To say Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns is the most important game for the Pittsburgh Steelers in quite a while is an understatement. While needing a lot of help, a victory against the Browns could propel the Steelers into the postseason. And when one thinks about how the season started for the black and gold, it would be quite an achievement for the storied franchise.
As I said, a victory alone wouldn’t be enough to propel them into the playoffs, they still would need the Dolphins, Ravens, and Chargers to all lose, but as we’ve seen with the 2013 season, nothing is ever impossible or improbable. Now if they played all year how they’ve played the last two weeks, the Steelers would be waltzing into another postseason birth. Last week’s win against Green Bay was a capsule of the entire season :good, bad, and ugly. The good was watching Le’Veon Bell out rush fellow rookie Eddie Lacy, the defense scoring a TD, and the team overcoming questionable officiating and coaching. And why mention the bad and ugly when the end result was a win for our Steelers. At long last, it’s time to finally believe in this team.
Now I have been as critical, perhaps more so than anyone of the Steelers all season. I’ve blasted HC Mike Tomlin for his game management and other questionable decisions (and his lack of sideline awareness), I’ve called out OC Todd Haley and DC Dick Lebeau and even went so far as to suggest it was never too early to start breaking this bunch up. However, these last two weeks have revived my faith and belief in this team. It’s taken fourteen games, but they are playing Steeler football : scoring on defense, running the ball and letting Ben Roethlisberger do what he does best. Come what may this Sunday, I’m a believer once again. While Bell hasn’t exactly brought back memories of ‘The Bus’ or Franco (or even Barry Foster), he has proved to be a solid receiver out of the backfield. And Jerricho Cotchery has given us the best season of his career. Antonio Brown has solidified his stature as a no. 1 receiver and has made people forget Mike Wallace. And I couldn’t be happier to see Cam Heyward prove me wrong about him, turning in a solid season and providing the team with someone young to build a defense around. I was equally wrong about OLB Jason Worilds, even though he won’t be back next year due to cap issues; he has picked up the slack from Lamar Woodley (who SHOULDN’T be back next year). And yes, first round pick Jarvis Jones has struggled, but ILB Lawrence Timmons has been solid. I’m happy that Brett Keisel will be around for one more year, but I get the feeling that we are seeing the final few games of Troy Polamalu’s Pittsburgh career. David Decastro has struggled with injuries lately, but he’s come along nicely this year, and Fernando Velasco was a solid free agent signing before getting hurt. If I’m the Pittsburgh brass, I find a way to bring him back. I think an interior of Decastro-Pouncey-Velasco would be a solid group heading into the 2014 season.
We all know changes will have to be made and much has been written about the team’s cap issues and Ben’s fractured relationship with Todd Haley, all of which will play out when the season ends. Worilds and WR Emmanuel Sanders are all but gone and Woodley, Polamalu and Ryan Clark will probably be joining them. I still view Ziggy Hood as a bust but I like Al Woods in the rotation. Switching to a 4-3 alignment next season isn’t out of the realm of possibility, especially with some good DL help available in the middle rounds of next year’s draft. However, I’ll worry about all that when the time comes. For now, I’m just happy to find the Steelers still in the playoff conversation. But I’m tired of being a negative Nancy, I bleed black and gold and I’ll be praying to the football Gods come this Sunday for them to find a way for the Steelers to get into the playoffs. I have a feeling if they can get into the post season, they could make some noise.
It’s taken almost the entire season, but I believe in the 2013 Steelers……do you???
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