Steelers Spin: Jagged Little Edge

As the Pittsburgh Steelers begin their 2018 playoff journey in the NFL divisional round there is concern among the faithful that their first bend in the road will have a jagged little edge.

After all, the team they are facing, the Jacksonville Jaguars, were one of the few teams to defeat the Steelers this year, and the Blake Bortles lead unit did it with a smackdown score of 30-9.

But that, of course, was before Ben Roethlisberger awoke from his lengthy early season hibernation, and reclaimed his position among the elite quarterbacks of his era.

It was that sleepy bear who the Jaguars faced that served up a shocking five interceptions and had fans flocking to college football to start shopping for his successor.

Since that time, Big Ben has properly employed his impressive nuclear arsenal of a top five offensive line, and two of the best offensive weapons in the league in Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell.

What’s that you say? Brown may be ill, or still recovering, and may not be 100% or even play at all?

And, it could be well argued as well that while the Steelers offense is much improved since the Jaguars debacle, Pittsburgh’s young defense has been on a steady decline.

So who is going to win this? Let’s Spin it to dig a little deeper.

Keep Your Eyes On The Ball

The Steelers remain fully focused on getting revenge on the New England Patriots. But wait! Aren’t they playing the Jacksonville Jaguars this weekend? Oh…yeah. Those guys. Yes. That’s what we meant. We’re 100% focused on the Jaguars. That Jaguars quarterback…oh what’s his name…he’ll be tough. Just a moment, there’s another story about Tom Brady. He’s getting old? Really?

Let’s face it. The Jaguars game is the one the Steelers need to just get past to arrive at their destiny this year. There will be little celebration if the team beats Jacksonville. And that’s what makes this game so frightening. This could be a set-up for one of the biggest upsets in Steelers playoff history.

Mirror, Mirror

If the Steelers want to get a clear understanding of the team they are facing this weekend, they should dust off the Cowher Power reels of the 90’s. Bortles and a dominant defense? That could be the Steelers defense with a Mike Tomzak, Kordell Stewart or…Kent Graham at the helm. Those of us who suffered through that decade of almost being great know how to beat a team like the Jaguars. Remember what it felt like back then when the opposing team, be it the San Francisco 49ers or the Dallas Cowboys jumped out to an early lead? Yeah, it was over.

Ultimate Fighting Championship

The Jaguars will be like an Olympic wrestler playing a champion boxer in a UFC matchup. They’ll want to keep the game close so they can get the Steelers to the ground and in a chokehold in the fourth quarter. The Steelers approach should be simple. Punch ‘em in the nose right after the whistle sounds and make this a knockout in the first round. If the Steelers can jump out to a two touchdown lead they can start booking their travel plans to Boston. If the game is close in the fourth quarter, the jagged little edge goes to the Jaguars.

Quackery

Will he? Won’t he? The answer to these two questions regarding All-World Antonio Brown is “Yes”. Should he? Probably not. The Steelers can’t take the Jaguars lightly, but they also can ill afford to make it to the AFC Championship or Super Bowl without the services of a 100% healthy Brown. Antonio is one firm foot plant from reinjuring his calf and being done for the year. JuJu Smith-Schuster has thrived in Antonio’s absence and Martavis Bryant can be the big man on campus as well. If the Steelers MUST use Brown it should be only as a “duck” to draw attention from the others.

Ringing Da Bell

Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in. I thought Le’Veon Bell had made amends with Steelers fans and had learned the value of being a Steelers legend for life. Good grief…Charlie Brown. You’re going to bring up next year’s contract situation right before the first playoff game? It’s almost as if some players just flat out refuse to be loved by Steelers Nation. What is clear is that we don’t mean that much to him. Or his team for that matter. A Miami Dolphins uniform? Or playing for the Washington Redskins? Or the Seattle Seahawks? Don’t matter. Home is where the money is. Sigh. Deep, deep sigh.

