Top three storylines that might affect the Steelers
- Is New England Pittsburgh’s evil twin? The Steelers and the Patriots are expected to be the class of the AFC in 2016. Both teams start their season on the road, against an NFC team that made the playoffs in 2015, in primetime. Both teams will be missing multiple starters due to suspensions. If that’s not sufficiently Twilight-Zoneish for you, I don’t know what is.
- Thank God for ascending alphabetical sort order. Mark this down now: the last time the defending-NFL-champion Denver Broncos will lead the AFC West this season will be somewhere around 11:30 p.m. Thursday night. Right now, they sit atop the division — by virtue of “D” coming before “K”, “O” and “S” in the alphabet.
- An alligator-infested moat is a bad idea when you have to swim it to leave your own castle. The Steelers play just five games against four 2015 playoff teams (home against Cincinnati, New England and Kansas City, and on the road against Washington and Cincinnati). Four of those games happen before their week-eight bye. Of their remaining games, only one is against a team likely to make the playoffs (at Cincinnati). Of course, no matter how bad the Ravens do in 2016, one must remember that two of their five wins last season were over the Steelers. So there’s that.
Best game of the week with no hypocycloids
Green Bay @ Jacksonville
For opening week, there are surprisingly few games that would be worth watching if it wasn’t, well, opening week. New England at Arizona would be fun if Tom Brady was playing, but Jimmy Garoppolo against one of the league’s best defenses just isn’t screaming must-watch football. Buffalo heads to Baltimore in the Teams that Will Give You False Playoff Hope Game of the Week.
Really, outside of New England/Arizona and Pittsburgh/Washington, the only matchup featuring two teams with what I think are legitimate chances of making the playoffs is Green Bay at Jacksonville. The Packers are pretty much going to default into winning the NFC North now that Sam Bradford has taken his Guess-The-Season-Ending-Injury act to Minnesota for the year, and Jacksonville is a team on the rise. Yes, I was as surprised as you to realize that. They’ve had two solid drafts in a row, and they now have former Steeler Kelvin Beachum covering Blake Bortles’ blindside. Bortles, by the way, bears more than a passing resemblance to our own Ben Roethlisberger. I don’t know why that matters.
The final thing making this look like a decent game: it’s in Jacksonville, where the players won’t have any fans present to distract them from the game.
Worst game of the week, a.k.a. What Are The Browns Up To?
Cleveland @ Philadelphia
When the most entertaining thing to watch is Philly fans going Hominoidea feces watching Robert Griffin III beat them as a Cleveland Brown, you know it’s not going to be pretty. Seriously, RG3’s best receiver is a guy who is playing wideout because he washed out as a quarterback. But that’s still better than starting a guy at quarterback who has taken 30 snaps in an NFL uniform. Both of these teams will probably be on the rise come the final quarter of the season (let’s be honest, though: in Cleveland’s case, winning a game after Halloween counts as “on the rise” at this point), but for now, this is a game that could be enshrined in the Comedy Hall of Fame.
Five pointless points
- When looking at the schedule for this week, I saw “LA”. I may be the only person on the North-American continent who saw that and immediately though, “Louisiana” rather than “Los Angeles”. I’m so stupid.
- As long as Vontaze Burfict plays for Cincinnati, I’m going to make it a point to work his name and “jagoff” into the same sentence in creative ways for each week’s Yinzer’s Guide. As in, “Vontaze Burfict takes jagoffery to epic levels.”
- “Tom Brady didn’t know the NFL logo was missing from his helmet.” “I couldn’t have been going any faster than 55, officer.” “[Insert any Mike Tomlin press-conference injury report here].” What are Three Things Not Even an Idiot Would Believe”? I’ll take Obviousness for $800, Alex.
- On Tuesday, NFL.com reported that Buffalo’s offensive coordinator, Greg Roman, said recently drafted quarterbacks have struggled at to adapt to NFL offenses because, “they’re not being trained to do that. They’re being trained to win the next game in college so the college coach can keep his job.” If you ever wondered why bad backup quarterbacks have become an epidemic, there’s your answer.
- Just let me see it one time, coach: Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt at defensive end; Javon Hargrave and Daniel McCullers at defensive tackle; James Harrison and Bud Dupree at outside linebacker; Ryan Shazier at inside linebacker; Artie Burns and Justin GIlbert at cornerback; Mike Mitchell at free safety; and Sean Davis at strong safety. That secondary may sound shaky from a technical standpoint, but I highly doubt there has been a more imposing defense than that from a physical and athletic standpoint. That says a lot, then, when you consider that’s far from the most effective defensive lineup the Steelers could put on the field on a given Sunday. This defense is going to surprise us all this year. If you need to see evidence of that, rewatch the first quarter of the Steelers/Saints pre-season game. It was: