A few NFL rules and regulations can be difficult to understand, sometimes even bordering on the absurd, but there is one particular rule that make perfect sense to me. It is better known as the blackout rule. If a game is not sold out 72 hours before kickoff then the locals have to show up in person at the stadium or put their hands on the radio in order to receive their “football” healing for the week.
There was one particular spot that bucked the system and thumbed their nose at the NFL establishment. O’Brien’s Irish Pub in Tampa broadcast an Internet feed that allowed customers to watch the game live, although according to a report in the Tampa Tribune, O’Brien’s is a local hangout for Steeler fans. Still that was a serious boo-boo and for that gaffe, O’Brien’s should allow their regular customers to run a free tab until the next Buccaneer victory.
Listening to the radio broadcast would have been less graphic. If Tampa Bay plays any way as miserable in the upcoming weeks as they did against the Steelers last Sunday, whether they sell out the stadium or not, a blackout should be mandatory.
Now onto the game itself. The Steelers shipwrecked the Buccaneers by a score of 38-13. Backup QB Charlie Batch threw for 186 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Mike Wallace piled up 100 yards receiving on just three catches and scored touchdowns of 41 and 46 yards. Rashard Mendenhall rushed for 143 yards.
Even though he played a great game, Batch seemed almost semi-apologetic. After the fiasco (at least for Tampa Bay) concluded, he said, “Everybody knows Ben’s the starter. One thing I didn’t want to do was be that weak link, to go out there and not be able to provide a spark or put this team in the end zone.” I can hear echoes of host Anne Robinson of the now defunct television show “The Weakest Link” telling Batch with her sultry British accent, “Charlie, you are not the weakest link.”
Batch might not be the savior of the Steelers but he is certainly the saver. A month ago he was unwanted and underappreciated by almost everyone in the Steelers Nation, to a certain degree even by yours truly but through it all, Batch retained his dignity and his character.
“We played a heavyweight,” Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. “They (the Steelers) were more physical, more aggressive and more opportunistic. That was a good team, and I think we learned a lot from it. They dominated us on the scoreboard, but at the same time I feel like our team’s mentality walking away is that we could’ve played with those guys.” Yeah Raheem, you must also expect us to believe that your alligator friends in the Everglades say their prayers and put their “dentures” in a water glass before they go to bed at night. If the Steelers as a whole were the “heavyweights” then Charlie Batch administered the knockout blows that put Tampa Bay on the canvas for the duration. No, Batch is not the savior of the Steelers but neither is anyone else. There is an old saying in regards to a subordinate filling in to perform a superior’s job and it goes something like this. “I’m not the plumber. I’m the plumber’s son. I’ll put a patch on the leak until the plumber comes.”
When starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger reclaims his gig after the Steelers bye week then I guess we will see the “real” Pittsburgh Steelers. If Big Ben happens to have a subpar game, I do not want to hear any excuses, from anyone, anytime or anywhere. If Charlie Batch can come off the bench, not having started a game since 2007, then Big Ben should almost be midseason form, P.S. (post suspension) because he has only missed four games. As far as working out, he should be doing that on his own. The NFL cannot prevent him from working out on his own because according to the local prognosticators, Big Ben is the “savior,” isn’t he?
When Roethlisberger returns to action and throws an ill-advised pick, just call it an interception like they call the picks that are tossed by Batch and Dennis Dixon. I don’t want to hear statements such as “That’s Big Ben, the mark of a great quarterback is trying to make a play.” “It appears that Big Ben is still a bit rusty.” “Last week at Tennessee, Batch looked like the tin man from the “Wizard of Oz.” C’mon now, how rusty do you think Batch was after holding a clipboard since 2007? But last weekend he was oiled up and ready to go. The Steelers are currently 3-0. The worst that their pre-bye record will be after Sunday’s showdown with the Ravens will be 3-1. Is it too much to suggest that we should all expect to end the 2010 season at 15-1 or 14-2 because Big Ben will be back? Seriously “yinzers,” no one player should receive all the accolades for a victory or all the blame for a defeat, football is a team game.
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.)