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10 Things I Think I Thought — which might be the last Steelers things I thought on my deathbed

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It wasn’t pretty, and nearly gave this BTSC author a heart attack in the process. Such is life as a Steelers fanatic.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

My dear wife told me on the way home, “My goal each week is to keep you from dying.” She played her best game today as my blood pressure barely survived an app platter and the game. Still, here are ten things I think I thought along the way.

  1. Style points? We don’t need no stinking style points. I really thought we were going to lose this game, beginning the first time James Conner took his eye off the ball. More on that later. But as difficult an experience as this game was to watch, I am grateful for the win, especially with the Bengals’ loss. Coach Tomlin is right — style points don’t go on the scoreboard, nor do they go in the standings.
  2. Style points! My kingdom for some style points! It would have been a much more relaxing afternoon did we not look so bad. I saw the whole season slipping away, not because of another year of lame-sauce defense, not because Ben doesn’t have it anymore, but because Ben didn’t have it on this day. I get that the Jaguars with Leonard Fournette are a much better team than the Jags without him. But this game should have been a relative walk in the park. It turned out to be a walk in Central Park after midnight while the moon is full, and with Michael Jackson’s Thriller playing in the background. Way yonder too scary.
  3. I can see how a quarterback’s bad day can easily snowball. A few bad passes gets you behind. You feel the weight of the failure, so you start pressing and forcing balls into too-small windows. That said, if I’m James Conner, and I make a high-school mistake of looking downfield before securing the ball on a critical fourth down late in the game, wouldn’t I make sure I don’t do that twice? And yet he did when the game was on the line, when the only thing he had to look at besides the ball, was the few yards of green between him and the end zone. I know the rules on free kicks are not universally known, but everyone knows you can’t advance a forward pass unless or until you actually catch it. By the way, I still love me some James Conner. Chin up young man. We’re still behind you.
  4. In an earlier piece, I made the suggestion that a day would come when, once again, the defense would carry this team. I didn’t expect it to be this year, let alone this week. How do you give up three turnovers and 179 yards rushing and only give up 16 points? Better still, when we needed to get the ball back and quickly — during the 17-minute stretch when the offense scored three touchdowns — the defense stepped up and forced 3-and-outs, often accompanied by negative yardage due to sacks. There were plenty of missed tackles, and a deeply missed defensive end, Stephon Tuitt, but the defense should be feeling increasingly good about themselves.
  5. Big Ben Roethlisberger makes a better Daryl Lamonica than a Kenny Stabler. The Mad Bomber, back in the day, racked up big plays and INTs. The Snake, on the other hand, tended to slither down the field, West Coast offense style. It’s a terrible thing to throw three INTs, but some of his throws on short balls were even worse. That said, not every quarterback can casually pick up a 78-yard TD and twice methodically move the ball down the field with 20- and 30-yard gains to his secondary receiver.
  6. Right about now is when I sing the praises of Joe Haden. But today it’s Jalen Ramsey. He owned Antonio Brown most of the day, but AB and the Steelers own the night.
  7. Can someone score a couple of Tony Robbins tickets for Artie Burns and James Washington? They both could use a boost. I remain confident, however, that before they’re done, both will give the Steelers a boost.
  8. Were I a defensive coordinator, I’d plant a safety just to the defense’s right of the goalposts, in the back of the end zone. Not that it would stop the Vanimal from his weekly TD right there, but at least I’d be trying.
  9. JuJu Smith-Schuster. Every week I come away thinking — this is not an illusion. He’s not the WR equivalent of the Wizard of Boz(worth), who was worth a lot less as a player than he was as a personality. On the contrary, JuJu is very good at playing football.
  10. One mark of a truly strong team is winning games it looks like you’re going to lose. But that’s enough for this year. Please. Of course were my dad the pessimist still with us, at game’s end he would have smiled and said, “We had ‘em all the way.” Now let’s go crush the bucking Broncos.