Last Sunday evening I watched Kansas City Chiefs kicker, Ryan “the chokester” Succup gag and flinch, kicking the Pittsburgh Steelers out of the postseason.
It is not clear whether Succup developed a case of the dreaded malady, “chokitis,” or just deliberately punched the Steelers in the gut while simultaneously punching the San Diego Chargers ticket to play on the “big stage” known as the NFL playoffs. But ya know what boys and girls, the Steelers should not have depended on the competence of a player from another NFL franchise to “pay their toll” so they could continue traveling on the “playoff highway” leading to the Lombardi Trophy.
See, in the NFL there is no such thing as an “E-Z Pass lane.”
Let’s hit “Rew” and do a partial review of the 2013 Steelers season (a complete review may just be a bit too painful for yinz guys and gals to bear).
Succup’s botched field goal attempt was not the play that will cause the Steelers to be at home ordering sandwich rings, cases of Bud Light and hot wings while watching the first (wild card) round of the playoffs.
In the Steelers opening game they could only score a measly 9 points in a 16-9 loss to the Tennessee Titans at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh drew first blood by scoring a safety on the first play of the game and was only able to muster a “garbage” touchdown with only 1:23 left to play in regulation.
You say you don’t agree, okay; was it the following Monday night when the Black and Gold ventured into Paul Brown stadium to face the eventual 2013 AFC North Champion Cincinnati Bengals who had more than an adequate supply of family sized cans of “whoop ass” to send the Steelers packing back to Pittsburgh “smarting” from a 20-10 loss. Although, Steelers reserve tight end David Paulson lost a fumble, “Big” Ben Roethlisberger contributed a fumble and a pick in the losing effort.
On the following Sabbath Day “da Chick-a-go” Bears strolled into Heinz Field and promptly smacked the Steelers around by the score of 40-23. Roethlisberger threw 2 picks and fumbled 3 times, losing 2. When you give any offense 5 extra possessions, game, set, match.
The next week the Steelers traveled to London and lost to the Minnesota “Vikes” by the score of 34-27. “Big Ben” had this to say about the loss; “We are in unchartered territories and the water is dangerous right now, so we have to stick together and get out of it. Right now, you could say we’re the worst team in the league, that hurts.”
They may have entered the review room with glaring questions about a glorious past and a hazy future. However, just as they were stumped by that decades old mystery of a timeless and historical reception by an NFL running back they seemed to be just as perplexed by their own futures.
But there was a light at the end of the tunnel or so the Steelers nation hoped. A few folk even began to nitpick and bash. When Steelers rookie running back LeVeon Bell was injured for the initial three games people, even the running back’s own quarterback, sort of expressed doubts about his “toughness” and “heart.”
Mike Chiari, featured columnist from Bleacher Report in an article published on September 25, quoted Roethlisberger saying this about Bel; “Honestly, I have no idea with him. You can’t get a read on him. One day, he’s practicing, one day, he’s not; one day, he’s going hard, the next day, he’s not. I wish I could. If he was a guy like Heath Miller that you knew was busting his butt every day to get back there … Le’Veon is a rookie, I don’t know him quite well enough yet. But if he can come back and help us, we’ll take him.”
Spoken like a true general manager or head coach, don’t you agree? Steelers tight end has been and remains one of the most consistent Steelers but who is “a guy like Heath Miller?”
Injuries affect individual players, differently. Remember the Steelers/Ravens match up on November 29, 2009 in Baltimore? The Steelers lost to the Ravens after Roethlisberger took all of the reps during that weeks practice and informed the team the day before the game Saturday that “concussion symptoms” had returned, thus thrusting Steelers rookie quarterback Dennis Dixon to start placed in an almost impossible situation.
At the time that Roethlisberger was forced to issue the Steelers a “rain check” in regards to him competing against Baltimore, Steelers wide receiver and future hall of famer Hines Ward had this to say. “‘Ben practiced all week. Then to find out that he’s still having some headaches and not playing and it came down to the doctors didn’t feel that they were going to clear him or not. It’s hard to say. I’ve lied to a couple of doctors saying I’m straight, I feel good when I know that I’m not really straight. I don’t think guys really worry about the future while they’re playing currently in the NFL.”
Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin did not even reveal to the team that Roethlisberger was not starting this important game against the hated Ravens.
“At the time, I was more concerned about getting Dennis ready to play,” Tomlin said, “and I proceeded with the assumption that our men understood what kind of competitor (Roethlisberger) is. If they don’t, I will tell them.”
Ben Roethlisberger is by no means finished as the Steelers starting QB but the team might be better served to at least drafting, signing or grooming a replacement. The late songstress Billie Holiday once sang; “God bless the child that has his own.” Never depend on anyone to do your work for you.
Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412.583.6741