Don't Fall For The Tampa Trap

In footballese, a “trap game” is a game played the week before a contest against a tough or division rival opponent.  Teams have a tendency to underestimate their current opponent and worry more about the game looming on the horizon.  The trap is thus sprung when what would otherwise be an easy win becomes a surprising loss.

While the 2010 season is not even a month old, this weekend’s tilt between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers has trap game written all over it.  When the schedule was announced, I’m sure we all scanned the first month to see who the Black and Gold would be facing while Big Ben sits in time-out.  Except for the Negative Nellies who thought we’d go into the tank without the Messiah behind center, most people figured they’d win at least one of the four games. And I’d wager the gimme was seen as week three against Tampa.

Well, expectations have changed.   The Steelers first two opponents were formidable squads who were seen as favorites over the Black and Gold.  The Falcons are a rising team in the NFC yet our D held them without a touchdown.  Atlanta rebounded with a 41-7 destruction of a fine Arizona team in week two which makes the Steelers’ performance all the more impressive.   Tennessee was not only a popular playoff pick but some even saw them as possible Super Bowl contenders.   The complete and utter dismantling of the Titans on their home turf was a loud and clear statement that Pittsburgh is a force to be reckoned with.

Which brings us to this week.  The Bucs are vastly improved from a year ago.  They’re undefeated with victories against the Browns and Panthers, who are clearly the dregs of the NFL.  A win is a win but nobody should confuse the quality of their opposition with that of the Steelers.  We’re Alabama, they’re Boise State.  We’re number one, they’re struggling to sneak into the top twenty-five.  This is a game we should win.

Except flashing red DANGER! signs are going off all over the place.  The Steelers are unsettled at quarterback.  The game is in godforsaken Florida, where the hellish weather conditions play havoc with a player’s ability to go four full quarters.  And the hated Baltimore Ravens loom next week.  If there is a recipe for disaster, this game would have all the ingredients.

It became most apparent in Mike Tomlin‘s weekly news conference. He said Charlie Batch held the “pole position” for the starting job although Byron Leftwich was absolutely 100% good to go.  Yesterday, it was announced that Batch will indeed make his first start since 2007.  Well, if Leftwich is in such super-duper spiffy condition, why isn’t he starting over the guy they were about to release?   There are only two answers.  First, Tomlin is a dirty liar and Byron is still hobbled by the bad wheel.  Or they think they can skate by with Batch at QB while saving Leftwich for next week against the Ratbirds.

Having gone undefeated against two pretty good teams, the goal should be to emerge from Ben’s exile 3-1 at the very least.  2-2 would be somewhat disappointing given how the season has started.  However, reading between the lines, it sounds like they’re saying, “We don’t sweat Tampa.  We’ll start our B-team and still beat them.”  And if that’s not falling into the trap, I don’t know what is.

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Tags: Atlanta Falcons Baltimore Ravens Ben Roethlisberger Big Ben Black And Gold Black And Gold Blog Byron Leftwich Charlie Batch Dennis Dixon Mike Tomlin Pittsburgh Pittsburgh Steelers Pittsburgh Steelers Blog Roethlisberger Roethlisberger Concussion Steeler Nation Steelers Steelers Blog Steelers Nation Stillers Super Bowl Champions Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tennessee Titans Trap Game

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