What a difference a week makes or does the saying go; what a difference playing a weak team makes? The Steelers played and lost their first game at the hands of the B-more Ravens and at times it appeared that Baltimore literary legend the late, great Edgar Allen Poe had exited the grave just to haunt Pittsburgh.
After a thorough spanking on the road, most teams in the NFL crave the green, green grass of home to provide restoration and rejuvenation. There is nothing like the hometown fans when it comes to putting ointment on wounded egos. But more importantly what really helps cure all that ails ya is having the opportunity to take out your frustrations on a team that is very, very bad. The Steelers resident geriatric, wide receiver Hines Ward mentioned after the Steelers defeated the Seahawks 24-0 on Sunday afternoon that the Steelers wanted to come out and set the tone early.
“Big” Ben Roethlisberger echoed those sentiments. “We did a good job driving the ball down the field and converting third downs early,” he said. “I am still very disappointed (with our) short yardage and goal-line. I don’t know what our percentage was, but I don’t think it was very good with converting touchdowns. I know our offensive line takes pride in that and they will really kick themselves for that. I thought we could have scored a lot more points than we did. We won the game and that is the most important thing right now.” I am disappointed that the Steelers did not beat these bums by six or seven touchdowns. Trust me Steelers Nation, next week the Indianapolis Colts defense may be a bit stingier than the Seahawks “D.”
There was a very tense moment when Big Ben laid on the field writhing in pain as the result of his leg being rolled up on by Seahawks defensive end Raheem Brock. Let’s see if the NFL fine police are going to have their ticket book in hand for that questionable hit? Big Ben was worried when Brock made contact with his knees. “It was pretty scary” he said. “You just feel guys roll up on your legs and when he rolled up on me it was a scary feeling. Structurally it felt fine. I didn’t feel anything pop so that was the good thing about it. Then it was just a matter of playing through the pain.” Well at least the Black and Gold and the Steelers nation did not have to live through the pain of another Steelers turnover-marred defeat.
I’m going to switch gears for a moment and talk about the schizophrenic “talking heads” who crowned the Ravens AFC North Champions a tad over a week ago after just one lopsided victory over their primary nemesis, the Steelers. Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis might have been barking at the moon while the fog originating from way down in his diaphragm covered anyone or anything near him. He had to be feeling full of himself after the smackdown that the “dirty birds” put on the Steelers but the Tennessee Titans let him know how completely on target he was when he said for the world to hear; “this is not last year.” You are right Mr. Lewis this is not last year and you and the rest of your “Raven-mates” are ready to rumble. In order to attract a new demographic of customers Tennessee decided to list stuffed “Raven” as the special of the day and the featured entrée at the top of their menu this past Sunday and the head chef Jeff Fisher did not disappoint.
See all that blowing smoke and mirrors will only work if your opponent is convinced that they are better than you are. When your opponent truly believes the hype pretty soon you may fall under their spell because it only takes one eyedropper of mud to ruin a five gallon crock full of cold fresh spring water. Insecurity and doubt can spread like an unchecked cancer. Pittsburgh had doubt when they faced the Ravens, the Titans did not. The Titans played with desperation and focus; the Steelers, well you saw the game. Now the “homers” in the Steel City are strutting around saying things like; “the Steelers have found redemption and are back on the right track.” How can you be redeemed playing a team (Seattle) with a rah, rah head coach and an almost college quarterback? The Seahawks were not a true test for the Steelers. The next two weeks will serve as a more accurate barometer in regards to redemption. It’s easy to crow after winning a game that you are supposed to win. Let’s see how strong the vocal chords are when a team loses to a team that they are supposed to beat. The Steelers have a legitimate shot at claiming another AFC North title. However, no one is going to hand it to them and conventional wisdom tells me that they had damn well better not allow Big Ben or any other player to hand it to another franchise or to throw it away. Remove your fingers because the window of opportunity for the Pittsburgh Steelers to claim another NFL Championship may be slammed shut, sooner than later, ciao.
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-583-6741. Bruce is also the AFC North and NFL analyst on ‘The Odd Couple Show’ every Wednesday streaming live from 11-11:30 a.m. on Fox Sports Radio WCWA 1230 Toledo, Ohio.)