Back in 2008, the Pittsburgh Steelers faced the toughest schedule in NFL history. Fans hoped they’d be able to keep their heads above water long enough to get into the playoffs. Instead, they successfully ran the gauntlet, finishing the season 12-4 and winning their sixth Super Bowl title. When reflecting back on 2008, the never-ending slate of tough competition actually helped the team adjust to playing at a high level on a weekly basis, or, as Mike Tomlin put it in one of his less silly catchphrases, “Steel sharpened steel.”
Maybe lightning will strike twice in 2013.
The NFL released their official schedule last night and to say the schedule makers did the Black and Gold no favors is quite the understatement. I’m not going to look at the opponents and make any judgements on the team’s prospects. Trying to predict the outcome of games six months away from being played is sheer idiocy. Besides, any Steeler fan looking at the schedule and thinking, “Pffftt, we got x wins in the bag” didn’t pay attention last season.
What I mean when I say the schedule is brutal is the way it’s constructed. Four prime time night games are par for the course when you’re the most popular franchise in the NFL. However, scheduling the Super Bowl champion (barf) Baltimore Ravens on Thanksgiving Night is not. The Steelers have done terrible on Thursdays against lesser competition, playing a key division game on five days rest late in the season is a recipe for disaster.
Their bye week comes in week five. Not the worst but still earlier than you’d prefer for a team traditionally plagued by injuries. The biggest positive is the bye comes the week after the Steelers travel all the way to London to play Minnesota. Still, the team will certainly be racking up the frequent flier miles.
Then we have the second to last game of the year. A marquee match-up with the Green Bay Packers. On paper, it sounds pretty sweet. In reality, it’s a late December road game on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. Talk about finding coal in your stocking.
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Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is hurt. He’s hurt bad. And he’s hurt one week before the Black and Gold face the most crucial part of their schedule. Football sucks.
Mike Tomlin was his usual evasive self during yesterday afternoon’s press conference. He did drop a great line which is sure to join his catalog of oft-repeated Tomlinisms: “We just focus on the healthy guys. We’re not looking to make excuses. Excuses are the tools of the incompetent.”
Beyond that, Tomlin didn’t offer much more than we knew last night. Ben suffered a a sprained sternoclavicular (SC) joint, which is a fancy way of saying he hurt his shoulder. Although make no mistake, a SC injury is a lot more complicated than a simple shoulder injury. Last night, Ben’s agent would only describe the diagnoses as “unusual” and a SC sprain would fall under that category.
What makes an SC sprain unusual is it can be extremely dangerous, depending on the severity of separation. Rams receiver Danny Amendola had a SC sprain earlier this season and the separation was such that doctors later said his condition could have potentially been life threatening. How? Put your hand on your breast bone and trace up and towards the right (or left) toward your neck until you feel your collar bone. Now imagine of that becomes separated and starts poking back in towards throat. If the separation is severe enough, the bone could actually puncture your wind pipe or even your aorta (artery in your neck).
Of course, we still haven’t heard exactly how serious Ben’s injury was. Tomlin is calling him “questionable” but we all know Tomlin would rather climb a mountain to tell a lie than sit in a chair and tell the truth. There are several different degrees of separation, the simplest heals in 7-10 days while the worst would knock him out for the rest of the season. As if this potentially life-threatening SC deal wasn’t bad enough, Ben also bruised his ribs when he fell so even if the shoulder sprain is the mildest form he may still need a few weeks off to heal up.
The bottom line is I don’t see Ben starting Sunday night against the Ravens. I also don’t see him starting the week after against the Browns because even if he’s cleared, I can see the Steelers thinking/hoping they can get by the Browns with Byron Leftwich while Ben rests up. That’s best case scenario, though. Amendola had a pretty significant SC sprain and ended up missing a month of action. Then again, Bret Favre also had an SC sprain and only missed one week. So really at this point there’s a pretty wide range of possible outcomes.
Let’s hope for the best.
