“When you have the two best teams in football going at it, you’re going to get that kind of game.” That quote, a quote that isn’t an exact one, was from former Oakland Raiders head coach, John Madden, following his team’s last-second win over the two-time Super Bowl-winning Dolphins in the divisional round of the 1974 AFC playoffs.
Madden was referring to the Sea of Hands game, a classic, one that was supposed to propel Oakland to the Super Bowl and then to the Lombardi trophy.
If only Madden hadn’t angered Steelers head coach Chuck Noll, who reportedly got so gosh darn mad at Madden’s quote that he used it to motivate his players during a team meeting in the lead up to Pittsburgh’s clash with the Raiders in the AFC title game. According to several legendary Steelers players on hand for this meeting, including Mean Joe Greene, Noll said, “The Raiders act like they won the damn Super Bowl yesterday. Well, let me tell you, the Super Bowl is in a few weeks, and the best damn team in football is in this room!”
Wow, I have chills just reading that quote. Anyway, as per Mean Joe, who reportedly rose up out of his chair and began to clap after hearing his coach’s rhetoric, the Raiders didn’t stand a chance the following Sunday; it didn’t matter where or when the AFC Championship Game was being played, it was going to be the Steelers’ day.
The AFC title game was played in Oakland, and the Steelers were so gosh darn fired up for that game, they only allowed the Raiders to lead by a touchdown going into the fourth quarter before going on to victory.
Anyway...Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster did his best Madden impression last year by dancing on the logos of opposing teams for the purposes of TikTok videos and making his opponents so gosh darn mad, they were fired up enough to beat Pittsburgh.
The most famous examples of the Steelers comeuppance thanks to their TikToking receiver occurred in Buffalo and then in Cincinnati where, just moments after dancing on the Bengals logo before a Monday Night Game at Paul Brown Stadium in December, Smith-Schuster was knocked into the following week by Cincinnati safety Vonn Bell, who smacked Smith-Schuster so hard, he forced him to fumble the football away.
If only Smith-Schuster could have kept his dancing feet to himself, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger never would have thrown him that little crossing pass which put No. 19 in position to be rocked by an extra-motivated Bell, a player that likely wouldn’t have tackled with as much velocity had he also not been protecting his team’s shield.
Anyway...the Steelers were supposed to be super motivated heading into Sunday’s clash at Cincinnati thanks to receiver Tyler Boyd’s assertion that they “gave up” at the end of a 24-10 loss to the Bengals at Heinz Field in Week 3.
Oh no he didn’t! Oh yes he did!
Do you think Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin played Boyd’s quote on a continuous loop? Do you think he at least mentioned it at some point during the week? I’m guessing he at least mentioned it. I mean, you can’t let an opposing player, especially an opposing player who grew up in Pittsburgh, disrespect your team, your brand, your shield, your logo.
Just how fired up were the Steelers thanks to Boyd’s smear campaign weeks earlier? So fired up, they allowed Cincinnati to jump out to a 41-3 on the way to a 41-10 win.
Just imagine if Pittsburgh wasn’t so motivated by Boyd’s bulletin board material.
What’s my overall point? Bulletin board material is pointless. It comes down to technique. It comes down to talent. It comes down to schematics. It’s nice to say that stuff matters, but for every ex-player who says it does, there is one who says it doesn’t—Jack Ham comes to mind when it comes to the latter. Heck, Noll once said that motivation doesn’t come from the mouth; it comes from showing someone how to get the job done.
All the smack talk in the world isn’t going to help a team win a football game if it doesn’t have the talent and/or readiness to do so.
The Steelers aren’t the best damn football team in any room right now, and it’s going to take a lot more than bulletin board material to help them play better over the final six weeks of the 2021 regular season.