It Could’ve Been Worse: Steelers-Patriots recap

The Steelers lost last night, which shouldn’t surprise many people.  What may surprise people is the manner in which they lost–missed field goals, miscues on offense, Darius Heyward-Bey not being able to stay inbounds in the end zone.  It was actually more frustrating to see them lose in this fashion.

Let’s start with the good stuff, since that list will be shorter.

  • DeAngelo Williams.  Wow, was he better than anyone could’ve expected.  As many people on Twitter pointed out, can you imagine what Le’Veon Bell will do behind this offensive line if DeAngelo Williams can put up 127 yards?
  • Antonio Brown continues to be superhuman.
  • Markus Wheaton looked good, especially catching a pass that was out of bounds but managing to stay inbounds.  He also caught a pass for a two-point conversion on the Steelers first touchdown.
  • The defense wasn’t as bad as we all thought.  Holding the Patriots to 28 points isn’t bad.  Having no one cover Gronkowski is very, very bad though the Steelers lack the personnel to properly cover him (to be fair, so do most NFL defenses).  They forced some stops to keep the Steelers in the game, but the offense couldn’t take advantage.
  • The offensive line played pretty well.  The running game was great, they kept Ben Roethlisberger upright for most of the night, and gave absolutely stellar pass protection at times.  Makes the loss of Maurkice Pouncey a little easier to swallow.
  • Bud Dupree with a sack of Tom Brady just a few minutes into his NFL career.  I’ll take it.

And now for the bad…

  • Yeah, having no one even attempting to cover Gronk on a few plays is not a good look.  Neither is having Terence Garvin cover him.
  • I trust the coaches when it comes to stuff like this, but how bad is Brandon Boykin that he can’t get on the field over Cortez Allen and Antwon Blake?
  • Josh Scobee missing two field goals was huge.  Totally different game if he makes those.
  • 1st and goal at the 1-yard line and you settle for a field goal?
  • Heyward-Bey not knowing where the chalk was in the end zone.  Inexcusable for a veteran.
  • Clock management was a problem.  Pretty sure I could write this after every game and be correct.  The Steelers should’ve taken a timeout before the Heyward-Bey end zone play right before the half.  It’s Tomlin’s team, but I feel like the team would be well-served to have a guy who just tells him when to take timeouts.

Speaking of Tomlin, he was sure hot last night when asked about the headset problems during the 1st half.  I’m sure he opened another can of worms.  Of course, who can blame him?  The Patriots will never be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to stuff like this, especially after the recent Outside the Lines report, which mentioned the frequent communication issues that occur in Gillette Stadium.  Tomlin confirmed that with his postgame remarks.  This will be nonstop fodder for awhile, but don’t hold your breath that the league will actually do something about it.

Update:  The Steelers website had some strong words about the headset issue (I refuse to call this “headsetgate”).  There’s a great write-up on Deadspin today about what could have went wrong with the headsets and how many other times this has happened in Foxborough in recent years.

Final thoughts on the game:  Yes, the defense was bad.  That shouldn’t surprise anyone.  They also aren’t the first defense to have issues with covering Gronkowski.  Between the missed field goals, and settling for field goals after Heyward-Bey’s mistake and not being to score from the 6-inch line, they left 14 points on the field.  That’s the difference in the game.  The don’t blow those opportunities, who knows what happens.  I had this penciled in as a loss all offseason (I had zero faith that Brady’s suspension would be upheld).

Fun stuff from last night

As predicted, someone on Twitter would call for Michael Vick to start:

Bill Belichick wore his finest Ebenezer Scrooge pajama top:

belichick pj

Looking good, Bill

Bill Simmons continued to be an insufferable homer

 

Calls came for the return of Dick LeBeau, including from former Ravens head coach/Steelers nemesis Brian Billick.

(I feel the need to point out that the last time a LeBeau defense–one that still had Polamalu, Keisel, and Ike, no less–faced the Patriots, the Pats hung 55 on them.  I’m no mathematician, but 55 is a lot more than 28…)

Yinzers called for Jeff Reed after Scobee’s missed field goals.  Jeff Reed, who hasn’t been on an NFL roster for 4 seasons.