The Other Side Of The Tracks

The two toughest teams the Steelers will face aren’t in the AFC. No, the biggest challenge will be taking on an Atlanta Falcons team determined not to be the present day Buffalo Bills (who lost four Super Bowls in a row). Talk about a bad taste in their mouths after their disastrous collapse against the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Theirs is the true road to redemption. They are talented, and peaking when it matters. Then there is the great Drew Brees and the surging New Orleans Saints. Brees has a completion rate of 72 percent this year which is merely par for the course for his career. This year he has a prolific running attack and a decent defense to balance out his passing prowess. The Saints are probably the team the Steelers would least like to face.

Go Patriots?

Which brings us back to the Evil Empire. Will you be cheering on the Patriots this week? Strangely, for the first time ever, I just might. I can’t see the Steelers getting “whole” this year without beating the Patriots in New England. I realize the Steelers organization and fans want the home game for a variety of important reasons, many of them fiscal. But an AFC Championship game against the Tennessee Titans? Yeah. Something just not right about that.

Rust Belt

Coach Mike Tomlin is heralding his decision to sit his starters in the last game of the season against the Cleveland Browns. A healthy Steelers team is a good thing, for sure. But for many reasons stated above, Pittsburgh needs to jump out to an early lead and that’s all on the broad shoulders of Big Ben. Will he do it? Did Tomlin make the right call in pushing the pause button of his streaking offense? It’s the storyline of the game.

About the Author

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

    You’re crazy if you want to go on the road against ANY team rather than play at home in the AFCCG. I got ZERO problem with beating the team that beat us!

  • Doogie

    I dont care if they beat the Granny Panties for the lombardi.

  • Mr. Ravens Football

    Go Jaguars!

  • Sam Clonch

    Looks like someone’s team didn’t make the POs again!!!

  • Mr. Ravens Football

    Too bad for the Steelers, because we would have taken care of the Patriots for you……but your demise will soon follow

  • Sam Clonch

    Better to have tried and failed then let the Bengals play spoiler I suppose.

  • Mr. Ravens Football

    we’re out, I concede; but you will soon follow

  • Ring4Shaz

    Time to wear your favorite Maurice Jones-Drew underwear on your head all day again. Please post a pic so we can have a laugh.

  • Mr. Ravens Football

    Have fun while you still can…..you’ll be out soon enough

  • Ring4Shaz

    You guys saved Marvin’s job. 4th and 12. Must be so proud.

  • Sam Clonch

    Huh, looks like the Ravens LOST to the Pats last time they played. Of course, you didn’t play them THIS year, cause only last years Division winner played all the other AFC Division winners. What a merry Christmas it was last year!!

  • Ring4Shaz

    Where’s that pic, Mr. Raven? C’mon, don’t be a party pooper.

  • Mr. Ravens Football

    But I don’t have MJD underwear……..will Flacco slippers work?

  • Sam Clonch

    And of course, how can we forget THEIR performance against the Jags this year…

  • BurghBoy412

    How much $money did they give Joey again? Lol

  • Mr. Ravens Football

    It was as Merry as when Tebow knocked you all out. GOL

  • Mr. Ravens Football

    A team that can’t beat the Bears will not last long in the playoffs

  • Sam Clonch

    Bet it stung less than Dalton to Boyd.

  • Mr. Ravens Football

    Hardly

  • Sam Clonch

    Of course, Ravens lost to the Bears this year too, so probably a GOOD THING they didn’t make it, right?

  • BurghBoy412

    Are you preparing for another wasted WR pick in the draft this year?

  • Mr. Ravens Football

    They were a flawed team…….so my hopes were not as high as yours. I am a realist…..but reality will soon hit you as well.

  • Mr. Ravens Football

    HOFer pick coming up

  • Sam Clonch

    Don’t worry, we all knew that about the Ravens long before the season started.

