I don't know very many people who thought that the Steelers would begin the 2010 campaign 2-0. Most were hoping for 2-2 after Ben's suspension. That is now the worst case scenario. Even the most cautious among us are thinking along the lines of 3-1 (4-0 still qualifies you as something of a Pollyanna, but more are sliding in that direction daily.) The reason that so many are confident about 3-1 is that the only win that most people thought was guaranteed was our game Sunday against the Bucs.
The usual knock on me is that I tend skew optimistic. If there is a viable way to gain a positive outcome, I'll grab it. But I have to say that Sunday is looking more and more like the ideal ‘Trap' scenario for the Steelers. Football players are like anyone else. Though their jobs require that they maintain a certain physical/mental/emotional pitch throughout the year, meaning that, ideally, the quality of the product does not vacillate week to week or opponent to opponent. I have always felt personally that one of the most important characteristics of a championship team, and one of the hardest to achieve was the ability to focus and maintain a high level of play consistently and regardless of opponent or other mitigating circumstances. In fact, this was the one quality that really distinguished Chuck Noll's teams in the 1970s. They never lost to inferior competition. Never. They didn't always beat the better teams (no one ever does), but they didn't have to because they won all the games they were supposed to win.
The game on Sunday is one the Black and Gold are ‘supposed' to win. Most of the people on this site think so, the pundits now think so, and there is no reason not to think that somewhere in the collective conscious or unconscious of this team they know that too. How will they respond? Might they relax just a bit? And how much of a let up would make the difference between winning and losing? When I was in college I correctly predicted all of the trap games for our football team(as well as a few of the upsets over stronger opponents). Having been on the team gave me a real good feel for their psyche. I would only share the information with my roommates who thought I was crazy to think that a team that had just beaten Syracuse would then turn around and lose to Akron or Buffalo.
And let's consider the Bucs for just a moment. They're not exactly performing like the chumps some of us seem to think they are. They are, after all 2-0 themselves. This is a clash of undefeateds we've got going here. Yes, yes, I know, I know, beating the Browns and Panthers does not a dynasty make. Nonetheless they're 2-0 and playing at home. How good they actually are or could become is open to question. On the other hand, our defense is still playing lights out, but this team still has some serious issues; like getting the ball into the end zone. The good news is that it just these issues that could make the difference for the Steelers side. Though we are 2-0 the situation at quarterback is still as volatile and mysterious as one could imagine at this relatively late date. Still it wouldn't take much of an effort to be successful enough to run our train off the tracks.
I believe Sunday is a test of character for this team. A loss would be particularly disappointing in the short run because few of us are expecting the possibility and would really feel the sting. In theoretical and absolute terms it wouldn't seriously damage our playoff aspirations. It would be viewed as a loss of an opportunity, but there would still be plenty of time to grow and develop as a team and, hopefully, offset this setback with an unexpected win down the road, even as soon as next week against the Ravens. Some believe we're playing with house money already as it is. I say that a win here may signify that this is a team on a championship track. Win the games you're supposed to win.
For about a week I was enjoying our status as ‘Officially lying in the Weeds'. And then the so called front runners (read: Cowboys, Vikings and Jets) jump the tracks and go off script. Woe is us (read: the networks and the NFL). Sooooo, who's left? The Bears, the Bucs, the Texans are undefeated, but not exactly compelling. Oh, look! Troy just literally flew over the offensive line (from a standing start) and made a tackle on a goal line stand. # 92 is pulling people's arms out of their sockets (figuratively speaking). They are being competitive while playing their fourth string quarterback. Damn, they're the only team that has a fourth string quarterback? They're dragging us out of the weeds folks. Two weeks too early for my taste.
I think what the NFL does relative to fighting is unnatural. I thought that fight involving Hines Ward and Chris K. was one of those heartfelt moments that teams who really hate each other share all too infrequently in the 21st Century NFL. I watched this scene unfold in a bar with a number of Steelers fans of all ages. I didn't see anyone running out into the street screaming in horror or bursting into tears. To the contrary, we were all waiting for the second round involving Deebo and Woodley gutting various Titans offensive players with whatever items they could find lying around the field. No such luck. Football is different from some of the other sports in that hostility and violence directed at the opponent is so central to game. If you're worried about things getting out of hand, issue Tasers to the officials. When a fight breaks out let them go at for a bit then shock them and let them twitch on the ground for a while and continue the game. No more of these fines for reasonably aggressive play.
What do you think?