One game in, and Steelers Nation has already reached midseason form of ridiculousness. Oh football season, how I’ve missed you.  Beat the Niners next week, and this game is whatever.  Go Steelers.

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This Isn’t Going To Go Well:  Steelers-Patriots Gameday

It’s that time!  Time for the NFL season to kickoff!  This is a day I normally wait for like a kid waits for Christmas.  This year my excitement has been dampened just a tad because the Steelers open the season tonight against the Patriots.  In Foxborough.  Following an offseason that brought more cheating accusations, this time against Tom Brady for deflating footballs.  Following a new ESPN story revealing more details regarding Spygate.  Because playing the Patriots in Foxborough isn’t bad enough, now the Steelers get to play the Patriots who have a giant chip on their shoulder.  This should be fun!

The Patriots are the reigning Super Bowl champions.  Did they cheat their way to another Super Bowl title?  Maybe, but unless they were paying Pete Carroll to call the opposite call that every other person who’s ever watched a football game would have called, they probably beat the Seahawks fair and square. Probably.

The Steelers are coming off a surprising 11-5 season.  A definite improvement over back-to-back 8-8 seasons, but still a disappointing ending.  Losing a playoff game to the Ravens at home is the stuff of nightmares for most Steelers fans.

How the Steelers can win this game:

  • The offense gets the ball last in a shootout.
  • Tired of the Patriots alleged cheating, the NFL decides their opponents will be awarded 11 points per touchdown and 5 points per field goal.
  • James Harrison knocks Brady out of the game on the Patriots’ first series.

How the Patriots can win this game:

  • They show up.

I don’t mean to sound so pessimistic and stranger things have happened (maybe), but the Steelers have had trouble with Brady and the Patriots when they had good defenses. Brady going against this defense could be the plot of a horror film targeted towards a very specific audience.

However, the Steelers’ offense is really, really good.  Unfortunately, they are missing two big playmakers in Bell and Bryant and that will hamper them.  Though the Patriots don’t have anyone who can cover AB effectively.

The best strategy the Steelers could have is the same one they employed when beating the Patriots in 2011: sustained long offensive drives.  In that game, the Steelers possessed the ball for over 39 minutes.  Keeping the ball out of Brady’s hands is key to the Steelers having a shot in this game.  Of course the Steelers had a better defense in 2011 that forced some 3-and-outs.  I don’t see this defense doing that much.  But with the Steelers having a better offense, maybe they’ll be able to overcome some of their defensive issues?

It’s Brady and Belichick in Foxborough.  Gonna be a long night for the Steelers.  Patriots 45, Steelers 31.

2015 Steelers Season Preview

The 2015 NFL season is officially upon us, so I decided I would write something about the Steelers for my long abdanoned blog.

Last year’s team was somewhat surprising.  After back-to-back 8-8 seasons, the Steelers seemed destined to turn in another mediocre performance.  Early on last season, it seemed all but a certainty after beginning the year with a 3-3 record, including losses to a terrible Buccaneers team at home and getting absolutely embarrassed by the Browns in Cleveland.  A three-game homestretch turned the season around, though the Steelers still had a few more losses to bad teams left in them.  They went 11-5, won the division, but lost to the Ravens in the first-round of the playoffs.

The 2015 team doesn’t seem destined for mediocrity.  In fact, mediocrity would surprise me.  I believe this team will either be really, really good or really, really bad.  The fate lies with the offense, which by all accounts could be the best offense in Steelers history.  The defense could also make history by being one of the worst in Steelers history.

Let’s start with the offense:

The good:

  • Ben!  Brown!  Bell!  Bryant!  I will henceforth refer to these guys as the “Killer B’s,” stealing the nickname from the early 90s Pirates team because I’m lazy and not very clever.
  • Ben Roethlisberger is coming off his best season statistically.  He looked absolutely unstoppable at different points of last season.  After 3 full years in Todd Haley’s offense, Ben has developed into an incredibly effective pocket passer while still being able to extend plays better than any other QB in the league.
  • Antonio Brown is Antonio Brown.  I’m not sure what I can add to that simple statement.  He gets double & tripled team consistently and still makes huge plays on a weekly basis.
  • Le’Veon Bell had his breakout season last year and seems ready to be even better.  Before the 2014 season, Bell slimmed down and if pictures from training camp are any indication, he looks to have about 0% body fat.  The day I visited training camp, he was running some WR routes I hadn’t seen him run before. I have no idea if that’ll be part of the offensive scheme in the regular season.  But if those plays show up and can be effective…good luck, rest of the NFL.
  • Martavis Bryant could be a superstar in the making.  He stretches the field, makes amazing catches, and should develop into an even better receiver this season.  He didn’t start the first six games of last season, but when he was given a chance, he showed his potential.

