The lockout was supposed to play to the Steelers' advantage in the early season. After all, they were returning 20 or 21 starters, so they didn't need all that prep time. In fact, they didn't turn the ball over even once in the pre-season. That was the conventional wisdom. That, plus the fact that Flacco would never have a decent game against the Steelers.
Of course, those who manufacture and dispense CW chose to overlook the first quarters of pre-season games, when the Steelers' first team defense was getting pushed off the line of scrimmage, and when the offensive line was having trouble establishing the foundation of a running game.
And when the Steelers had to take the field in an actual game, they stunk worse than Herr's Island on a hot August afternoon. They had more turnovers than Entenman's. And the defense couldn't stop anybody. How'd that CW work for you?
There was also the conventional wisdom that this was the Steelers' year, the last hurrah for a celebrated group of dependable veterans, mixed with some young stars. This was the great window of opportunity.
But the window of opportunity CW is being challenged by a new argument....that too many guys got old at the same time, and the front office and coaching staff really screwed the pooch this time. Trust me, if the Steelers don't dominate against Seattle, every sportswriter and blogger will bring up Chuck Noll's admitted biggest mistake: staying too long with the guys who brought him four Lombardis. They will say the old guys stayed too long at the fair, and Tomlin is simply guilty of doing what the Emperor Chaz did. They're too old to cut the mustard anymore.
Sunday's game will be a contest between the old CW (window of opportunity) and the emerging CW (they all got old at once).
Fortunately, the Medicare Mob will be facing a quarterback prone to mistakes, and there's nothing like a good ass-whuppin' to get the attention of a 142-year old defensive coach and his ancient, but not yet mummified defense.
What the CW folks haven't taken into account is that the Baltimore Beatdown was the result of one or two defensive players having terrible games, and the resultant ripping of the entire defensive thread. The Steeler defense is a single unit, and not eleven guys. And when one or two critical guys has a bad game or can't cut it, it all unravels.
Professor LeBeau, who was there in Jeannette in 1895 for the first pro game, will recalibrate his defense to take into account the weaknesses exposed last week and take advantage of Steeler advantages over Seattle. The old men will work themselves back into shape, and, if they can't cut it, there are promising young men to step in.
Fortunately, Tomlin and LeBeau are blessed with a team rich in character and loyalty. There will be no pointing of fingers or excuses. What happened last week has focused the team.
Any team can have a game like last Sunday's, as far as turnovers and bad luck. The performance and final score in no way indicated who the 2011 Pittsburgh Steelers really are. But there were alarmingly bad individual performances by several key players, and Sunday's Seattle game will go a long way in telling whether those performances were outliers, or whether those players are simply not up to their career standards any more.
The hope here is that the Seahawks will give the Medicare Mob a shot of Geritol, and that the turnover battle will fall the Steelers' way. The hope is that The Last Waltz begins Sunday, and is a fun farewell for Smitty and PotDog and the other centenarians.
There are no guarantees, and conventional wisdom is often more conventional than wise.
The key Sunday is that the Steelers control the line of scrimmage on defense, and establish some kind of running game to take the pressure off the passing game. They need to do that, and do it on a weekly basis.
Remember that nobody ever made a living betting on Seattle against the Steelers. Of course, 14 1/2 points is waaay to many points to give anybody. It's too easy to pick Seattle, take the points, and wait for the back door cover. That's the obvious pick. And since the oddsmakers know more than Homer, Homer is going counterintuitive. They want me to pick Seattle with all those points. It seems like an easy, comfortable bet. So I'm giving the points and taking the Steelers.
And forgive me for sounding like one of those Vegas touts...but somebody won last week's pick 'em contest with the point spread.....with an 11-5 record, winning on the total points in the Oakland game. Of course, that don't mean diddley this week. And it's all one big guessing game.