Still relevant. That is the bottom line assessment of where the Steelers find themselves on Pearl Harbor weekend. Their head coach is embroiled in controversy, they are drowning in injuries, but astonishingly, in spite of the 10,000 things (or so it has seemed) that have gone sideways this season there is still a chance that this team could be playing in January. The perpetually grumpy will be quick to point out that the reason for this is because the entire AFC with the exception of one or two teams pretty much sucks. And what's your point? As they say, sometimes its better to be lucky than good. If it just so happens that the in a season where Pittsburgh is ravaged by injuries and playing like the Keystone Kops a sinkhole opens up and swallows half the league in order for them to make the playoffs I say accept our good fortune and declare it a wonderful world.
On the other hand, there is plenty of reason to be worried, angry or bitter if that's your preference. But given how this season has unfolded the wise course may be the same mindset as the team; one game at a time. There are a number of unique questions associated with this upcoming game against Miami. The most intriguing to me is..
Who's going to play on the offensive line?
This is not a rhetorical question. As of this writing it looks as if Marcus Gilbert, Ramon Foster, Mike Adams and Cody Wallace are locks to start, with David DeCastro likely. The emphasis here is on the word 'start', because with the possible exception of Wallace there is something wrong with pretty much everybody. Velasco, if you haven't heard has joined Pouncey on IR, meaning if there were such a thing as an IR Super Bowl, we would be two deep at center and probably a lock for a championship. Its unclear if we'll get a little, a lot or nothing from Beachum this week. There is the ever reliable Guy Abdullah. And then of course there is Eric Olsen and David Snow. Who are they you ask? The hell if I know, but trust me, they are now Pittsburgh Steelers. Will Rashad Butler be one of those all time great trivia questions? And this is what it has come to.
I assumed that the situation with injuries could not possibly be as bad or worse than last season. It appears I have suffered from a failure of imagination. While the offensive line has taken the worst of it, there are problems with the D line as well. Brett Keisel and Steve McLendon will be scratches on Sunday. However, the defensive line is much deeper than the O line, and while their situation isn't ideal, they are better positioned to weather this particular storm with a Heyward, Hood, Woods starting group not being particularly worrisome. On a more positive note, Le'Veon Bell appears to okay and is fully participating in practices. How did it come to this? Well, remember that injuries have been on a notable uptick league-wide this year, but the Steelers still are managing to be close to leading the pack. But let's not let this go without pointing out that playing two games in five days, both on the road, the latter being pretty much a guaranteed 'bloodbath' could not have helped. Notice how the injuries seemed to cluster at the end of the game? Echoing Neal Coolong's comments last week, thanks NFL.
Will Mike Adams be the next Jonathan Dwyer?
By this I mean will Adams be able to successfully use the failure he experienced earlier in the season as fuel to push him to a higher level of performance now that he has a second chance? That would be a nice, and perhaps necessary story.
Will Mike Wallace be the next Santonio Holmes?
You might recall that when he returned to Heinz Field after being traded to the Jets, Holmes acquitted himself well. I'm sure that Wallace would rather the boos that he is most certain to hear (Steelers Nation doesn't seem to be in much of a charitable mood these days) to be inspired by resentment rather than derision. The guy Holmes torched in 2010 was Ike Taylor. Hmm. For those of you who feel that Taylor has just gotten old and lost a step, think about this for a moment. Maybe there's another explanation. Also, might the presence of their former Young Money compatriot inspire Brown and Sanders to take their games up a notch or two? In the case of Brown, what would that look like?
Where will Woodley and Worilds play?
As you undoubtedly know, Worilds has been hot of late playing on the left side which, apparently is where he does his best work. Woodley is returning and plays on the left side. Who yields?
There has been an old saying that goes essentially; 'turning something into a Federal case'. It means, more or less, turning a molehill into a mountain. What has happened is that the league, the media and some fans have attempted to turn the 'incident' on Thanksgiving Night into a referendum on the character of the Steelers head coach, they have in effect exposed and laid bare their own. And in too many cases the view isn't pretty. Fines have been levied, the loss of draft choices have been threatened, officials have been downgraded, terminations have been demanded, the Rooneys have been accused of being weak and foolish, it is rumored that the Dolphins will 'run Tomlin over' if he repeats this act against them. Funny or pathetic? No, strike that. Its just pathetic.
Over sensitivity on my part? Maybe. But check out what Ron Cook of the Post Gazette has to say. And then his colleague Bob Smizik. Add the outspoken Ryan Clark. And Rebecca Rollett. PaVaSteeler. And one more thing. And don't forget Tomlin's own take.
Tomlin wasn't the only one receiving heat this week. Some aren't anywhere near being over Sanders drop of the two point conversion attempt in Baltimore.
Adams isn't the only one who has returned to the starting lineup due to the misfortunes of others. Ziggy Hood shares how he has coped with demotion and new opportunities.
The new guys
You might want to meet the Eric Olsen and David Snow since its possible that they may be standing between Ben and the hereafter at one point or another in December.
You probably know that one of my pet peeves is that fans sometimes overlook the humanity of the players that we follow. Here's an opportunity to add some texture to your knowledge of William Gay.
[For some reason the link to this piece didn't work. The URL address is below. Its worth the effort]
Improving the NFL
Lord knows this is needed. Here are just a few ideas that might help. Not nearly enough, but it could be a start.
Remember the good old days when Steelers Nation treated the Seattle Seahawks and their fans with utter contempt. Well, that's over. Not only do the Seahawks look like the class of the league at this point, Their quarterback, Russell Wilson has caught and will likely pass Ben Roethlisberger's wins record.
In December the NFL reserves the right to switch the times of games that were originally scheduled for prime time if the contest is no longer broadly attractive due to a change in the competitive status of one or both opponents. The Sunday night matchup between the Steelers and Bengals was not moved. This is maybe the best indication of the ongoing relevance, at least to the moment, of Pittsburgh.
More from Behind the Steel Curtain:
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- Dolphins vs. Steelers: Everything you need to know
- Steelers Injury Report: Woodley will play, Beachum will not
- Foster, Haley have been watching Adams
- Dolphins vs. Steelers: Everything you need to know
- Mike Wallace has a celebration in mind
- BTSC Jersey Rules Committee has emergency meeting, determines Jersey to Buy for Sunday Night Football
- Dolphins vs. Steelers: 5 Questions with The Phinsider
- Steelers look to invert history made by 1998 team
- 2014 NFL mock draft: SB Nation has Steelers looking tackle