  • Mr. Ravens Football

    True, even I knew it. But the Steelers have such a great Offense……its a shame their defense will fail them. #Shalieve

  • BurghBoy412

    Perriman sure was a legend

  • Sam Clonch

    #FlaccoEliteContract

  • Mr. Ravens Football

    SB MVP Elite too you

  • Sam Clonch

    And under .500 since he got that contract.

  • Mr. Ravens Football

    he’s a bust

  • Mr. Ravens Football

    Negative. But still has a better QB Passer rating then Ben in the playoffs. Over 100.

  • BurghBoy412

    They had 11 picks in the 2016 draft. Why the need for all the Free Agent signings? Looks like the draft isn’t much a strength over there in Maryland.

  • Sam Clonch

    Haha, it’s funny watching you try to pretend you don’t want to switch teams. Kind of proud of you in a way. And you’re right about win %, but only because he took most of a year off. Still, his crippling contract dragged the team to a losing record almost as well as his noodle arm would have anyways.

  • Sam Clonch

    See ya, troll! Block!

  • BurghBoy412

    Is Chris Moore the future of Ravens WR’s?

  • BurghBoy412

    Is Michael Phelps still showing up at the games or did he quit showing when the Raven’s kept getting owned by the Steelers? I heard he was spotted with Snoop wearing Black and Gold.

  • NavyDoc

    “We’re out”…..actually, you were never in…

  • Bonnie Powell

    Really?? they couldn’t even take care of the Bengals.Who you kiddin’??

  • Bonnie Powell

    We’ll see. At least we will have gotten there, unlike your team who has missed the playoffs what- 4 of the past 5 years??

  • Bonnie Powell

    your team didn’t beat them either.Oh- that;s right, you didn’t get IN the playoffs.

  • Bonnie Powell

    Don’t talk about Shazier-it’s sacriledge coming out of a Raven fans mouth. At least have a little respect regarding him. I know it’s hard, but try to be a decent person.

  • Bonnie Powell

    JOKE

  • Bonnie Powell

    That was 4-5 years ago bozo- you haven’t been IN the playoffs recently. Living in the past.

  • Bonnie Powell

    Oh, did you get a new GM- cuz Ozzie and John wouldn’t know one if they saw one. Passed on JuJu- HaHa

  • Bonnie Powell

    Again- at least we got there!!

  • JNick

    I’d love to beat the Pats, but I’d also love a home AFCCG more. Plus the Pats losing at home would be a fun debacle to watch. I don’t want those fans to have anything to be happy with this post season.

  • JNick

    How about the Flacco diaper? The one he was wearing in week 17 when he crapped the bed.

  • JNick

    Or Breshad Kindle Jr.

  • JNick

    Or not and then you’ll be back saying the same thing next week. I know it hurts to have nothing to cheer in the playoffs but you should be used to it by now.

  • JNick

    Digging up old dirt. That’s all you have?

  • JNick

    That’s all you have. A loss 4 months ago…

  • JNick

    #JumpBallJoe

  • JNick

    It’s easy since he never gets that anymore. He went out on top

  • SfSteeler

    what i love about this back and forth is that it is civil and not in the 9 level of hells gutter like Brietfart!

  • Bonnie Powell

    Please child- they couldn’t even beat the Bengals!!!

  • Bonnie Powell

    At least we got there dude

  • Bonnie Powell

    What you talkin bout- Bears beat you AT HOME

  • steelcityinny

    This coaching staff just doesn’t get it. You need a dominant defense to win championships. The current steeler scheme does not work in today’s NFL, look at the Titans and Packers, they run the same schemes (Capers, LaBeau) and they have also had trouble stopping teams when it matters. The net is we have to re-tool and get players who fit an upgraded scheme. I am not saying switch to 4-3 or anything like that (personnel not there right now), but teams like NE and other run a hybrid version of 3-4 with better play makers on Defense. And yes I understand the loss of Shazier was big, specifically his play-making ability, but we had trouble stopping teams when he played also, look at games earlier in the year against Indy, Chicago, Jax, etc.