Illusions

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As I watched the much ballyhooed 2010 preseason “debut” of one Ben Roethlisberger I was suddenly encouraged and discouraged. It was a lackluster performance by the $100 Million Dollar Man because his effort only led to three points. Now one would normally consider that a decent effort for a little over two minutes work.

However, Roethlisberger is no ordinary quarterback, remember? In spite of all the continued attention to his off the field antics, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin appears to be indifferent. When it comes to Big Ben. Mr. Tomlin seems to take it all in stride, whether Big Ben throws a nasty pick or is accused of hanging out with a “nasty” girl.

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When Tomlin was asked about the off the field off season disruptions of his starting QB, he said, “I don’t care about the disruption, quite frankly, when it comes to his performance. He’s a professional. His job is to play and lead us, and he’s done that. He’ll continue to do that and we’ll deal with all the other things that we have to deal with in the appropriate manner.” Wouldn’t be nice if that much discretion was afforded to all of his players?

Take a look at the sterling silver-type evaluation that Tomlin gave Big Ben after his first performance of the 2010 season. “First time out, I thought he did some nice things. He moved us. It was a good start.” Yeah, Hoorah. He completed 6-8 passes and as is customary threw his signature “pick.”

Meanwhile, Ike Taylor, the Steelers most complete defensive back, got into a punching match with Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks after the fourth play of the game and both were ejected. Nicks blamed the incident on Taylor. Tomlin seemed to echo those sentiments, well at least in part. “I was blocking downfield and trying to finish my block, and the next thing I knew, he was throwing punches, so I tried to defend myself,” Nicks said. Tomlin was not happy about Taylor’s reaction, characterizing Taylor’s actions as “dumb.”

Here we go again, glib and baseless one liners from Tomlin. The two-headed dragon of double standards rears its ugly head again. Tomlin could have just as easily defended Ike Taylor as opposed to berating and parading him before the world and the media with an ill-advised reactionary and negative tongue lashing.

The Steelers Nation had better hope that there will not be a concerted campaign to devalue the talent of Taylor in 2010 because it seems that the powers-that-be have decided that if his value is diluted they might have a decent shot at signing him, if he decides to stay.

In a 2004 game against the Browns, espn.com reported, “Talking trash wasn’t enough. The Browns and Steelers decided to trade punches. Less than an hour before Sunday’s game, Browns RB William Green and Steelers LB Joey Porter squared off and wildly swung at each other near midfield. The altercation resulted in both being ejected and added another chapter to the NFL’s nastiest rivalry, which had lost some of its snarl the past few years.”

Even Roethlisberger issued a quote that in hindsight seems a bit ironic. “I was 20 yards away. I picked up my helmet and went over. As a leader I want to help, but I didn’t want to do anything stupid.” Well, far be it for Big Ben for “not wanting to do anything stupid.”

It is not even remotely stupid to defend yourself in the heat of battle. What was Taylor supposed to do, give Nicks a mint julep and a bouquet of flowers as he was being pushed around on the gridiron?

One of the constants about this team is the defense. The “D” will ultimately dictate whether this team will excel and advance into the post season. When Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich or Dennis Dixon throws an ill-advised pick or fumbles after being sacked or stripped of the ball, it will be the defense that will be charged with turning a negative into a positive.

When the “Turk” as former head coach Chuck Noll called the bearer of the “pink slip” stands outside Tomlin’s door, his quotes and media savvy verbal assaults will be of no use.

The Steelers beat the Giants 24-17 at the New Meadowlands. This was for all intents and purposes a meaningless contest that could only serve as a personnel evaluator. Coach Tomlin was again given the opportunity to redeem himself and establish himself as a “man for all players” but chose again to align himself with the chosen few. He keeps making “dumb” mistakes disconnecting with certain players for no apparent reason almost as if he is navigating through the Steelers locker room with blinders on. Well, maybe not blinders but with a pair of very thick and dark sunglasses on. You are only given so many chances to win a battle. Don’t continue to look a gift horse in the mouth, unless of course you are a veterinarian.

(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: abruce@newpittsburghcourier.com or 412-583-6741.)

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