The bad:

  • Maurkice Pouncey is out for at least 8-10 weeks with a broken ankle he sustained in the preseason game against the Packers.  So your starting center is Doug Legursky.
  • Bell is out for the first two games for getting caught smoking weed and driving under the influence.  His absence completely reshapes this offense.
  • Bryant is out for the first four games for smoking weed (and apparently four prior failed drug tests) and the Steelers don’t have a ton of depth at wide receiver.  An injury to any WR in the first month could spell trouble.

The unknown:

  • Markus Wheaton has a big opportunity to shine with Bryant being out the first four games.  I thought Wheaton looked pretty good in the preseason, but he’ll have to step it up even more early on.
  • Doug Legursky at center.
  • DeAngelo Williams was brought in to start the first two weeks that Bell is out.  I can’t imagine he won’t be serviceable for those two starts, and I certainly feel better with him starting than Josh Harris or Dri Archer (the thought of that makes me nauseous).  We’ll see if he can show something in those first two games that could lead to a bigger role for him in the offense, just so they don’t have to run Bell till the wheels fall off.
  • Bryant is at an interesting crossroads:  keep getting high and become the next Josh Gordon or he gets it together and becomes a superstar.  Here’s hoping for the latter.

Now onto the defense…

The good:

  • Lawrence Timmons!  Cam Heyward!  Uhhh…Lawrence Timmons!  Cam Heyward!
  • Stephon Tuitt showed promise towards the end of last season.
  • Mike Mitchell has zero torn groin muscles as of this writing.
  • Have I mentioned Lawrence Timmons and Cam Heyward?

The bad:

  • There is no defensive line depth.  Steve McLendon is our starting nose tackle.  If any of the starting defensive line gets injured, there is Cam Thomas behind them.  I don’t even know the names of any other defensive linemen on the team.
  • James Harrison is the best outside linebacker on the roster at this point. James Harrison was an incredible player, but he is past his prime. I’m not saying he can’t still be effective, but he’s not the same guy who won Defensive Player of the Year in 2008.
  • Our starting safeties haven’t played together yet.  They are also named Shamarko Thomas and Mike Mitchell.  In case you weren’t already missing Troy Polamalu enough…
  • The Steelers’ best cornerback is William Gay.  I actually like William Gay and think he gets far too much of a bad rap, but it’s not still not a comforting thought.
  • The Steelers finally drafted a cornerback in the early rounds of the draft and he’s out for the season with a shoulder injury that required surgery.  Definitely a disappointing end to a season that never really began for Senquez Golson.
  • Cortez Allen.

The unknown:

  • For the first time in eleven seasons, someone other than Dick LeBeau will be the Steelers’ defensive coordinator.  It’ll be strange to not see Coach Dad on the sidelines any longer, but it’ll be interesting to see what Keith Butler’s defense looks like.  I’m sure it’ll largely resemble LeBeau’s, but it’ll be interesting to see what changes are made.  In recent years, LeBeau’s defense had been accused of being too “vanilla,” and not built to go against the high-powered offenses of today’s NFL.  Will Butler be less vanilla?  Is he a secret defensive genius?  Will any of this matter with the personnel on defense???
  • Can Mike Mitchell actually be an effective safety?  Mitchell was criticized–rightfully so–for his poor play last season and for revealing moments after the playoff loss to the Ravens that he’d been playing with two torn groin muscles.  He’s since had surgery (and intact groin muscles are important just for walking, let alone playing football).  Many have also wondered if his play will improve with Troy Polamalu’s retirement.  Troy was known for freelancing, so it stands to reason that Mitchell’s play may improve with the safeties having set coverage duties.
  • The linebacking corps has question marks throughout with the exception of Timmons.  This is the year Jarvis Jones will either break out or be declared a bust. There are questions about whether Ryan Shazier was worth passing on a corner in the first round of the 2014 draft.  Shazier was injured for a chunk of last year, so those questions have gone unanswered.  Will Bud Dupree get much playing time as a rookie in Butler’s defense and be able to nab one of the starting OLB spots?

