I get a fuzzy warm and cuddly feeling that somewhere over the Vegas rainbow the folks who have an aptitude for wagering and whose close circle of friends include characters with names like “Vinnie” and “Alfonso” are beginning to take close notice of Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers in a real and grateful sort of way.
If you don’t believe me, check this out. The proof is the points scored or not scored. Although the Steelers were favored to maul the Jaguars by 13 points Sunday, Pittsburgh hit the “Big Cats” with a tranquilizer dart just in the nick of time to escape with a 17-13 victory. In week three the Black and Gold traveled to Indy to face the Peyton Manning-less Colts. Dem dere Stillers were favored to win by 10+ points, but guess what? They got kicked in the face by the Colts but escaped the corral with a 23-20 win.
Even in a losing effort in the season opener in B-more the Steelers couldn’t beat the betting line. The “Dirty Birds” were favored by 1+ points in some circles and by as many as 3+ points in others. H’mm the hideous “monster from the point spread lagoon” surfaced again as the Ravens won 35-7. It seems as if Pittsburgh cannot beat the point spread even in a losing effort. The only game they beat the spread was when they clipped the wings of the Seattle Seahawks 24-0 in week 2 beating a 15 ½ points spread, yippe.
In the nail biter against Jacksonville, the Steelers scored all their points in the first half. The “men of steel” did not score nary a point after that. Whatever defensive adjustments Jaguars head coach Jack Del-Rio made at halftime made him appear to be Dick LeBeau-ish because the boys from the “Sunshine State” pitched a shutout for the final 30 minutes. I suspect the play calling of the Steelers may have aided the “Jags” defense in making the game closer than it ever should have been. Just keep going long boys.
I know it sounds redundant but the “schizophrenic elements” of the Steelers play calling seems to be once again battling with conventional wisdom. Wide receiver Emmauel Sanders was questioned as to why the Steelers threw a lot of short passes in the decisive win against the Titans handily defeating Tennessee but decided on running deeper routes against Jacksonville. What, did newly re-signed offensive lineman Max Starks bring a miraculous cure all to the O-line? Sanders said, “I don’t know. In the game plan that Bruce Arians came up with, he saw something in their defense that showed that we could get behind them. And he was correct. We just have to connect on those balls.” Oh come, oh come Emmanuel. If he was correct, you guys would have connected.
Oh and please check this out. It was pointed out to Steelers resident Olympic track and field sprinter/wide receiver Mike Wallace that after the Steelers had a 17-0 lead that it looked as if he went deep many more times. Wallace was then asked was that just to try to drive a stake through their [the Jaguars] hearts? Were the Steelers playing the “Transylvanians,” or the Jaguars? Anyway, Wallace’s comments mirrored those of his colleague, Mr. Sanders. “We were taking what the defense was giving us,” he said. “It’s not like we weren’t open deep. We just didn’t connect. Me and [Emmanuel] had three [potential] touchdowns. We just have to connect. It was a windy day today.” Yep, sure was.
Well conventional wisdom should tell you that if ya have one week where short passes usher you into the end zone on five occasions you don’t throw long balls up into the stratosphere if you suspect that the wind is going to be a factor. Why would a team give you the long ball when those pass plays are going to cause the most damage? Also, teams are going to attack your weak areas and Jacksonville knew the Achilles heel of the Steelers is their offensive line, so why wouldn’t the Jaguars want to force the Steelers to throw short and run the ball? The Jaguars also sacked Big Ben three times, so it was not a cakewalk for the Steelers and Big Ben was 12-23 for a measly 200 yards.
I write about this next subject at least every couple of years.
When an NFL playoff game is staged in Pittsburgh, the city county and region stands to profit millions of dollars in unsolicited revenue. If the Steelers don’t make the postseason, we all lose because the Rivers Casino will have a few less folk spinning the “roulette wheel” and there will be fewer hot dogs sold as well. One of these weekends, I am going to take a trip to Vegas, not to play craps, blackjack, roulette or any other of the suspect games of the house. As long as the Steelers are playing and treating the point spread like an unwanted orphan, I “garontee” that I will not come home with empty pockets.
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-583-6741. He can also be heard on the “Odd Couple” sports show as the NFL/AFC North analyst Wednesdays from 11-11:30AM on WCWA 1230AM, Fox Sports Toledo, Ohio.)