Steelers Spin: Patriotic Fervor

The Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl playoff run is upon us. Win this one and the odds of raising a Lombardi Trophy in 2018 grow exponentially.

The New England Patriots, their deflated balls, and all of their sophisticated video surveillance are on their way to Heinz Field and their coaches and players are making final preparations to play the role of the Grinch to the rising hopes of Steelers Nation.

This is not only the most anticipated game for Steelers fans, but it’s easily the National Football League’s most important match-up of the year to date.

Last week against the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh pulled off another miracle victory while also confirming that injured Ryan Shazier is as important to team’s defense as Ben Roethlisberger is to the Steelers offense.

That’s not all. When Joe Haden went down weeks ago, the Steelers secondary went down the sinkhole with him. Even if he plays, he won’t be at 100% for this Patriots game.

So, the question becomes, can the Steelers beat Tom Brady with a defense that is currently being reconstructed with duct tape and bailing wire?

Several weeks ago, the answer would have been a definite “No”. But, that was before Roethlisberger and the offense finally decided to be all they could be.

This version of the Steelers offense is the stuff of dreams, and is capable of beating any team on the planet, with or without a supporting cast on the defensive side of the ball.

All together, the Steelers have performed so well this season, and have gotten off to such a strong start at 11-2, that if they are able to beat the Patriots, they will only be a stone’s throw away from another Super Bowl appearance.

Then again, these are the New England Patriots. The indisputable team of the New Millennium.

Two destinies, one bone.

What dog gets it way? Let’s Spin it a little deeper.

Young Money

The Ravens game was once again a sad reminder of the number 17 Steelers jersey I’ve had hanging in my closet gathering dust for years. Seeing Mike Wallace running routes while clothed in purple is depressing. Have you ever wondered what would have happened if the Steelers front office could have pulled off the Hail Mary of keeping Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown under contract? It probably would have meant more Super Bowls as well as placing Ben Roethlisberger in the conversation of being the best quarterback of his era.

Some people may say that Wallace isn’t that good of a player, but the plain fact is he was a dominant force in the NFL for the Steelers in partnership with Ben Roethlisberger and probably would have been for many years more as he was a perfect fit for the offense. He’s one on a long list of players who destroyed a promising career by leaving the  NFL’s best franchise in pursuit of mo’ money. (Are you listening Le’Veon Bell?)

 Paper Champions

Whoever wins this game between the Steelers and the Patriots will be treated as the NFL’s best all of the way up to the Super Bowl, or until they get eliminated in the playoffs. Yes, it means you’re just a paper champion, and it pales in comparison to being a Super Bowl champion, but in the NFL being the temporary champ ain’t so bad. You get listed as number one on all of the NFL ranking charts, you have all of the talking heads frothing about the mouth about you, your team gets featured on ESPN, the NFL Network, you get on the cover of all the football magazines and your games get prioritized for prime time.

Best of all, the fans get to talk smack to all of the 31 other posers in the league. It’s been a long, long time since the Steelers have been paper champions. Get those paper hats and shirts ready Steelers Nation.

Breaking Billy’s Chess Board

In big games like this, most coaches will tell their players not to try to do too much. The Steelers coaches would be well suited to heed this advice themselves. The spotlight on most NFL games is properly placed on the players on the field. Coaches are so good at this level on all of the teams that for the most part, they balance each other out.

However; Bill Belichick’s reputation is such that every opposing coach has their manhood challenged when he is standing across the field. They just can’t fight the urge to try to out-think Belichick with schemes and strategies their players have no hope of learning and executing properly in a few days. Nine times out of ten, the team with the best players win, as long as their coaches don’t get too smart and mess things up. The Steelers coaches would be best to ignore the guy across the field with his silly chess board, and keep winning the way they’ve been winning.

Letting The Horses Run

The Steelers didn’t lose the 2016 AFC Championship because they were over-coached by the game’s greatest genius. They lost because they got outplayed. The defense in particular was flat out horrible in leaving mediocre receivers more open than they have been since high school. The game plan for the Steelers defense should not be over-complicated. Go out there boys and play some ball. The Steelers defense has been getting gashed as of late, but they have a lot of horses on the team. Man up. High pressure. Let them horses run.

Deep Storage

If the Steelers beat the Patriots you can be certain that Mike Tomlin’s name will be elevated as a contender for Coach of the Year. And, that consideration would be well deserved. This has been his best year of coaching. But, that doesn’t mean he and his coaches have been perfect.