Special Teams:

The good:

  • Hey, Josh Scobee is a pretty good kicker!

The bad:

  • Josh Scobee just tripped and tore his ACL (he didn’t really, just expecting it with the Steelers rash of kicker injuries).

My predictions for this season:

  • The Steelers will win the Super Bowl with this high-powered offense!…or they will have the #6 pick in the 2016 draft after an offensive playmaker gets injured in October.
  • There will be calls for the Steelers to fire Butler and reinstate LeBeau after Tom Brady does Tom Brady things against the Steelers on Thursday night.
  • There will be calls for Mike Tomlin to be fired in the first quarter of the Patriots game.
  • There will be calls for Todd Haley to be fired on the first 3-and-out series of the game and/or the first time Ben gets sacked.
  • Yinzers who burned their jerseys and season tickets when the Steelers signed Michael Vick will inevitably want him to start over Ben in the first multi-interception game Ben has.
  • The Steelers will lose on the West Coast.
  • A caller to The Fan will suggest the Steelers tank so they can draft Cardale Jones; Joe Starkey’s head will explode when hearing this suggestion.

Record:  12-4!….or 5-11.

Go Steelers.

Gameday: Steelers-Ravens Wildcard Playoff 2014 Edition

There isn’t much I can say about tonight’s Steelers-Ravens matchup that hasn’t already been said. This is still the best rivalry in the NFL, even though faces have changed over the years. Even the coaches don’t like each other. With John Harbaugh’s penchant for whining, and Mike Tomlin showing more emotion than ever on the sidelines lately, would anyone be shocked if these two got into a fistfight tonight?  I wouldn’t.

Remember these more cordial times?  Me neither.

Remember these more cordial times? Me neither.

The Steelers chances of winning this game have suffered a decent blow with Le’Veon Bell’s injury. Despite the fact that he probably wouldn’t have put up a ton of yards agains the Ravens’ run defense (especially with Haloti Ngata returning from suspension tonight), taking him out of the equation still makes it tougher for the Steelers. On the bright side, the field conditions tonight will be so poor that there’s a decent chance Bell would tear an ACL if he did play.

The Steelers beat the Ravens through the air this year, and they’ll have to do so again tonight.  Luckily, the Ravens have a pretty bad secondary, and even good defensive backs can’t cover Antonio Brown.  Add in Heath Miller, Martavis Bryant, and an improved Markus Wheaton, and the Ravens will have their hands full with the Steelers record-breaking offense.

The Steelers defense has played much better this last month, and here’s hoping they can keep it up tonight.  We’ve all seen over the years what happens to Joe Flacco when he’s under pressure.  He can be forced into some critical mistakes, and it’d be huge if this defense can rattle him.  It’d be nice to see the passing of the torch if Antwon Blake or Brice McCain could pick off Flacco in a playoff game.

Win or lose, tonight could also be the last game in Heinz Field for Brett Kiesel (who’s on injured reserve), Ike Taylor, James Harrison, and Troy Polamalu.  They have all meant so much to this franchise in the last decade (yes, even Ike, even though most of Steelers Nation hates him despite him being a pretty darn good cover corner in his prime).  The number of big plays Troy has made against the Ravens alone could fill a highlight reel, as could the number of times Harrison has planted Flacco on the ground.  It’s hard not to get a little misty thinking about these guys no longer being Steelers.

 

Despite both games this year being decided by 20 points, I think tonight’s game will be the type of close affair that has characterized this rivalry.  However, I see this being a much higher scoring affair than most games between these two teams. Each team has some serious woes in the secondary. This will be a one score decision, and it may very well come down to who gets the ball last.

