Let me apologize in advance for what follows. The target audience is myself, but I think enough of you can relate that you will find some value in the reading. About once a year I find myself fighting off a sense of foreboding, a feeling that one game gone wrong could bring the entire enterprise down to earth.
But if we prevail, particularly if we are dominant or heroic in victory then the way has been cleared for further successes, and ultimate triumph down the line. Its sort of like Groundhog Day; if we lose it will mean weeks of Hell and (probably) failure (no championship). On the other hand, if we win...
Now in theory you could consider the Pittsburgh Steelers' Week 9 game against the Bengals as one of the easiest on our schedule in real terms. By "real terms" I mean what the actual strength of a team is based upon its performance this year as opposed to what we thought they were entering the season. Using this criteria the weakest team we have played this year has been Cleveland (the only opponent with a losing record), and they thumped the Bengals. Right about now Marvin Lewis must be seeing his football life passing before his eyes. The thought saddens me because I like Marvin Lewis. It's his team, city, state and the color orange that I can't stand. The thought of applying the Coup de Grace to the Bengal's season, preferably right between the ‘8' and the ‘5' of OchoCinco's uni is a very enticing fantasy. It is also just as easy to fantasize that Bengal's season could be judged a success if only they could bring home the carcass of the Black and Gold Beast who rules the Badlands to the East and who has terrorized the men and fair maidens of the Buckeye State for decades.
So, as I was descending into this funk over, in essence, nothing (this is a fairly common disease in Steeler Nation) I experienced a small miracle, a gift from above. I totaled my car.The significance of this is that I was driving a rental around for the first couple of days of the week. The rental had what my car didn't, a working radio. As many of you know, I live in Redskins territory. You may have heard what is going on with the Skins, but let me just say that when I tuned in they had just announced that they would be flying in Demarcus Russell for a workout. The reaction to this news would be difficult to describe, but let me just say, and trust me on this one, us folk at Steeler Nation, we've got it good!
If the sum of our concerns is whether we come out of the weekend 6-2 or 5-3 then we've got it good. Consider what it must be like to be following the Skins, Vikings, Jets, and (bless their little hearts) Cowboys. Not that we don't have our share of problems. I'd just rather have ours.
Troy. Anyone notice how he has become more verbal and animated? The league crack down has as much of an impact on his style of play as it does on Harrison, Clark and others. His standing up for Harrison and challenging the powers that be is big, especially since the Rooneys have his back. But his emergence as a vocal leader will have tremendous implications for the team down the line. On the other hand, I don't think he has fully recovered from his knee issues of last year. I'm not saying there is lingering damage, I just think it may take some time before he's back to 100%.
Harrison. If I were Deebo I would seriously consider a lawsuit against the league. Not because of the sincere efforts of the NFL to get a handle on certain aspects of the game, but based upon the totally arbitrary nature in which he has been singled out for fines and other punishments that are out of line with the same policies directed toward other players. Can you suspend a player based upon a rumor? Goodell and company appear to descend to this level of behavior in their uneven distribution of justice. How else can you compare the nature of the punishment given Ben as opposed to Vince Young. I honestly believe in the case of Harrison that there is an attempt to break his spirit and by extension, discredit the Steelers. I was particularly heartened by Tomlin's defense of Harrison and annoyed by the $20,000 fine that the league imposed upon him on what is clearly a bang/bang play. ( by that I mean a situation where less than a second separates whether the play is legal or illegal.
War is brewing here folks. And I am not being glib or alarmist about it. The Steelers seem to be of one voice; from the players to the coaches to ownership to the fans and the Nation at large, not just on hitting, but also on the proposed extended schedule and the CBA. Just a matter of time before the Ambassador to Ireland weighs in, if he hasn't already.
But you know what? We've still got it good.