The demotion and benching of James Harrison has been inexcusable. Yeah…we get that the Steelers front office wants everyone to be aware of the brilliance of their first round pick of T.J. Watt. And the kid is the future. But, when the Steelers are getting gashed in run defense, there is absolutely no reason why Deebo should be sitting on a bench sipping Gatorade while watching Bud Dupree perform Cam Thomas’ greatest hits. There always seems to be one coaching decision each year that is mired in stubbornness and ignorance, and this is one of them. Get James on the field.

The Zebra’s Stripes

The fact that Tony Corrente’s hanky-happy officiating crew is assigned this game may be end up being a huge break for the home team. Although Tony and his gang have done a number against the Steelers in the past, it’s important we get a crew that will call a tight game. Belichick’s number one strategy for slowing down high-powered offenses is to have his defense hold, grab, poke, punch, trip and kick receivers. If Antonio Brown doesn’t get an early pass interference call, this is going to be a long game.

The Ghost Of Football Past

If you haven’t had a chance to watch the video clip of DeAngelo Williams pontificating on Good Morning Football this week on the NFL Network it’s worth investing ten minutes of your life to do so. (Steelers Depot posted the clip in an earlier article.) In a set-chilling, show stopping performance, DeAngelo basically silly-slapped the co-hosts of the show until they were a blathering blob of tree pulp.

His main premise was that if you haven’t played NFL football at the highest levels, then you apparently don’t know jack and shouldn’t be even talking about it. In the process, he not only gave massive wedgies to the non-NFL playing announcers on the set, but he also sent the entire team of Steelers Depot back down into their mama’s basement.

Personally I’m a huge DeAngelo fan on the field. I still feel the Steelers made a colossal mistake by not having him as Le’Veon Bell’s back-up this season and serving not only as a critical insurance plan, but by taking on some of the load. I also thought he flashed great on-air talent on the show as he was relaxed and extraordinarily smooth in vocalizing the overriding sentiment of most players in the National Football League. Nobody knows nothing unless they played the game.

The problem with DeAngelo’s volcanic spewing of self-promoting arrogance was that he got it all wrong and in the process he managed to disrespect not only the co-hosts and the vast majority of sports media, but also the millions of fans who make football what it is. I mean, you aren’t really a true fan unless you have an opinion on how the team could be playing better. Isn’t that much of the fun anyway?

A short visit from the Ghost Of Football Past would allow DeAngelo to see what the National Football League would be if there were only players. There would be no owners to pay all of the bills and to build the stadiums. There would be no fans to fill the seats, to buy the jerseys and to fund all of the player’s sprawling estates.

And…there wouldn’t be any of those pencil necked, pocket-protector geeks who host talk shows, and write blogs and basically are able to use their unique talents to make things like men running around in padded tights seem to be much more important than it actually is.

You’re right DeAngelo. The NFL players are the stars. The center of it all.

But, they’re also just part of a much, much larger team of fans, owners, journalists and kids with dreams who all contribute to making it the greatest show in America. They include non-NFL playing coaches like Bill Belichick and Mike Tomlin who innovate the game to another level. Then there’s guys like Howard Cosell, Chris Berman, Peter King, Chris Mortensen, Steve Sabol, Myron Cope…and yes…Dave Bryan who have contributed by telling the story of the NFL in a powerful and compelling way.

And DeAngelo, next time you’re a guest on somebody else’s show, try to show some respect. Or better yet. Suit up for the Steelers. We could use you for the playoff run.

All I Want For Christmas

There are few things that bring more joy to me than seeing Tom Brady yelling at his teammates on the sidelines and Bill Belichick having to make the walk of shame across the field after being beaten by the Pittsburgh Steelers. There is no question the Patriots hold both the historical and psychological advantage in this matchup. It would be unfair to even call it a rivalry as it’s been so lopsided in the Patriots favor. But, that all could all shift in a positive direction with a big Steelers victory on Sunday as whichever team wins this one will have a huge advantage in making it all of the way.

Coal in the stockings for Steelers Nation? Or the gift of our dreams? Can’t wait to open this present up.

About the Author

Michael K. Reynolds
Longtime Pittsburgh Steelers fanatic and author of the acclaimed Heirs of Ireland series. MichaelKReynolds.com
  • RJMcReady

    Like y’all, I’ve been eyeballing this matchup since the schedules came out.