Ridiculous Predictions:

  • Antonio Brown sets an NFL postseason record, becoming the first player to have 400 all-purpose yards.
  • Ben and Flacco are both sacked a ton and both make their classic fail face each time (ok, so that’s not really a ridiculous prediction).
  • It comes out after the game that Ben was playing with four broken bones in addition to the three that will be broken during the game.
  • Josh Harris stuns the world with a 50-yard touchdown run.
  • Dri Archer stuns the world and successfully blocks a guy.  Unfortunately, the guy is Heath Miller.
  • In a move reminiscent of Hayden Fox, Tomlin shocks the world when he sends Bell into the game late in the 4th quarter for the game-winning score.  Turns out he was never really hurt!  It was all an elaborate ruse!  (Hey, a girl can dream!)

    A fake injury that required a wheelchair?  Man, Coach Fox pulled out all the stops,

    A fake injury that required a wheelchair? Man, Coach Fox pulled out all the stops.

No matter what happens tonight, I’m sure this will be another classic chapter in a rivalry that’s featured bleeding players, broken bones, alleged bounties, terse handshakes, and the Ravens whining about playing in primetime in Pittsburgh.  Tonight let’s remind them why they hate playing at night in Heinz Field.  Go Steelers.

Ray-Rice-TT-Charles-LeClaire-USA-Today-Sports

Never forget.

24 Hours As a Steelers Fan (Told Mostly in Breaking Bad GIFs)

Monday, November 17, 2014, 8:30 p.m.

Monday Night game kicks off.  Steelers take an early 10-point lead after William Gay intercepts Zach Mettenberger’s first pass.  Looks like this is going to be an easy win!

pinkman bubble

Titans immediately drive down field and score a touchdown.  Not great.

pinkman chin,gif

Steelers and Titans swap field goals.  Steelers get the ball about halfway through the second quarter.  Offense looks pretty good, things are clicking.  They march down the field.  Ben Roethlisberger throws a red zone interception.

pinkman what's the point

On the next play of the game, Mettenberger throws a bomb to former Steeler Nate Washington, who beat William Gay to score an 80-yard touchdown.

bb shots

Steelers trail 17-13 at the half, despite possessing the ball twice as long as the Titans.

bb jr bullshit

The second half opens with the Titans and Steelers each punting on their first drives.

The Titans then go on a 77-yard drive that results in a touchdown.  The Steelers are trailing 24-13 late in the 3rd quarter.

BB WW finger

It looked like the Steelers were headed down a road they’d been down many times before, including last week:  Losing to a bad, bad team.  It’s become old hat to the fans.

bb shit kicked

The Steelers may have lost to the Bucs and the Jets earlier this season, but the Titans are a far worse team than other two.  The Steelers were 6-4!  They were the good team in this matchup!

bb define good

The game, and possibly the season was on the line.  The Steelers needed to get their shit together.  They needed to look like the 6-4 team that they were, and not the 2-7 team they were facing.

pinkman break door

Ben hadn’t looked sharp in the first half.  He’d been sacked five times.  There was nothing going in the passing game, so there was only one thing to do….

brba run

The Steelers were going to have to win this game on the ground.  Luckily, they had the right man for the job

bb tio bell

Le’Veon Bell took his team on his back (and half of the Titans, too).  The Steelers marched down the field.  Bell scored on the first play of the 4th quarter.

pinkman blowing kisses

The Steelers still trailed 24-20, but you could feel the tide turning.  The defense forced a 3 and out (!) and the Steelers got the ball back.  They mixed up some passes with a few runs, culminating in a beautiful play-action fake from Ben to Antonio Brown waiting in the end zone.

bb-high-five

Steelers were up 27-24, but there was still a ton of time left on the clock.  The defense forced another 3 and out.  The Steelers got the ball and back and turned to who else to run down the clock.

bb tio bell

The Titans would never get the ball back and the Steelers would escape Nashville with a win.  The Steelers had come back from 11 points down in the 4th quarter and actually beat a terrible team on the road outside of the Eastern Time Zone!

bb yeah bitch

Steelers fans breathed a sigh of relief Monday night.  This team still has a bunch of problems, but they still control their own destiny in the AFC North.  They have their bye week coming up, which will hopefully allow some injured starters ample rest so they can return against the Saints in two weeks.  This was good.

