My brother finally made the trip up to Minnesota to visit last week. I’ve lived here 4 years and all it took to get up from Southern Illinois was a birthday surprise of Penguins tickets (against the Wild, here in MN), and the promise of a three day party. So naturally we spent all three days, except for the three hours we spent at the Pens game, talking about the current state of the Steelers. Predictably, our rants were full of slurred words, tangents, bar fights, and a couple of manicures (what, brothers can’t enjoy a little pampering too?), but there were a few things that stuck with me, err…that I was able to remember.
The Ravens have been on our heels for a while, and it doesn’t seem as though they will be letting up any time soon. I know when you’re around other Steeler fans it’s super cool to say “yeah they’re playing OK, but we’ll beat ‘em in Pittsburgh no problem,” or “I just don’t see the Ravens winning the division this year, I’m more worried about the Bengals,” (yes I heard someone say that on Tuesday) but you can’t honestly think those statements are true.
Are the Ravens a legitimate concern when they come to Pittsburgh? Yes, any team at any time is a legitimate concern, to the point where I feel like I shouldn’t be talking about the Ravens since we have to beat the Cardinals first. But since my co-workers have done such a thorough job covering the Steelers/Cardinals game…
To say you’re confident the Steelers will go 12-4 is a stretch right now. To say the Steelers are a lock to beat anyone, let alone the Ravens, is a stretch right now. Yet, when we were on the shuttle bus heading from the Excel Energy Center post Pens beat-down of the Wild back to Bennet’s Pub, that seemed to be the consensus amongst the other Pittsburgh fans I was with (I was shuttling with about 20 other Pittsburgh fans to and from the game). My reaction? I think I said something like, “Trust me, I would be absolutely elated if the Steelers went 12-4 this year, but come on guys, have you been watching the games?”
I’ll give them one thing, The Steelers do have a relatively easy schedule, and without it, we may have been up a poop creek without a plunger. Keeping in mind the late bye (week 11 I think) and the fact that we have to play the Patriots and Ravens back to back, and we still have to beat the oddly surging Bungles (they have the top-ranked defense in the NFL right now…yeah…) twice, I’d say we’re looking more like 10-6 than 12-4. Now, if you were to say the Ravens might go 12-4, that I could believe.
It’s not that I’m a pessimist, because I am not. It’s because I’ve seen how streaky and fluky the Steelers have been this season. Ben’s throws can be so widely inaccurate sometimes. Sometimes the O line will look good, and other times not. We’re more built to run on the O line than to pass block, and as bad as they are run-blocking, they’re that much worse pass-blocking. It’s a shame too because all the talent lies in the WRs, but we can’t give Ben enough time to throw. When Ben does have time to throw he freaks out and chucks it down the field as hard as he can, probably in panic mode waiting to get his block clocked.
It does seem, however, like they are slowly ironing out the kinks. The running game seemed to be revitalized last week on the hands of Rashard Mendenhall (Ok, I do like saying I told you so), and there were so many WRs open I couldn’t even keep track of how many TDs Ben missed by overthrowing the rock. So you know, we’re like, weird right now. Consistency is something this team lacks in every aspect of the game, and until we can be more consistent playing, I am not convinced that this team is built to win right now.
That being said, we are getting better, and if things continue to get better we could be looking at a case of “peaked at the right time,” not so unlike our new-found hated foe the 2010/11 Green Bay Packers. The Pack dealt with injuries and sort of limped in to the playoffs last year. They peaked late, and got healthy and ended up taking the Lombardi back to where it all started.
Maybe we’re just a mediocre football team that needs to limp around for a year until we can get a hold of ourselves and go after #7 in 2012. Or maybe we will be the ones peaking at the right time. If the Steelers can win enough games to get in to the playoffs, maybe we’re looking at a healthy O line, healthy James Harrison, healthy Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith and so on. Maybe we’re looking at #7.
Follow me on Twitter at @AdamMeckler, I tweet a lot.
PS Apparently there is a sitcom on TV right now called Mike and Molly (I don’t really watch TV). Well, the big dude who is the main character on that show is from Pittsburgh and is a huge Steeler fan. His name is Billy Gardell. He was extremely articulate and funny when I heard him on NFL radio. If you can find a podcast with him talking about the Steelers, I suggest you download and listen.