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Hey guys (and girl), your paragon of virtue, your hero, your party host, Chris here. I want to thank everyone who inquired about being this week’s guest blogger. I chose a man whose name will probably be familiar to those of you who frequented the comment section on the Site That Shall Not Be Named. Without further ado, take it away Hennessey…
Well, Steeler Nation, it’s that time of year. We’ve collectively survived a lockout, a stressful salary-cap crunch, and seven gut wrenching (well, most of them) games, including a week 1 loss that humbled fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers from China to Chinatown.
So how good did Monday night feel!?!?
I couldn’t bring myself to watch the Ravens win again, so Tuesday morning highlights were a big treat!
Joe Bert Flacco looked like he strayed from Ernie’s protection and got caught up in a street-corner mugging, Baltimore’s favorite pastime.
We’ve reached that point in the season when rookies become veterans, veterans become leaders, and Bert becomes a one-man interception-throwing tackling dummy. I love a good redemption story and, if “Baltimore’s Future” keeps leading his team of Muppets into slaughter, there’s going to be a great one in two weeks. How can the Black and Gold make it happen?
Week 8 marks the mid-way point of the regular season and the beginning of the end for those teams that weren’t meant to make the cut this year. For the Steelers the next two games are the make-or-break point. As we learned back in 2009 during that woeful five game losing streak (including losses to the Chiefs, Raiders and Browns, boasting a combined 9-26 record at the time they faced the Steelers), the end of a season can really set the tone for what comes after. For a team that prides themselves on contending for championships every year, what must we do to survive the dog days of November and December?
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Mike Tomlin doesn’t suffer fools lightly.
Unfortunately for Jacksonville, the foolishness isn’t limited to the men who suit up in unsightly teal, black and white every Sunday. Clearly, the reporters who cover the Jaguars fit into a clown car all their own. No wonder that miserable franchise can’t sell out a home game and will likely be packing up their truck and moving to Californ-i-a in the near future. Provided, of course, that broke-ass state can scrounge up enough pennies to build a halfway decent stadium for them.
Man, what a depressing thought. Trading a backwater third-rate city like Jacksonville for the apathetic cesspool that is Los Angeles. That’s like being stuck between a rock and a hard place, Aron Ralston style. I wonder if Mr. Ralston followed the lead of intelligent and passionate football fans nationwide and became a full-fledged member of Steeler Nation while attending my alma mater, Carnegie Mellon.
I was not aware of this but evidently every week our head coach participates in a short Q&A with beat writers from the opposition’s city. Which is kinda cool since it affords Tomlin double the opportunity to create new meaningless platitudes and tell boldfaced lies. It’s also a little strange because it sounds like at least two reporters from Jacksonville took part in this week’s conference call. That’s approximately one reporter for every thirty fans who actually attend Jaguar games.
Anyway, this week’s session started exactly as you’d expect; with a reporter asking about the 2007 Wild Card playoffs. Wait, what? I understand Jacksonville has been completely irrelevant to the NFL since that one miraculous playoff run four years ago. What I don’t understand is what that has to do with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2011.
Well, Tomlin didn’t see the relevance either. The reporter obviously tried to bait him by asking if he complained to the league about the atrocious officiating which missed three separate and distinct holding calls on David Garrard’s game-winning scramble. Tomlin answered patiently then tried to steer the conversation toward more relevant matters, like things which happened in this decade. Of course, the mouthy reporter kept right on pushing which led to one of the best Tomlinisms of all-time:
I understand that might have been a big game in Jacksonville but that’s old news.
Oh snap! You got served, son! Flip on over before you ask your next question because that side has already gotten burned!
Tomlin then added:
Many of those guys are no longer here and definitely many of the guys that were in Jacksonville are no longer there. Anybody got any questions relative to this week?
Before a reporter could ask another insipid question, Tomlin hung up on them.
Of course, there’s no story the media likes better than one where they are the story. So, naturally, some hayseed from Jacksonville has already posted an account of the situation on her newspaper’s blog. Unlike the Post-Gazette, which is hiding this information behind their ridiculous pay wall when you can find it on about five other sites for free (way to go, P-G! Maybe if you hired funny, insightful, interesting writers and columnists who were born after the Kennedy administration instead of desperately clinging on to fossils like Smizik and Collier, people would pony up their ducats to read your rag), at least the Jacksonville blog is free. I suppose it would have to be, what with Florida’s unemployment rate and rampant illiteracy.