Tuesday morning, still pumped from the win, I didn’t have a care in the world. (Note:  the below gif is an accurate representation of what I look like when I dance.)

bb gale dancing

Then I went on the Internet.  I was greeted by this headline on the Post-Gazette’s website:

blount headline3

BB Mike eye roll

You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.  LaGarrette Blount was mad he wasn’t getting carries, so he walked off the field before the game was over.  You can’t do that, man!

Hours later, the Steelers announced that they had released Blount because it was “in the best interest of the team,” according to a statement from Mike Tomlin.

pinkman gtfoh

Releasing Blount was the right move for the team, no doubt.  I took a quick look at the Steelers’ depth chart behind Bell at running back.

pinkman seriously

Whatever.  Maybe they can pick up a free agent somewhere or maybe Josh Harris (who was promoted from the practice squad will shock the hell out of everyone.

With that nonsense over, the Steelers could get on with their bye week.  Except the drama wasn’t done.

bb done

Then news came out that Steelers safety Mike Mitchell had responded to negative tweets towards him.  This couldn’t be good.

bb stove lighting

Turns out Mitchell had sent direct messages to some of those criticizing him.  I guess he forgot screenshots exist.

bb pinkman think

The screenshots went around.  He had told one fan to kill themselves.

bb pizza

Steelers Twitter damn near exploded.  I had to step away from all the hot takes.

bb car fire

There’s no excusing what Mitchell said and he should’ve been smart enough to not respond at all.  But the people that were saying these things to him are idiots, and their instant reaction of sending the screeenshots to every member of the Pittsburgh media was pathetic.  Those guys are losers.  No one came out looking good in this situation.

bb douchebag

The Steelers wound up banning Mike Mitchell from social media, which is probably best for all involved.

Anything else, guys?

pinkman face

bb everything good

OK then.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014, 8:30 p.m.

Me, after the previous 24 hours (and the first 10 games of the season).

bb skyler wine

Drinking is probably the only way we’re going to survive the last 5 games.

bb goddamn right

And if drinking doesn’t work….

bb pinkman cook crystal

Can’t Believe This Team Is 7-4: Steelers-Titans Instant Reaction

Wow.  How is this team 7-4?!  I know how they got here, and I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

Le’Veon Bell was a vision with stats that were otherworldly–33 carries for 204 yards.

The defense looks like a defense full of backups (which they are), but they made stops when it counted.

Markus Wheaton made the return game look better tonight than it has all year.  It’s still not great, but better than it’s been.

Ben Roethlisberger had a dreadful first half, but came up with a big touchdown to Antonio Brown on an absolutely beautiful play-action fake.

Mike Mitchell is terrible.  William Gay started out great with a pick-six on Zach Mettenberger’s first pass, but didn’t play well the rest of the game.  It sure would be nice if Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor, Ryan Shazier, and Steve McLendon could get healthy. Luckily, the Steelers have 13 days off before their next game.  All hail the Bye Week! Couldn’t come at a better time to get some of the defense some extra time to rest.  Ben and Bell also both took some hard hits near the end of the game that I imagine they’ll be feeling tomorrow.

Nice to see the team rebound and buckle down in the 4th quarter.  Totally different from last week’s game against the Jets.

Glad there’s a week off so the city of Pittsburgh can have a mental health break from this bipolar team.  But 7-4 sure looks a whole lot better than 6-5.

Thank God Next Week Is the Bye Week: Steelers-Titans Preview

So this last week has been fun, hasn’t it?  I’m not sure what I’ve enjoyed more–reading countless news stories about the effect Justin Bieber had on the Steelers; calls for Mike Tomlin’s head after a bad loss that followed three great wins; or the general childishness and unprofessionalism of (most of) the local Pittsburgh media when talking about the loss to the Jets.  Actually, I enjoyed all of these things equally!  And by “enjoyed” I mean I thought to myself repeatedly, “I’d rather be dressing a patient’s gangrenous wound than be a Steelers fan anymore, because we are the worst!  Worse than gangrene!” (I want to clarify that I think Steelers fans are worse than both gangrene AND Gang Green, the ridiculous name the Jets fanbase chooses to call themselves.)

