Still relevant. Let's repeat that. After going 0-4, and then 2-6, the Steelers reach the end of the regular season with a chance to make the playoffs and avoid a losing season in the process. The latter issue is firmly within their control. The former may still involve being hit by a fragment of Comet Ison, while also being gnawed on simultaneously by a polar bear and a great white shark. Still much better than having no chance at all. Christmas came twice this week as the Steelers defeated the Packers, the officials and the elements on Sunday. Nonetheless, there were some within the media and the fan base who said 'Bah, Humbug!' to this because, well, they were offended with how Pittsburgh won the game. You have to salute them for the creativity involved in pissing on that victory. Kinda makes you want to see the Steelers make it into the playoffs just so we can see how some of us will squat down and crap all over that (You know they will).
In order for the Steelers to make the playoffs they have to first defeat the Cleveland Browns, which should not be considered a slam dunk given how this season has gone. Then a number of things have to happen involving the Bengals, Ravens, Jets, Dolphins, Chiefs and Chargers. If it all falls right then we will celebrate New Years Eve twice this week as well.
No one gets fired
Remember a couple of months ago when so many were certain that a purge of the coaching staff and the roster was a given? The more ambitious were after the scalps of Tomlin or Colbert. Unlikely, but Haley was a goner for sure, and other offensive coachs such as Wilson and Bicknell Jr. were going with him. Well, the offense has been averaging nearly thirty points a game lately. Ben is healthy and happy. Le'Veon Bell is had his first hundred yard rushing game and is within striking distance of Franco Harris' rookie numbers. Haley has provided an explanation that makes perfect sense as to why the no huddle was not resorted to until later in the year. Now an increasing number of people are channeling the late Gilda Radner. Never mind.
Two Steelers, Antonio Brown and Troy Polamalu were named to their second and eighth Pro Bowls respectively.
As the regular season winds down, end of the year awards are being announced. In his All Pro team, Grantland's Bill Barnwell has Antonio Brown and David DeCastro as second team selections. Bell was selected as the top Steeler rookie, while Ike Taylor won the Chief Award for making nice with the media.
The team's number one wide out who is breaking receiving records this year won the high honor of being named MVP of the Steelers by his peers. It is the second time in Brown's brief career that he has received this award. Other Steelers who have won multiple times include a high number who are either in the Hall of Fame or are on their way (Bettis and Hines Ward). If Brown can remain healthy he's tracking to join that group. It is inconceivable that he would not be named to the Pro Bowl given his numbers this season. It is also a good bet he will receive some consideration for All Pro honors. What is fascinating to me is that three of the best receivers in the league are currently playing in the AFC North. And while the playoff permutations have gotten most of our attention we should remain mindful of the fact that Brown vs. Gordon is a tremendously intriguing aspect of this Sunday's match up whose outcome could be a determining factor in which team prevails.
Because it turned out to be a happy ending, that it went down around Christmas and in part because some chose to focus their attention on the ridiculous, the reaction to the total screw up that game officials presided over during the blocked field goal against the Packers has been muted so far. Perhaps another reason is that it just doesn't seem so unusual anymore for there to be instances of inconsistent or incompetent officiating. SteelCityRoller asks a number of uncomfortable questions that addresses not only the glaring mistakes on display in Green Bay, but also the remarkable disparity of punishments rendered in relation to this incident, the Tomlin sideline mishap in Baltimore, as well as the similar action involving Miami coaches that occurred at Heinz Field.
I am blessed to live in an area that is pretty cosmopolitan insofar as the diversity of fan loyalties represented in the population. I am in regular conversation with individuals who represent almost every fan base with in the NFL. If there is one thing in which there is a developing consensus it is a growing sense of discomfort as to -in spite of its continued robust popularity- the direction of the league. Steelers fans have had their issues with the folks in New York, but it becoming increasingly clear that we are not alone. Grantland has a piece out that addresses the possibility that the league may be looking at big troubles in the future.
Paper Champions does the usual fine job in zeroing in on analyzing some of the big plays that made the difference last Sunday's win, including the role played by linebacker Chris Carter in the play that led to the crucial turnover at the end of the game.
Speculation is strong that this may be the final moments in Black and Gold for the popular twelve year veteran and team captain. It has become a regular and depressing feature of the past several seasons to see the team part company with veterans who are aging, but probably not finished for more or less purely business reasons. Eventually the talent will be compensated for more or less. The lost leadership and the relationships with Steelers Nation is another matter altogether. Regardless of the outcomes in other matters, Sunday will amount to a bittersweet day for those of us who are not just rooting for uniforms.
The story of his season is as representative as any concerning the combination of developmental challenges and bad luck that explain both the early season struggles as well as the late season triumphs.
Will he go or will he stay? The time is fast approaching when the questions of free agency, contract extensions and other matters moves front and center in our consciousness. Worilds states what most Steelers who are in his situation have said, I believe sincerely, over the years; they'd like to stay in Pittsburgh. Whether that will happen is another matter entirely.
Suddenly, the rookie inside linebacker has gotten our attention for more than just molesting defenseless kickers. It looks as if he may now be playing the hybrid linebacker role that had been imagined for Sean Spence.
You might expect Ike Taylor getting top grades in this regard, but Cody Wallace?
You won't be seeing Garvin on the field this weekend. The participation of Worilds and DeCastro is also under some question as well. Wide receivers are sufficiently nicked that it might be possible to have a Derek Moye sighting this week.
You may have missed it when it came out Christmas Day. PaVaSteeler's holiday perspective on the 2013 season
Here's hoping you all have a happy and prosperous New Year.