Going after the quarterback is like playing kind of the mountain. When you get the quarterback, you’re on top of the mountain. ~ Joe Greene
Finally! The starters were in for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The first team offense came on the field and stalled, Vance McDonald let a perfect pass slip through his fingers. A couple of other drops hurt, but on the second drive out of the no huddle, James Connor was James Connor and JuJu was JuJu who broke inside on a nice post pattern for the touchdown. Maybe more impressive was the o-line that totally manhandled and abused the Titans starting defense. Then of course the starters began to call it a night. I’d give the first team offense an A- for the night, the only wrinkle were a couple of drops and things being just a tiny bit off in the passing offense.
The starting defense was even better. They played solid and sent Mariota out of the game 0 for 3. Ryan Tannehill fared a bit better but it ended in a lot of field goals. The Steelers looked good on defense, the pass rush was super. Heyward, Tuitt and Dupree all got home and Skipper stacked up another strip sack. The very first non-penalty play on defense was Devin Bush in the backfield making a tackle, starting to look like that 10 spot move in the draft was a damn good idea.
More than anything else tonight the defense looked fast! Not just Bush, but Edmunds was flying around as were Kelly and Davis. Some really nice hits across the defense. If this level of defensive play rolls into the regular season kids, we might just have one helluva season coming.
I think Mason Rudolph has solidified the number 2 quarterback spot. Not so much because he played spectacularly but because he was again solid. He made one mistake, or maybe Washington did, they weren’t on the same page and it led to an interception. But they also connected on a nice deep touchdown pass. Dobbs was once again Dobbs, one minute brilliant the next a high ball in the red zone leading to an interception. I don’t think Rudolph has separated himself, I just think he has both a higher upside and has an extra year on his rookie contract.
James Washington once again looked like a stud, he’s playing great and if that rolls over to the regular season we have a lot of weapons for Ben to look for. Across the board the receivers look good and that’s why we didn’t see the young guys or guys on the bubble until the third quarter.
All in all it was a good audition for the regular season. However, it’s the New England Patriots in Foxboro week 1, not the Tennessee Titans in the preseason. Quite honestly the first three games of the season are going to be tough, and the first six no picnic. If the Steelers are 3-3 at that point, could be a solid year. If they’re 4-2 at that point, start thinking superbowl.
As the Steeler World Turns: The End of the Killer Bs
I believe the game is designed to reward the ones who hit the hardest – if you can’t take it, you shouldn’t play! ~ Jack Lambert
Well Steeler Nation, we almost had it but it got away from us. What you ask? The only thing that matters, our next Lombardi Trophy. I say we, no we the fans don’t suit up, don’t hit, surely don’t get paid, but the reason we’re the best fan-base in any American professional sport is because we live this damn team. So yeah, it may not be earned, but it’s we.
We seemingly had it all in our pursuit of the Superbowl. We have a gun slinging franchise quarterback who has thrown for over 5,000 yards in a season. We had a running back who arguably changed the way running backs play the game. He of the patient pause and explosion, pretty routes and good hands. Le’Veon Bell was a Swiss army knife of an offensive weapon, part runner, part receiver. Then on the outside we had a receiver who may currently be the best in the game. A guy who might be the hardest working player in the NFL, great routes, great hands, able to separate or take a shallow crossing route to the house. On top of it all, a near psychic connection at times it seemed with Ben.
It didn’t stop there, we had an offensive line with three pro-bowlers and two guys who worked their way to the top. Possibly the best offensive line in football, coached by the absolutely best line coach in football. Munchak not only has a yellow jacket, but knows how to teach what got him to Canton. At the end of the line, a tight end in Vance McDonald, who when healthy, has the ability to make ESPN top 10 lists with a stiff arm. Add to that a youngster receiver in Juju who might be nearly as good as AB and is on the rise. And to top it off, a kicker who looked like he was damn near money on every kick, in every situation.
With all of this, in a league that has absolutely committed itself to offensive success, I mean you can barely touch an offensive player these days and if you hit a quarterback you take your wallet into your own hands. All we had to do was score points and we looked like we could score at will. In this situation all we needed was a passable defense and we should have gone 12-4. And we had far more than a passable defense. A solid defensive line, with two first round OLBs, one who is a budding star in TJ Watt. Solid if not remarkable ILBs, a couple of young gun safeties. On one side a first round pick who seemed on the rise and on the other, an aging star in Joe Haden. Hell on both sides of the ball we even had depth.