    11-2 Steelers vs. 10-3 Patriots

    Coaches and Players all understand what’s at stake. Let’s light these fools up.

  • Wayde Philpot

    I feel good about this game. As long as they dont turn the ball over, theyll be in good shape.

  • Steelman72

    Michael, great read, as always. Really enjoy the insight and witty humor each week. Sure would be nice to beat the Pats and smile ear to ear for the next week!

  • Todd Borax

    Looking forward to next Saturday’s spin when you break down how we finally slayed the beast!

  • PittShawnC

    Yeah, I don’t want James Harrison anywhere near dudes like Dion Lewis and James White. Pats aren’t gonna pound the ball 37 times between the tackles or pulling the team bus across the field. He’s good where he’s at.

  • Orlysteel

    The game greatest genius wasn’t so smart till he went to New England and got Tom Brady in the seventh round, he had a losing record before that, still think that if it wasn’t for spying he would’ve lost to the Steelers back in 01, after that the man who started as a defense of coordinator came to have some of the best offenses in the history of the game.

  • James Harrison was the best outside linebacker on the team last year. One of the greatest who ever wore a Steelers uniform. I don’t think he lost all that much over the summer. It’s also a myth that he can’t cover or doesn’t have quickness. (PFF had him ranked third last year.) Don’t get me wrong…he’s not Deion Sanders, but one thing is for sure, they won’t run to his side. Let the other little guys cover. Did you see Bud Dupree’s stats last week. That gives you confidence that he should get 60 snaps and James should get 0? I’m okay with keeping Watt on the field until he pukes. But move him to the left on occasion and let James do his thing. Sometimes you need attitude more than youth. We’ll disagree on this one.

  • I appreciate that…thank you.

  • I think my least favorite was the Anthony Smith game. Our defense was SO GOOD that year and we had what it took to shut them down in front of a national audience…and then choked. That was the end of the rivalry and the beginning of New England (mostly) dominance from that point forward.

  • PittShawnC

    He sure is one of the greatest to ever wear the black and gold, surefire Hall of Honor member.

    That being said, he can stay right where he is…he’s our “Break Glass if Needed” insurance policy and at 11-2, we don’t need to break it.

    James can still get the job done vs the run at times, no question. But NE isn’t a good matchup for him. It’s not. When’s the last time he touched TB12, 2005? How much has that “attitude” helped us vs NE in JH’s time? So yes, we’ll agree to disagree. Cheers and Go Steelers.

  • Dshoff

    I agree completely. Harrison wasting away on the bench when Dupree does nothing on the field. What am I missing? I was bummed last year when they put Harrison in coverage so much and then the stats came out that said that Harrison was our best linebacker in coverage. But I still didn’t like Harrison in coverage when we weren’t getting pressure.

  • Dshoff

    I really hope that the Pats aren’t too much in the heads of the players and coaches. We really should win this one if we don’t out think ourselves.

  • ND_Steel

    This game is the appetizer to the likely playoff rematch. Steelers better not win the battle but lose the war. Don’t need Haden/JuJu/MacDonald/etc to get injured long term. Need to capture as much intel as possible. You know they will be.

  • ND_Steel

    Couldn’t agree more with your description of NE defenses against good offenses. Further, the cheats (and I call them this with a good deal of respect for understanding this) know refs do not want to decide big games and don’t make as many calls, so you have to test your bounds of what they will and won’t call and play accordingly.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    Excellent. I did watch the DeAngelo Williams interview. Loved him as a player but he displayed all that is wrong with the NFL today. The general arrogance of both players and owners who appear to measure their character by the amount of $$ they rake in. Already engaged in posturing for the next CBA; they have forgotten the third pillar – the fans.

    I hope the team plays James for the remainder of the season; it is likely his last give the man some snaps to shine and help contribute to a few more victories.

    Don’t know how the Steelers will fare against the Patriots. The most important factor in this game to me will be 3rd down conversions. The team that converts the most will be scoring more.

  • ND_Steel

    I can’t help but wonder how much the taping/spying led to the rapid development of Brady. He still had to make the throws, but knew where to send it before the play started. Especially those early years, it was a joke that they were winning with the likes of Troy Brown as their #1 WR, when we had Ward and Burress.

