated because he couldn’t play as long as Harrison .
    I’ve stated dozens of times that Ben has been way off this year. I’m not kidding my self- he’s played poorly at times. That’s obvious. But don’t go acting like you know how he trains in the offseason or studies film.
    And speaking of yawning , you’ve been posting the same stale articles since January. It gets old after a while Mike.

  • Please find one article or comment in the past 14 years where you hear Ben is a “great student” of the game. I’ll save you time. There are none. Look at Ben’s picture on his draft day and show me a picture where he ever looked like that again. Do the same with Drew Brees and Tom Brady. Ben himself said he was taking months off to think about his future. This isn’t rocket science. You made this same point when you argued against my point in January (and a few times since). That was the yawn comment. I actually think you’re an excellent commenter and read your posts with great interest. I apologize if that was miscommunicated.

  • I am definitely being a fuddy duddy about all of this. Just having some fun myself.

  • I am being Captain NoFun for sure! That doesn’t change the fact that when JuJu scores in the future and passionately spikes the ball and joyously hugs his linemen…spontaneously…I will go nuts. That will be fun for the Captain.

  • Jaybird

    Your are correct , I don’t know Ben’s motivation. But neither do you or MKR and that’s my point. I never said anything about his motivation or his training habits. I said it was BS to state as a matter of fact that he isn’t dedicated.
    And I politely disagree with you on the only explanation for his drop off is mental. Football players can literally fall off a cliff as far their ability to play the game at a high level goes. It happens all the time , especially to RBs. Ben has taken a beaten over his career. He’s also had multiple concussions as well as that awful motorcycle accident. His brain might be slowing down even faster than his body- and I’m not even joking about that.
    Anyway I still think Ben will play better in the second half of the season especially now that JuJu is emerging as a third weapon. I think the entire offense will be better in fact.
    Have a good one Phil and go Steelers.

  • Jaybird

    Mike I’ve articles about Ben having the TEs and receivers over his house to go over film. They do it all the time from what I’ve read. I’ve also read where Ben takes WRs and TEs in the off season and practices with them. I think he even did some work with James Conner this year. And I have never seen Ben too out of shape to run the two minute offense or puke like Mcnabb in in the Super Bowl.
    I have seen vacation pics of Brady with no shirt on at the beach and I would not say he looks like he’s hitting the weights a lot lot!!!! Lol

  • The Big Cheese

    Check out his chipmunk cheeks. The answer is there.

  • Jaybird

    Again , have you ever seen Ben out of breath, throwing up, or have to call a time out because he needed a breather? Name me one instance in any game where Ben was gassed and it affected the next play or a drive.
    He is getting older and his play has declined this year- I agree. But tell me one time where you saw Ben being physically out of shape and it affecting a play.

  • Todd Borax

    I’m with ya – they’re getting old fast.

  • HiVul

    A few pot shots at Ben before a 7 paragraph take-down of JuJu and his penchant for having fun. Jeez…

  • Actually it was little over one paragraph of JuJu and half of that was pumping him up as he rightfully deserves. The rest of the paragraphs (thank you for counting) was my penchant of having fun while mocking these goofy celebrations. Jeez…

  • DoctorNoah

    How much would we have to give up next year to move up from the 32nd pick to a top ten pick to draft a top QB?

  • copanut

    According to the charts, if the Steelers were fortunate enough to be picking last, then all 7 of their picks would not be enough of a trade to move up to the 10th overall pick. What they could do is package their first and second picks plus their first pick the next year. That would be in the ball park.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    In fairness I don’t think MKR was going that far with it down that avenue. Ben has talked about retirement and as many know that already means in some way shape or form you are already partially checked out. So when MKR said about Ben rededicating himself he also mentioned no more talk of retirement. If you are thinking about it even a little that is some part of you mentally already away from the game. So I still don’t see the problem with how he said it.

    And you said you disagree but basically supported my point. You said some people literally fall off of a cliff with their ability to play and point out RB’s specifically. That is a physical thing. Peytons arm didn’t work, RB’s take a beating and lose their speed. That is what I talked about with Ben the first time. We have seen no physical signs of a dropoff. He is throwing the ball as far as ever, has shown no signs of injury and was never extremely mobile. And as for concussions and his brain slowing down you might be right, but that still supports my point of it being a mental thing whether you think he is partially checked out or his brain just flat out isn’t working as well as it used to.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    I have to tell the high school rugby players on my team that, “this ain’t NFL football” when they start gyrating after a score. I don’t mind the celebrations; its all part of the entertainment value for television but I’m much happier with the actual scores – that’s what I want to see replays of; not choreographed celebrations.

  • Chad Weiss

    I would do it for sure if I was confident I could grab a franchise qb. That’s a huge risk though. It would be all good if it worked out but if qb didn’t work out it would hurt. I believe Steelers have enough young ascending players to do so.