I didn’t lose my mind after the loss to the Jets, unlike many Steelers fans.  I think the 3 previous wins had led some to believe this is a much better team than it actually is.  This is still a team who is regularly starting 5-6 guys on defense who would be backups on any other team.  This is still a team who has great potential and talent on offense, but has been inconsistent for the majority of the season.  This is still a team that still has a terrible average starting field position.  There are big weaknesses in all three phases of the game.  But with three big wins, it was easy to ignore those weaknesses.  Expectations got higher with each subsequent win, but the Steelers and their fans came crashing back to earth in MetLife Stadium last Sunday.

The loss to the Jets didn’t worry me.  It had all the makings of a trap game, and that’s what it wound up being.  However, I’ll start worrying if the Steelers lose to the Titans.  It’s not a “must-win” game–it’s still too early to be using phrases like that (Side note: I always love in the local media where they call early season games “must-win” pretty much if the Steelers lose one of their first three games of the season. I believe I heard that phrase a few times before the Carolina game this year).  But back-to-back losses to bad teams would disappointing. I t’d be disconcerting to see the Steelers lose to a team that has much less talent than the Steelers do.  Say what you want about the Jets, but they have some talent on their roster.  The Steelers still should have beat them, but there’s talent on that team.  However, the Titans will be starting 6th round rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger against the Steelers.  He’ll be making just his third NFL start.

This is Zach Mettenberger. I'm not convinced this isn't Ashton Kutcher wearing a bad wig, doing some bizarre James Franco-esque performance art. This is Zach Mettenberger. I’m not convinced this isn’t Ashton Kutcher wearing a bad wig, doing some bizarre James Franco-esque performance art.

Mettenberger has moved ahead of the other two QBs on the roster to win the starting job, so you might think he’d be good, but then you realize the other two QBs are Jake Locker and Charlie Whitehurst.

I honestly don’t know a whole lot about the Titans.  Nate Washington still plays for them. There’s some familiar faces on the coaching staff in Ken Whisenhunt, Mike Mularkey, Ray Horton, and Nick Eason.  I know the Titans are bad enough that questions about them tanking the season have recently surfaced.  Which means the Steelers should put this game away early, but I think we can all agree that probably won’t happen.  A game where Steelers fans can relax and enjoy a beatdown? Blasphemy!  Plus, if the Steelers put this game away early, that won’t allow for callers to The Fan to say,  “durrr the Steelers should’ve hired Whisenhunt over Tomlin, they would’ve totally won like six more Super Bowls with Whiz” (and mentioning who was the losing coach in SBXLIII or Whisenhunt’s record as a head coach won’t deter the caller).

I think Steelers fans just like Whisenhunt because if they squint, he kind of looks like Bill Cowher. I think Steelers fans just like Whisenhunt because if they squint, he kind of looks like Bill Cowher.

The Titans defense is statistically close to the Steelers in points per game allowed.  Both teams are at a -2 turnover differential.  I think turnovers could very well play a role in this game.  This season especially, the Steelers have had a much easier time winning when they’ve had a positive turnover differential (which can be said anytime, but the numbers this year particularly stand out).  If the defense can force a turnover or two, this will be a much easier game to win.

The offenses of these two teams are very different.  The Steelers are scoring 10 more points per game than the Titans are, which makes sense because the Steelers have Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Le’Veon Bell and the Titans have blond Ashton Kutcher Zach Mettenberger, Nate Washington, Shonn Greene and Bishop Sankey.  The Titans offense stinks.  But they’re going against a Steelers defense that will again be without Troy Polamalu and Ryan Shazier, so they’ll have their opportunities on offense.

I like the Steelers to win, but I don’t think it’ll be a dominant win.  I think they get it together for this one.  It’s hard to make predictions other than that.  I know the stats about rookie QBs going against Dick LeBeau’s defenses, but this isn’t a typical Dick LeBeau defense.  Mettenberger could have his best or worst game against the Steelers.  Like I said in an earlier post, nothing the Steelers could do this season would shock me, including them losing out or winning the Super Bowl.  It’s just been that kind of season.

Ben doesn’t throw an INT.  Defense forces a late turnover to seal it.

Steelers 27, Titans 21