  • ND_Steel

    What are we saving him for if not to clinch home field throughout the playoffs? It is now or never. Anyone that can win a one on one is a good matchup, and he can certainly do this. Plus…with a flag happy crew, I strongly believe Deebo can draw a holding call or two with his superb leverage off the edge, which is as good as a sack.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Said it a bunch but always enjoy reading these MKR. Lets talk

    1. Young Money – The receiver group you describe is the stuff dreams are made of but that would basically guarantee we don’t get the emergence of AB like we have had and man, do we really want to miss that? I mean, we might be watching the closest thing we have had to Jerry Rice since Jerry Rice.

    2. Paper Champions – Definitely a blast to have bragging rights but I brought this up the other day. 2004 we went 15-1 and were one of the greatest paper champions of all time only to fall short of the big game. The following year we were 11-5 and came all the way from the 6th seed to SB champs. Point is, your heading brings up a scary thought from the past lol

    3. The Ghost of Football Past – Nice take on Williams. I didn’t watch it as I have never been a fan of Williams off of the field. I don’t mean about him being a good guy or whatever, but simply have never liked him doing his chats and what not. Could always see a bit off arrogance there. On the other hand I am 100% with you in that the Steelers should have kept him and truth be told never drafted Conner despite him being pretty good so far. Bell, Williams, and Touissaint would have been a good stable coming into this year.

  • Jacob

    DeAngelos’ outspoken personality came through on the set, and this may be one reason he isn’t a Steeler if he was a divisive force in the locker room.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    OMG!!! Please, NEVER AGAIN let Cam Thomas’ name be mentioned in the same sentence as one of our players.
    Hell, just DON’T mention Cam Sta Puft Thomas ever again!!! 😑

  • Doogie

    Id like to see him with TJ, not Bud. He probably cant cover as well as TJ, say equal athletes, but TJ taller.. But I do think TJ and Debo are the teams best outside LBs, Chickalo is third.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    We need to run the ball right at the Pats 23rd ranked run D.

    Then do it again. Then again.

    And repeat until Brady’s ass creates a huge warm spot on the NE bench. It’s time for the Bell to toll and roll -keep TB12 on the sideline.

    Don’t overthink it. Just DO it.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    By the numbers:
    Overall Pats O – 2nd
    Overall Steelers O – 4th

    Overall Pats D – 29th (yes that’s correct!)
    Overall Steelers D – 6th

    The Pats D are 23rd vs the run, 29th vs the pass.

    Now strip away the team names. Who would you pick?

    Steelers 23, Pats 20. You heard it here first.

  • Jaybird

    I know Harrison only played a few snaps , but I saw him NOT set the edge and not create any pressure. He makes the Steelers much more predictable becuase he can’t cover anymore.Harrison was the best linebacker last year because he was up against JJones and Dupree who missed 10 games. Willie Gay might have been our best corner last year also. Would you want to see more of him out there? I think Harrison is done. Give me as much TJ as possible.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    It’s just not how it works tho, is it? Just like, the Bears beat the Steelers, but that doesn’t mean they will beat the Vikes and Packers because Pittsburgh did.

    Also, year end stats don’t tell who a team is today. Look at the last 3-4 games and besides the MIA game, the Pats were dominant and winning easily, even with the 29th ranked D.

    I think the score is going to be double what you predict – not great D on the field here.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    I’d for sure like to see Deebo play some significant snaps in place of Dupree – however they want to cover that. If Deebo can get some pressure, where very little has been seen out of Dupree, the defense could seriously use that aid. Bud’s not doing anything to write home about.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    I’d rather see Deebo than Dupree at this point, or at least shuttle him in with him (which I actually think they may be starting to do). Dupree’s not getting it done and it’s go-time.

  • Jaybird

    You and me Irish. I got the Steelers winning a relatively low scoring game as well.

  • I think Antonio would have become Antonio regardless, that is, unless the Steelers signed Wallace instead of him. That would have been a tragedy to see him bloom elsewhere! But my supposition was that they kept all three. If you looked at their WR draft picks after Wallace left they had a lot of whiffs. Those could have been used elsewhere.

  • I fought the “I think James Harrison is done” mantra six years ago and was pretty much alone. I’ll concede to the “almost done” at this point but I’m absolutely convinced Deebo’s got something to contribute this year and deserves the chance to show it.