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A busy week for the Steelers as they took the field twice in one week with each game going down to the final play. We cover the extremes from encouragement to discouragement in the Check Down.
Its not every week I get the dubious honor of writing the Check Down right after a game performance, particularly a rather, shall we say, difficult evening. In fact, our top stories this week actually involve two games, a fairly rousing win at home against the Eagles, and, well, last night (Thursday). But before we get fully into this week's stories I ask that you bear with me as I indulge myself with a little...
For only the second time this year I watched the game from the comfort of my own home. My intention was to watch the game and also participate on the game thread that Barnburner had set up for the community. I tried to do this for a while and then I just had to let BTSC go and focus my attention on NFLN. I guess I have to resign myself to the fact that I must just be a different kind of fan. With all the hatin' and general negativity I had to make sure I hadn't stumbled into a Titans or Ravens site.
Take, just for an example, Mike Wallace. First, he hadn't done anything, and then big touchdown (oops), and for the rest of the game 'well what has he done lately'. And it was like that all night. Just plug in different names; Ike Taylor, Marcus Gilbert, Keenan Lewis, Rashard Mendenhall, Willie Colon, the coaches, on and on and on...And after another gut wrenching, last second loss I find myself thinking of actor Bill Paxton.
Why Bill Paxton?
Because as our so-called loyal and resilient fans were, metaphorically speaking of course, slitting their wrists and falling on their swords '2012 is over!!!' I couldn't help but think about Paxton's tough Marine turned punk character Sgt Hudson from the movie Aliens. "Game over man!" Really? Paxton also came to mind in my visceral reaction to all of this. After Paxton's Morgan Earp character is killed in the movie Tombstone and the Earp's are leaving town with the body, Wyatt says to Curly Bill Brocius (Powers Boothe) "It's over," to which Curly Bill replies, "Well, bye."
This catches the essence of it for me. For all the wusses, Negative Nellies, the ones who want to cut all the players, fire all the coaches and run everyone else associated with the team out of town and then (presumably) go home and suck your thumb. To you I say:
Look, I get it. I was as upset as anyone about last night. I get the First Amendment. I get that this is the Internet so you can get away with being a jerk pretty much without penalty. I get all of that. But let's do a little reality check. Far be it for me to question the profound wisdom of many of the fans who frequent this site or the stat geeks and pundits at whom's feet they worship, but I happen to remember the good old days when the Steelers' season was really over in October. The last three games were literally decided on the last play of the game. The Denver game in the last two minutes. It is, therefore, not unrealistic to say that this team could either be 1-4 or 5-0 (the Jets game being the only one not to turn on one or two plays). So it comes down to three questions; are we a bad team that has been really lucky, a good team that has been unlucky or a mediocre team that has gotten exactly what it deserves, more or less? I honestly don't know the answer to these questions at this time, but one thing I'm pretty certain of, nobody's getting fired or cut because you've lost your damn mind. Like you, I am concerned about the team, but I am more concerned at the moment that the sane majority of this community are going to have to endure ten days of crazy. Even worse, like some malignant virus, it will make others crazy. So, if you really believe its over, then the only thing I can say to you is..
No point in you hanging around here any more. Nothing to see. If seeking like minded individuals I'm sure you'll find them at the SB Nation sites for Green Bay, Philadelphia, New York (Jets, maybe Giants too), New Orleans, San Diego, Cincinnati, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Denver, Washington and Dallas. An incomplete list I'm sure. Or maybe you're the bandwagon type, you root for the Steelers under the mistaken belief that they win every year. If so then San Francisco, Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, Minnesota, even Seattle are for you. Or maybe you just need to gain some perspective. The leaves are turning, this might be a great weekend to take a nice long drive or walk. I hear that the new Ben Affleck movie is really good. There's a lot of excitement going on with Major League Baseball. Or if you really want to put it into perspective, how about those Penguins (and the rest of the NHL)?
Final thought in this regard; its easy to be a fan when the team's doing well. These next weeks will be a test, and not just for the team.
It is just so tempting to say that the Steelers have been particularly snakebitten when it comes to injuries. Well tell that to the Jets, Texans, Packers and Redskins, just to name some teams off the top of my head when it comes to injury concerns. These teams have lost Pro Bowl caliber players like Revis, Holmes and Cushing for the season. Conversely, the Steelers have lost David Johnson for the year. What is increasingly true is that the NFL arms race may have engineered itself to the point where we have reached the limits of human capacity. When you have players the size of sumo wrestlers, with the strength of world class weightlifters and the speed of world class sprinters should we be surprised about the wreakage when you put them on a collision course. We have to wonder as well whether the workout restrictions put in place by the new CBA are helping or hurting matters. But a particularly prescient piece by the Post-Gazette'sGene Collier put the Titan's game into disturbing persective. Collier points out that the Thursday night games create an extraordinary injury risk due to the short turnaround for players after having only three days rest from the previous Sunday's game. Maybe the injuries suffered in Nashville are just coincidental. But maybe not.
In a move that I find somewhat shocking, the Steelers released tight end Weslye Saunders on Friday. Saunders is an excellent talent, superior in my opinion to Leonard Pope and David Paulson. But Saunders did come with some baggage, and it cannot be said with the Tomlin Steelers that character does not count. With the great play of Heath Miller thus far this season and Paulson coming on strong over the course of the last two games both on offense and with special teams it must have been felt that the team was comfortably situated at this position. And with leadership issues coming to the fore in light of the team's recent challenges on the field perhaps it was felt that the continued inclusion of Saunders constituted a risk that the team could no longer afford. Just speculation on my part.
One of the bright spots for the Steelers in Nashville was the play of Baron Batch who scored a touchdown last night and had a generally solid performance. Batch's was one of the names mentioned when speculation arose over who might be released to make room for what was generally believed to be the return of Saunders after his suspension. But a bit of information came to light last night that I was unaware of and pretty much guarantees that Batch is not going anywhere any time soon. Am I the only one who didn't know that Batch was special teams captain? At least that was what the announcers were saying. If so, then my apologies for not knowing such an important piece of information. If true, it is quite the honor considering his youth and lack of experience. It also would mean that the conversation ends concerning the perception that Batch's status on the roster is precarious in any manner whatsoever. Finally, it would also shed some light on the mindset that would allow for the team to part ways with Saunders. It would indicate that in Tomlin's value system youth does not restrict a player from certain opportunities. On the other hand, youth also does not shield a player from the consequences of bad decision making either.
BTSC readers were treated to an Neal Coolong interview with Steeler HOFer and part owner John Stallworth. In reference to the 2012 season so far Stallworth counsels patience. This certainly bears repeating. Stallworth referred back to the 1976 season when the Steelers started the year at 1-4 and would eventually make it to the AFCCG, Patience. One more time; patience in the development of younger players, overcoming early season injuries and the assertion of players in new leadership roles. To draw conclusions one way or another before the completion of one third of the season is a solid example of a lack of patience.
Unfortunately, lost in the all the angst was Ben Roethlisberger beginning to make the case for being the greatest Steeler quarterback ever. Ben passed Terry Bradshaw to become the franchises all time leader in passing yards. All that remains are the number of Lombardis won. Terry has four Super Bowls with four victories. Ben has three Super Bowls with two victories. Given the fact that it would mean five championship appearances all (all!) Ben would have to do is match Bradshaw's SB win total to win the argument
Winners and Losers
There have been two games played since last we did the Check Down. So we have a list of winners and losers from Sunday and Thursday. And that wasn't the only set of issues coming out the Thursday game.
A list of factors through five games that have had an impact on winning games during the 2012 season.