You may not have known this about me, but I hail from a place much less awesome than Pittsburgh when it comes to football. The Twin Cities are my usual stomping grounds, but I am proud to announce that today is my first article that I have written from the great city of Pittsburgh. That’s right, Thanksgiving brings families together and my family is no exception. For the first time in three years my whole immediate family is together and our place to congregate is my mom’s new house in Millvale. My Aunts and Uncles, cousins and cousin’s kids…it’s been a blast reconnecting with everyone. One of my favorite moments in traveling to Pittsburgh is right when you emerge from that tunnel that goes through Washington Mountain and the first thing you see is the beautiful city. It’s breathtaking every time, even when I’m only on a couple hours of sleep.Even though the three teams we all rooted for yesterday weren’t able to make a stand against the surging Packers, Cowboys and Ravens, we still enjoyed our time together, and realize that nothing comes easy in the NFL. When the Steelers lost 5 straight games in 2009, we needed losses from something like three different teams to back door our way to the playoffs. Well, you can’t ever count on anyone to do a Steeler’s job for you.
Now that the Ravens are back ahead in first place in the division (and entire AFC, I think), the Steelers enter in to the time of year where stacking up win upon win is the most crucial. Because the Steelers allowed the Ravens to Gatorade dump all over them, the Steelers now must have a better record at the end of the season to win the division and secure home field in the playoffs.
There were other teams I was somewhat concerned with mid-way through the season, but injuries have taken their toll on many a team this season, particularly at the quarterback position. For the longest time I yelled and screamed every time the yellow flags fly in the direction of a leaping-towards-the-quarterback James Harrison, but I am beginning to understand, if only just a little bit, the method behind the madness of the Commissioner and his fight to protect the Quarterback.
Many of us have adopted the missing toothed Jack Lambert’s idea that “Quarterbacks should start wearing dresses.” It’s not unreasonable to argue such a statement considering how touchy it can be when you’re leaping in the direction of Aaron Rodgers, but what does it do for the game when the starting QB goes down for a team. Is it good for the game of football?
Short term, a starting QB is good for the team playing the ones who just lost their QB, and ever subsequent opponent to play said team. Other than that, losing a starting QB for the season, or even for a short time, is not really that awesome. Let’s take a look around the NFL and see if we can understand what I’m talking about here.
Matt Cassel was acquired by the Chiefs after playing semi-OK football with the Patriots for a season while Tom Brady was out with a torn ACL and MCL in 2008. That hit was ironically put on Brady by the Chiefs’ Bernard Pollard. The Patriots weren’t much to handle without Tom Brady, and beating them that year just didn’t feel that satisfying. Now that Cassel, the starting QB for the Chiefs, has been injured and is out for the season, we are left with the 0-1 with 3 INTs Tyler Palko behind center. Palko was the Chiefs’ only other option after Cassel went down, but the recent acquisition of Kyle Orton will likely change Palko’s starting role to a back-up one.
Tavaris Jackson, who had been taken in after being demoted from the starting position in MN in favor of an aging and interception-prone Brett Favre, was actually starting to come in to some sort of a groove with the Seattle Seahawks and sustained an injury that had him out for a while. Charlie Whitehurst was his replacement.
The Eagles have been the most overrated team this season by a mile, and a lot of it has to do with Vick’s inability to stay healthy. Now, obviously there are many contributing factors to Vick’s injuries, but the fact remains that when Vick is not healthy, the Eagles are not as explosive as they could be. Lucky for them, they have a very competent back-up in Vince Young, who was brought in from the Titans this year for precisely this reason. V. Young is really a starting caliber quarterback, in my opinion, and is one of the few examples out there where there isn’t such a massive drop-off between the starter and the back-up. As Kimmy said in her Thanksgiving article, we’re another team fortunate enough to have talent in the back-up QB position in Charlie Batch.
The Bears found life the last couple of seasons in Jay Cutler, who they swapped (no trade backs!!) with Denver for Kyle Orton. When Cutler went down last week, the Bears were left with either trying to grab Orton off Waivers, who had been “Tebowed” in Denver, or go with their backup Caleb Hanie. The Bears did try and grab Orton, but multiple teams put in claims to keep their NFC rivals at bay, including the Cowboys and the Chiefs. The Chiefs ended up with Orton and the Bears ended up in a pickle. Well, actually…they all ended up in a pickle. ‘Cause Orton is terrible.
Now, the Bears will have to figure out how they can jump back without Cutler. They still sit in a good position in the NFC at 7-3, but that will likely be changing fast unless they can find someone surprising to step up and play good football for them.
We all know how devastating the loss of Peyton Manning was to the Colts. Curtis Painter has been able to watch Manning work for a couple of seasons and he’s not even close to ready to be in there playing in the big leagues. The Colts are pitiful, and this is the perfect example of something that is really pretty bad for football. No one wants a team to go 0-16. Unless we’re talking about the Browns. Then I’d just laugh.
The injury that effects the Steelers the most is the season-ending injury to Matt Schaub, who went down last week and won’t be getting back up for the year. Arian Foster came on to some NFL pre-game show and talked about how “someone will just have to step up and play for us, just like when any other position goes down.” Well, Arian, it’s not really the same as when you were out for four games at the beginning of the season. We are entering crunch time in the NFL and the Texans are shit out of luck at the QB position. Not really sure who Kellen Clemens is, but apparently this is the guy the Texans signed to come in and play backup QB. Matt Leinart will be the starter for them moving forward, and the drop-off in play between Schaub and Leinart will likely be staggering.
My point is this: these big-time injuries to big-time players who have as much to do with their team as any one player, or even any entire unit, is not good for the NFL. The drop-off in play between backups and starters is just stoopid. It’s no wonder the league has gone way out of their way to protect these guys. I must admit that I scratch my head a little when flags aren’t thrown in the area of Big Ben as often, but we all know they treat pocket passers much differently than they treat mobile QBs in the NFL.
Yes, some of these flags are excessive, but do you see why? The level of play after a starting QB goes down is just awful. I sincerely hope the rule changes don’t ruin the game, and that they find some kind of balance, but I think they were right to do something about it, even if it pisses Steeler Nation off to no end when a flag is thrown. Last night there was a call on Kyle Vandenbosch when he hit Rodgers as the ball was releasing from his hands. This was clearly an abuse of the rule and a terrible call. To my eyes, no question about it. A bad call. That being said, the majority of them are the right call, and the move to diminish injuries in the NFL is also the right call, every time.
Follow my on Twitter at @AdamMeckler, I tweet a lot.