They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I’m not sure if ‘they’ are the same people who say a leopard never changes its spots, but maybe they’re the same guys. It might not even be a guy—after all, it’s 2017 and we want to be politically correct right?
You don’t know me that well do ya?
Before I veer off course and send this article into a 10-car pileup, let me get to what I really wanted to discuss, and that’s the improved play of five Pittsburgh Steelers, who, with better play and production, can help lift this team to winning the top seed for the AFC playoffs. Winning the division is still up in the air, sort of. I don’t like to count my chickens...
Notice the animal theme here?
So without further ado, here are the five Steelers who hold the keys to take the black-and-gold to the top seed in the AFC.
(For the record, this list has no particular order of importance, it’s just how it reads. So don’t go over-analyzing it, you crazy kids of the BTSC comment sections.)
A rather easy selection here, in my opinion. Look people, it’s real simple. MB needs to lay off the social media sites, stay away from the kind bud and keep working. There’s nothing that’s going to make this kid feel better about his place on the team outside of catching 10 balls a game and a pair of scores. But I’d like to think, after getting deactivated for the Detroit game prior to another week off, Bryant had to do some sort of internal check and get himself back into the state of mind needed to perform in the right manner.
Sunday’s totals included just three catches, but his last two were quite important. In fact, the first of those didn’t count in the official stats, as Bryant pulled in the 2-point play that tied the game at 17-17. His last, however, was a critical third-down reception on the game’s final drive. A nifty 19 yard catch and mostly scamper to midfield, setting up the game-winning FG by Chris Boswell. More of that kind of play from MB will make Steelers fans forget his awful first half.
Now before you go off saying ‘Hey JP, Ryan has been the glue to this defense’ calm down. The headline says Players who hold keys’ not players who need to improve their play.’ I bring up Shazier because the dude is a flat-out baller. He made another big play Sunday when the team was down by a 17-9 score, picking off a pass from Jacoby Brissett deep in Colts’ territory that he somehow had the agility to see, react and grab all in what appeared to be less than one second or just about exactly the same amount of time it takes me to accept a free buffet ticket at Sizzler. Yes folks, that fast. More plays like that in crucial situations will only help the Steelers chances of winning and that’s a good thing.
You want to be a big baller, shot caller. You want $15M per year, you have to earn it every day. Every moment. Not here and there. Not when you are ‘feeling it’ or when it’s easy. Anybody can do that. No, this less than 4-yards per carry nonsense needs to stop.
Bell held out because he says he’s worth top dollar. So far, I don’t see it. I’m not saying the dude can’t play, because he can, but if you want to be the best, you must play like it every snap. I haven’t see that from Bell in most games. He’s had three outstanding performances. The other six? Meh!
I’m not even sure if he’s worth franchising for a second-straight year. If you’re the Steelers, you need Bell to pick it up because the window is very short at this point for winning a Super Bowl with the nucleus you have. Bell must ramp up his production both running the ball and catching it out of the backfield. If that happens, then everybody wins.
Steelers’ Offensive Line
Why single out one guy when you can quintuple the fun and drag everybody into the fray! (A little ode to ‘Deuce’ Skursenski) Look, before 2017 began you had some people touting this as the best O-line in team history. No really, you did. I never got that feeling, but I know that they have to open better holes for Bell to jaunt through. Their pass protection has been OK, but will OK carry them through the playoffs and into a Super Bowl?
Open bigger running lanes and keep Ben upright. Seems simple right? And speaking of Ben...
I don’t like dumping on Ben. Ever since he started playing I’ve marveled at his ability and overall command of the offense. How he could impact a game in its first 30 minutes and, in doing so, impact how the final 30 unfolded. For many, the play of Ben Roethlisberger was never about big stats. The offense, or at least the team itself, was built in that ‘old Steelers way’ of running and playing solid defense. What nobody really recognized was how Roethlisberger would overwhelm opponents with his arm in the first half, help establish a lead and then let the running game and defense take over and suffocate the opposition until they quit.
For Ben at this point, it’s more about avoiding the mistakes that don’t need to happen because he’s forcing the ball. One thing he demonstrated on Sunday was his ability to play from behind. Down 17-3, Ben came up big, engineering three second-half scoring drives to secure win No. 7. Hey, Ben wears No. 7 and this team is trying to win a seventh Super Bowl.
Man, I love it when synergy rears it’s ugly head and helps we wrap up an article all in one swoop!
Having covered sports in Pittsburgh for over 20 years, John Phillips is no stranger to slinging around his opinion about anything Pittsburgh related. Don’t follow JP on Twitter, ‘cause mostly it’s a waste of time. And the fact that JP doesn’t have a Twitter account because abusing your brain like that should be a crime.