It has been bad enough that the 2012 Steelers played “Patty-Cake” over the course of the entire season with the “easiest” part of their schedule (Oakland, Tennessee, Cleveland, San Diego). But the fact that Pittsburgh has pissed away potential “W’s” in numerous others (Denver, Baltimore, Dallas) has left them with a 7-7 record and on the “outside” of the postseason picture “looking in.”
Instead of comfortably coasting into the postseason with Baltimore in the middle of their own late-season slump by beating their lowly and inconsistent foes, the Steelers have basically made their last two contests “must wins” due to their inconsistent and undisciplined play. Although I cannot say that I am completely surprised that Pittsburgh is in their current state though.
In fact, if you care to recollect readers, I was actually the NPC member who predicted a “7 Win season” back in September. And yes, I continue to firmly believe that the Steelers are not worthy of a postseason berth after how the collective “team” has performed through the first 15 Weeks of the regular season.
But as we all know readers, the Steelers are “still alive” for a postseason berth, and even have a chance at another A.F.C. North title if Baltimore continues their current hilarious collapse. Thus, tomorrow’s game will be Pittsburgh’s “ultimate gut check” as a “W” will allow them to control their own destiny for another week, and a “L” will dash the team’s playoff dreams. I however just do not see the recidivist 2012 Steelers collectively “nutting up” tomorrow.
Sure, we can all “Bag on The Bungles” and talk about how “Ginger Spice & Co.” have yet to win a game over last two years against a top-tier A.F.C. foe (0-6 vs. Pittsburgh & Baltimore). And hey, the Steelers have recent history on their side as their roster is littered with numerous players who have eons of big game and postseason experience. But you know what readers? Cincinnati is not going to just roll over when they see the Black & Gold hit their home turf.
The Bengals are currently fighting for respect, relevance, and to affirm to those around the N.F.L. that they have the “huevos” to compete at the highest level and can compete for a playoff spot every season. They battled back from the “dead” (3-5) at midseason and have won 5 of their last 6 games to now sit in the driver’s seat for the A.F.C.’s #6 seed and set themselves up for a legitimate shot at an A.F.C. North title. Cincinnati has a roster littered with fantastic young talent and although they have struggled at times with growing pains, they are not the “pushover” Bungles of the last two decades. A.J. Green (85 Catches, 1,208 Yards, 11 TD’s) is one of the Top 5 players at his position, and Geno Atkins is leading a Defensive Front (10.5 Sacks) that can bring the heat with the best of them. What better way for the Bengals to show the League that they mean business than to embarrass their long-standing rivals on their own home field.
As hot as the Bengals have been as of late, the Steelers on the other hand are as what I can only refer to as an “undisciplined dumpster fire of madness” at this point in the season. From the constant bickering between the team’s All-Pro Quarterback and Offensive Coordinator, to the supposedly “elite” and butterfingered Wide Receiver pissing and moaning about Targets, Touches, and Focus although he is on pace to eclipse his career mark in the category, to the Defense’s “Paper Champion” #1 status despite the fact that they cannot force Turnovers or collapse the pocket consistently, and the overall lack of discipline when it has come to being penalized and playing down to their competition, the 2012 Steelers are exactly the type of team the Bengals want to play right now.
Granted, there have been a few bright spots for the Steelers this season (i.e. Heath Miller, Lawrence Timmons, Larry Foote, Ryan Clark, Max Starks, Shaun Suisham), but the “bad” have outweighed the accomplishments of the “good” at this point in the season. Unfortunately for the Steelers, injuries have recently decimated the Secondary, and it now looks like the team will be without starting Cornerbacks Ike Taylor and Keenan Lewis as well. Cortez Allen has potential to be a starter one day, but if “Ginger Spice” and Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden not picking on him consistently with A.J. Green I will be absolutely dumbfounded. What is worse is the fact that Pittsburgh’s Run Defense has had a down-season as well, and Running Back BenJarvus Green-Ellis has saved his most productive football for the month of December (62 Carries for 313 Yards, 5.04 YPC, 1 TD).
To be honest, I actually picked the Steelers to win tomorrow when I sent my Week 16 selections via email to Kim. My “homer nature” unfortunately got the best of me in that situation, because as I continue to analyze this matchup more and more, the less and less I like the Pittsburgh’s chances to win. I will say that with #7 under Center that the Steelers have a chance to win any game at any time at any place. Unfortunately, because football is a team game, and due to the team’s injuries and undisciplined nature, Big Ben and the rest of the team’s few over-achievers this year must play their best football to earn the victory and stay alive.
If the Steelers were primed to make a postseason run this year, they would have illustrated more signs over the last two months and strung together multiple consistent performances. It hurts to say it, but I see the 2012 season coming to a close from a competitive standpoint tomorrow afternoon for Pittsburgh.
Readers: Time to chime in. Am I wrong with my Bengals pick? Why or why not? In fact, I am interested to read exactly why you believe that the Steelers will emerge victorious tomorrow. Share your thoughts below.