  • Chad Weiss

    Id give up the entire draft and a 2&4 if we could find the next Ben . With that being said I’d rather go after cousins,smith, if the cap allows it if Ben hangs it up.
    If Ben stays I would use draft to address a couple other issues if the qb didn’t fall into our laps.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Cousins. That might work.

  • HiVul

    How many times did you yell “get off my lawn” this morning Michael?

  • Jaybird

    Phil I think brain injury falls under physical , not mental. Damage to the brain is a physical thing just like damage to a shoulder or a knee. You can’t “rededicate” yourself and cure brain damage. Losing the desire to play the game is a mental thing. That’s were we differ. To accuse someone of half assing it Is a knock on their character. I just think it’s weak to assume Ben no longer has a passion for the game or isn’t in it 100%.
    I’m 44 yrs old Phil. I have been a gym rat for over 30 years. Trust me -when you get older the body breaks down and just can’t do what it once could. . And the mind is not as sharp also- memory get worse and reaction times slow down.It will happen to you one day also.
    I just think Ben is slowing down physically and he has three receivers who were not on the team last year. I think they all get better as the year goes on. But I have seen nothing on the field that indicates Ben isn’t giving 100% and still does not have the desire to be the best.

  • Ah…that was a well penned slam. Good on you mate. I love the articles of Alex and Matthew as well…so we’re closer in our opinions than one might think.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    The injury itself comes from something phsyical but the result is mental. Although that is neither here nor there in the long run. And I don’t think it is a knock on Bens character or at least from my perspective that isn’t how I mean it. If anything I would compliment Ben because I truly believe he isn’t having as much fun playing the game but would still play out of loyalty to his guys. Which speaks greatly about his character as opposed to try and lessen him. And in my mind it isn’t even debateable. He is on record strongly considering retirement and you can’t consider it so much and be at 100%. Just doesn’t happen. So whether you want to say he is still at 97 or 93 or whatever, I will never agree to 100 anymore.

    As for the body breaking down I think everyone understands that. I am in my thirties and certainly don’t heal like I used to and get sore more easily. My point has been that we are seeing no signs of it from Ben. There is no arm deterioration, very little mobility deterioration etc etc….so unless there is some proof there is no reason to believe that. As for the mind slowing down, that actually flies in the face of everything we know about QB’s. You learn the game more as you go and gain the mental maturity as your body starts to slow down. That is why it is amazing someone like Brady actually gets to have those 2 things meet at the same time where he can still physically play like he always has and know the game even better. So to that point, I am not sure Bens brain is slowing down either. It should be getting better if anything.

    And I agree with the Ben giving it 100%. It isn’t that I believe he is slacking on the team but there is a part of him not fully checked in that you just can’t measure. You can tell yourself you are all in on something but if your heart/mind has already been strongly considering retirement you just can’t be all in mentally.

  • Jaybird

    I politely disagree with you again- plenty of athletes give 100% in their final year after announcing retirement. Just look at the Olympics. There are tons of athletes who know it’s their last go at it , but train their buts off and give it their all. Are you telling me Michael phelps wasn’t 100% committed in his final Olympics. How about Jerome Bettis’ last year- was he not committed? He certainly spoke about retirement that final year. How bout John elway- he gave 1000% every time he was on the field even after talk of retirement. I could go on and on with names but I won’t.
    Sorry Phil but I couldn’t disagree with you more that all athletes who contemplate retirement dont give 100%.

  • AndyR34

    You guys are having a great discussion and I really appreciate it! I feel the need to comment in favor of Phil…slightly. I’m far older than the two of you…played rugby at a fairly high level for 13 years and had a fairly successful professional career. I found many times over that once someone started thinking about leaving the game or their job…they had already begun to check out. Whether it was for a better job or moving past the grind of rugby practices, their heart was no longer in the same place. In your presentation of athletes in their last competition, there is a certain desperation involved…so I view those examples to be unrelated to Ben’s situation. But when you are merely ‘contemplating’ the end, I have seen motivation diminish too many times…even with co-workers that I found to be unusually committed. In the absence of a different compelling argument, I tend to favor Phil’s viewpoint.

  • AndyR34

    Agreed…Cousins or Smith could prosper in the ‘Burgh!

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Don’t think you can compare olympics because it is a completely different animal. It is once every 4 years you get the big stage. Getting back to football I can’t speak on Elway because I didn’t follow him like that but I can speak on Bettis and it certainly wouldn’t be easy to tell with him regardless because he wasn’t the starter and it didn’t require as much of him as earlier in his career. If anything for a QB it requires more as the years go on. As your body slows down you need to prepare more mentally with film and what not. That doesn’t really apply to RB’s so much.

    And yeah, you are free to disagree but I think most would agree with me. Every loss, every time you are hit hard, every time AB throws a tantrum, or someone does something Ben doesn’t like it is only human nature to wonder why he is still doing it if he is already seriously considering retirement.