Regardless, I bring this information to you, my people, for three reasons. First, you may hear about “mean ‘ol Mike Tomlin” over the next couple days (I’m sure the Ginger Dictator is already looking into fines) because as I said, there’s nothing the media enjoys more than portraying themselves as poor put-upon victims. Second, I hope Steeler Nation realizes how lucky they are to have a team which is successful and competently enough run that we don’t have to sit around wringing our hands over events which happened nearly half a decade ago.
Finally, I posted it because Mike Tomlin is a badass. ‘Nuff said.
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Some people never miss an episode of Ice Road Truckers. Others can’t get enough reruns of 2½ Men. By the way, sorry Ashton Kutcher, you’re good but you’re still no Charlie Sheen. Me? I never miss a Mike Tomlin press conference. Oh, I don’t watch because I’m interested in his injury reports (he constantly lies about those) or his strategy for the Pittsburgh Steelers upcoming opponents (ditto).
I simply watch for the hilarity. From his grand pronouncements (“Unleash Hell!) to his ridiculous Tomlinisms (“The standard is the standard.”) to his bizarre non-sequitors (“We were grape squashers.”), no coach is as thoroughly entertaining as Mike Tomlin. I wish the Steelers sold tickets to his pressers because at least you can be assured of a solid 15-20 minutes of set-ups and punchlines. That’s certainly more than you can say about a Dane Cook concert.
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I love Mike Tomlin.
His place in Pittsburgh Steelers history is almost irrelevant. Chuck Noll was the architect of the greatest team the NFL has ever known. Bill Cowher set a standard for excellence almost unrivaled in modern football. Granted, Tomlin has appeared in one more Super Bowl and has one more Lombardi in about a third of the time it took Cowher to win his first but let’s remember Tomlin was starting from a much better place than either of his predecessors. Noll inherited a franchise which was the laughingstock of football. Cowher took control of a team which had made only one playoff appearance in seven years.
Comparatively speaking, Tomlin was given the keys to a Ferrari and simply told not to crash it. Building a champion is a lot harder than guiding one to another trophy. The team Tomlin won a Super Bowl with in his second season was for all intents and purposes the same team Cowher won with three years prior. And the team which has appeared in yet another Super Bowl since then is basically the same squad as the first two. The true test of Tomlin’s coaching acumen will come as the Hines Wards and Troy Polamalus fade into retirement and he has to retool the team with a new crop of stars.
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Maybe the Pittsburgh Steelers should have signed Tiki Barber after all…
Training camp claimed another victim yesterday when this year’s 7th round draft pick, running back Baron Batch, blew out his knee making a cut on the practice field’s artificial turf. Batch later confirmed on his fantastic blog that it was indeed a torn ACL. Which is a shame not only because it ends his season but also because now I don’t have any reason to visit his site. The man has great taste in music.
Batch was one of the shining stars of camp, which is kinda like saying someone is the prettiest girl in Cleveland. Every year the Steelers beat reporters speak glowingly of some undrafted rookie or unheralded practice squadder who comes in and kicks ass from one sideline to the other. And then said player invariably ends up spending the entire regular season sitting on the bench or running with the taxi squad.
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The Pittsburgh Steelers have holes. Okay, maybe not huge Parkway West size pot holes but they are dangerously thin in terms of depth. Unfortunately, nobody seems interested in becoming a Steeler.
Former Cincinnati Bengals tight end Reggie Kelly came in for a visit yesterday. And then left just as quickly as he came. Over the weekend, wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery also popped in for a quick hello. He, too, rejoined the ranks of the unemployed shortly thereafter.
Perhaps both players failed to impress the coaching staff. If that’s the case, then in Kevin Colbert We Trust. However, looking at the Steeler’s depth chart, it sure looks like either man would make a nice addition. Neither are bold faced superstars but at this point beggars can’t be choosers.