Welcome to the latest edition of the Steelers Stock Report of the 2020 NFL season: Indianapolis Colts edition. I have been granted the distinguished opportunity to attempt to determine which direction individual players, or units, are trending after each weekly matchup, to the best of my ability. I will attempt to make each determination without the use of my Black-and-Gold glasses, but admittedly I can make no promises.
Let’s get started...
Steelers stock trending up: Ben Roethlisberger
Although it happened a couple of days after the yearly celebration that is shared by families all around the world, we members of Steelers Nation were blessed to experience another Christmas miracle on Sunday afternoon as Ben Roethlisberger lead his flat-lining team back from a 24-7 second half deficit to defeat the Indianapolis Colts and clinch the AFC North crown. Things are often darkest before the dawn, something the Steelers offense knows all too well after struggling through a blackout in recent weeks. The first half against the Indianapolis Colts was more of the same.
The much ballyhooed showdown between Ben Roethlisberger and Phillip Rivers was very one sided in the first half. Roethlisberger seemed disconnected and confused, while Rivers appeared confident and sure. That's what happens when you have a powerful rushing attack, talented pass catchers, and one of the best offensive lines around at your disposal. On top of that, the Colts have an outstanding defense and are extremely well coached. Rivers orchestrated the game plan to perfection in the first half, and things looked bleak for our good guys in the Black and Gold. Remember the things appear darkest quote from earlier, this was it.
That's when the real Big Ben finally decided to wake from his slumber. He went in at halftime and gave a rousing speech to rally the troops. I imagine it paid tribute to the late great Steelers legend Kevin Greene as Ben enthusiastically urged his teammates to go back out onto the field and play like a pack of wild dogs, but according to actual reports he drew up some plays in an effort to explain what he was expecting from his receivers and reminded them all to try and have some fun. Lest anyone forgets, losing is absolutely no fun at all.
A pep talk is all well and good, but it would be meaningless if he didn't start playing like the Steelers legend he is. All he did was good out and add another thrilling chapter to that legacy. To me, this was the greatest comeback performance of Ben's already illustrious career based on the circumstances, pressure within the organization, and importance for success in the near future. I would go into further detail, but that is an article for another day.
Ben Roethlisberger was his legendary self after halftime, maybe for the first time this season. He didn't just go full Big Ben on the stunned Colts defense, he turned back the clock and brought out the notorious Biggie Ben. No longer working exclusively with the dink and dunk mindset and the horizontal passing attack, Ben relied on his suddenly rejuvenated throwing arm to attack vertically down the field.
His throwing motion and mechanics looked as good as they have all season. He seemed fully committed and intent on driving the ball forcibly and aggressively through the air twenty to thirty yards downfield to attack the open holes in the defense that have been there for weeks. Not surprisingly, with the return of this aggressive mindset, he rediscovered the confidence and accuracy that had been missing in action recently.
We can only speculate whether the second half resurgence of the Steelers offense happened because of OC Randy Fichtner, or in spite of him. My guess would be the later, but I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and say a little bit of both. Regardless, the Steelers have to address their ridiculously ineffective starts to games on offense and entirely too many three and outs for an offense with loads of talent at the skill positions.
For now, I just want to celebrate the Steelers winning the AFC North crown and the fact that a rejuvenated Ben Roethlisberger gives the Steelers a fighting chance of bringing home a seventh Lombardi Trophy when it is all said and done. Congratulations to accomplishing the first phase of the mission. As the shirts say, Won Not Done! Go, Steelers!
Steelers stock trending down: Realistic hope for a rushing attack
Regrettably, this part of the report is obvious, so it will be short and sweet. Stealing a famous line from the Tom Cruise classic movie A Few Good Men when Cruise emphatically demands that he wants to know the truth, only to have the rather pompous Jack Nicholson respond with this unforgettable phrase, "You can't handle the truth!"
That statement perfectly applies to the Pittsburgh Steelers coaching staff and a large segment of the Steelers fanbase. The Steelers running game is beyond repair and no amount of focusing on it will change that reality. For better or worse, the Steelers running game; or lack thereof, is what it is this season. The Steelers are wasting valuable snaps and opportunities every time they refuse to accept this simple truth, leading to a staggering number of three and outs and unfavorable time of possession.
The Steelers don't have the talent necessary at running back nor the push required from the offensive line to sustain a consistently effective rushing attack. Additions and subtractions will be required after the season to ever change that harsh reality. This team must focus on their strengths moving forward into the playoffs, and that strength begins and ends with Ben Roethlisberger and his talented group of pass catchers.
If Ben can continue to drive the ball accurately twenty to thirty yards downfield, and his receivers catch the ball consistently, that will open back up the underneath throws as a pseudo running game. The Steelers can mix in the occasional run based on down and distance, and the defensive alignments.
The Steelers have struggled greatly to gain a single yard running the football when the defense knows it is coming. The Steelers offensive line are stalemated if not pushed back immediately, regardless how bad the opposing defenses have been leading up to playing the Steelers. Like it or not, this Steelers team has to throw the football to move the football and put points on the scoreboard.
Steelers stock skyrocketing upward: Winning culture
Adversity does not build character, it reveals it. The Steelers have definitely experienced adversity this season, and the weight of a never before seen season has been more than evident recently in both the performances and countenance of the team, particularly since the Thanksgiving week fiasco.
Different areas of the team have taken their turns being responsible for the downward trajectory of the team as a whole, until things hit rock bottom and their future Hall of Fame QB's play deteriorated to the point that many a fickle fan screamed he was done and should retire, the sooner the better. There were far more idiotic examples of utter nonsense prevalent around social media; with the disgusting cowardice of a few subhuman individuals who's death threats toward JuJu Smith-Schuster understandably frightened his precious mother definitely taking top billing, but the lack of loyalty and support for a Steelers legend being shown outside the friendly confines of BTSC was both disturbing and disappointing to yours truly.
Now it's up to Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers to silence the critics by making them choke on their own words moving forward. Hopefully all the imposters have jumped off the bandwagon and we can get back to being the united front known as Steelers Nation!