Life is so much easier after a solid Steelers win. I would describe this week as healing. It was a divisional win on the road, important at anytime. The team was competent in most important phases of the game; defense, especially secondary play, offensive line, running backs, Ben, Heath, Antonio. There was the funny, sort of kinky pieces involving Willie Colon's anger management issues and Manny Sanders acting skills. The injury list was not significantly expanded. And the problem areas were not overwhelming; special teams penalties and Mike Wallace's case of butterfingers. Coming is a relatively low stress non conference game at home. Don't misconstrue what I'm saying here; RG III has established himself as one of the most dangerous and exciting players in the NFL this season. But whatever the Steelers' problems have been this year, and there have been many, home games have not been a part of that so far. And the recent home record against the NFC has been even better. All of this to say that the sense of panic and forboding has abated for the time being. It looks like, assuming a win of course, we may be in for a normal fun filled football weekend; which we'll need because right after the game we will be faced with...
The late season hurricane is coming up the East Coast and may combine with another storm coming out of the midwest and cold air coming down from Canada to create quite the snowstorm in the Pittsburgh tri-state area as well as tropical storm conditions for Steelers fans return to DMV from the game. If it shows up it probably won't present travel problems, but fans should not waste much time making storm preparations in the hours after the game.
The number of Pittsburgh area ex-pats living in the Washington DC Metro area is substantial. We are more than well represented in the BTSC community. In addition to yours truly, Homer J, John Stephens and PaVaSteeler is just a small portion of those who reside in that area. Homer and PaVa set the scene nicely for this game with these two pieces. This game has been in the forefront of the consciousness of Steelers fans from this area for months, and I know a large number of them who are traveling to Pittsburgh for the game and a weekend of festivities. The fun part for me has been that scent of fear that I detect from the Skins fans I have encountered this week. They have taken some pleasure in the Steelers' struggles through the early part of the season, but like the fans I encountered in Philadelphia during the preseason, ragging on the Black and Gold is one thing, having to actually face them in competition is something else entirely. And while Steelers fans are prudently concerned about Pittsburgh's competitive fragility as well as the potential of rookie quarterback RG III, Redskins fans, though hopeful, are well aware that they could find themselves at the business end of a first class butt whipping. Would that surprise anyone?
One thing us DMV Steelers fans can vouch for is the extraordinary early performance of RG III. As Bill Barnwell points out, in spite of their more or less typical level of dysfunction, thanks to their owner, injury woes that easily rival those of the Steelers and some considerable talent deficiencies, because of their young quarterback, the Skins are arguably the most entertaining team in the NFL at this moment. And along with a robust running game are dangerous a adversary on the offensive side of the ball. Weeks ago my thinking was that RG III would be in for a somewhat painful education at the hands of the Pittsburgh defense given the shaky condition of his offensive line, Dick LeBeau's tendency to abuse rookie quarterbacks and having to face the Pittsburgh crowd. With Harrison and Woodley both healthy and rounding back into shape that may still be possible, but the shame of the situation and the opportunity for Washington is the absence of safety Troy Polamalu. The physical and mental duel between those two would have been something to behold. And given the uncertain state of Troy's health begs the question as to whether we will ever see that circumstance played out. As it is the impending duel between RG III and Ben could be the most intriguing and compelling quarterback matchup of the day and perhaps the whole season, which is saying something considering that Dree Brees and Peyton Manning will be matched up later that evening.
Four players will be out of action on Sunday; Rashard Mendenhall, Brandon Johnson, Marcus Gilbert and Troy Polamalu. Maurkice Pouncey and possibly Isaac Redman will be returning to action this week. David DeCastro is about to become part of the equation once again. And Manny Sanders continues his miraculous recovery from the life threatening injuries he suffered at the hands of an invisible assailant at Sunday Night's game in Cincinnati.
Cover your eyes. The Steelers will unveil their new throwback uniforms for this Sunday's game. It can be said that the uni's have not been met with indifference. They are in the competition with throwbacks associated with the Broncos and Packers that demonstrate the changes in cultural aesthetics over the decades. The players either really like these things or are putting the best face on the situation with their comments. Personally, I am looking forward to our first glimpse of Casey Hampton. Plus, if we are so fortunate to get a reprise of Willie Colon's pancake love ritual, the sight of him doing so wearing the jailbird duds will be well beyond priceless. It would also be nice is they just go throwback all the way. That would include Tomlin dressed in a suit, an overcoat and a fedora. Wouldn't that be cool?
You would think at forty years they would just let it go. But former Oakland Raiders safety George Atkinson; you remember him, the guy who made it his mission in life to put Lynn Swann in the hospital and never misses an opportunity to call him "soft", is still claiming that the Raiders were shafted by the Immaculate Reception. To which I respond with these words of encouragement; die bitter. See if we care.
On a more uplifting note, Troy Polamalu was named by Forbes Magazine as the Most Liked player in the NFL. An honor that is unsurprising and well deserved. There are examples here and here that might help to explain how he got this selection.
On the subject of awards, general manager Kevin Colbert and the late owner and founder Art Rooney Sr. were also honored this week. Rooney was recognized as a Hometown Hall of Famer by Duquesne University. Colbert was named to the North Side Hall of Fame.
Lighting a fire
The back story of the Steelers victory over the Bengals might well be the things that served to rachet up the motivation for the team to take things to another level competitively. When the story of this season is finally told one of the big issues is how the transition of talent and leadership was bridged and handled. The outstanding rushing performance of Jonathan Dwyer appears to have been motivated in part by a very public (within the Steelers locker room) benching by head coach Mike Tomlin in the wake of the team's loss to the Oakland Raiders. Also stepping up was guard Willie Colon who inspired his teammates with one play that was noted here and here.
Let's end with a feel good story involving Offensive Line Coach Sean Kugler who unexpectedly got to see one of his sons play a college football game for Purdue University.