But then it started, the soap opera that would steal our chance and sink our season. I won’t lay the blame on any one thing, but I’m going to name all the places the drama came from. There certainly is a lot of ego flying around on a talented team, the killer b’s are all superstars and have egos to match and egos need to be fed. Life in the NFL is a tough gig, with a few years to maximize your earnings, add in a little greed and the money thing can get in the way. Giving talent a little extra rope, which Tomlin and certainly the Rooney’s did, and you might just hang your team.
First of course it was Bell, and enough has been written about this saga. For me the saddest thing, next to him not being on the field, was the bullshit games he played. Had he straight up told the team he wasn’t going to play this season, the drama might not have been so bad. Next Artie Burns seemingly, and suddenly, forgot how to play corner. He hadn’t been great, but he’d been good and improving and then just went to shit.
Then, we tie Cleveland, honestly I think this was the beginning of the end. I think that game put doubt in every player and every coach’s mind about the impact of Bell and the risk to the rest of the season. Then the winning streak, it was great and when we used Conner, he was a monster. The balanced offensive attack we had lived up to its billing. With Conner running well, Juju turning into a star and a healthy Vance MacDonald running people over like a semi, it seemed for a few weeks like this was our year, even without Bell. Hell even Cody Sensenbaugh looked like a starting NFL corner.
Then, it just fell apart, we seemingly forgot to run the ball, our kicker became confused and apparently started aiming outside the goal posts, the play calling stunk. And the simple fact was, even a more than passable defense was not quite good enough to hold the line. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the coaching staff designs an amazing game plan against the Patriots, it was awesome. And all I kept thinking that entire game was where the hell have these coaches been the last four weeks. It was almost like we’d given up on every game for a month before the Patriots just to make sure we got it right against them. Then AB melted down, he believes he was disrespected and I’m guessing from the level of outburst he’s had those feelings for a while.
In the end, one more lousy win, or one less tie, and there were so many games that were a play a way, or a lack of an officiating error away that we could have won, could have hit the playoffs in stride. Could have been an underdog nightmare for anyone to face. But we didn’t, instead our team turned into a bad episode of the Kardashians and now it seems the killer b’s will be no more.
I don’t want to leave this piece on a downer. All football fans are eternal optimists but I think there is a reason to have some optimism. We know Mike Munchak is gone, but his replacement is solid and it’s a good line, whether or not we resign Ramon Foster and indications are the Steelers hope to do that. Ben’s contract is being negotiated to have him in place likely for three more seasons. Bell is gone, the Steelers announced today there will be no tag, he’s free to shop himself elsewhere. The organization has also said that they will work to trade AB, but won’t take a discount just to get him out-of-town. So in all likelihood, drama or not, his talent will yield a good enough trade. I saw an ESPN piece today that suggest a trade with San Francisco that would look something like this, the 49ers, second round (2019) and fifth round (2020) for AB and Pittsburgh’s sixth round (2020). Given the Niners are picking second that’s close to being a late first round pick. I think that or a straight up AB for one of the Raiders pick in the 20’s is most likely. We have Conner and Jaylen Samuels back and they should be a good tandem. I know it’s not a popular opinion but I like Washington and think he’ll make a second year leap. We will need Vance MacDonald to be more relevant, consistent and healthy this next season.
Add to that some help in the draft, hopefully talent at ILB, OLB and/or corner in the first two rounds and a receiver in the third or fourth. Finally, and I’ll write more about this soon, some veteran help. We need depth on the D-line and there are some good players on the backend of their career who will be free agents. Getting our in-house free agents in line would be awesome as well. I’d love to see LJ Fort, Chickilo, Jesse James, Xavier Grimble and Ramon back. And I think this year with the amount of cap money we have, with some more space without AB and a re-worked Big Ben contract we should do something we don’t do and that’s make a splash in free agency. I have two free agents in mind, one at corner and one receiver, but I’ll save the names for my next post.
I am very aggressive and very physical. On the field, I guess I am just plain mean. ~ Jack Lambert
This is quite simply a fan’s blog about the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Jack Lambert’s Toe bit comes from the fact that maybe the toughest, meanest player in NFL history, had to end his career because of turf toe. Turf toe, I always found the idea laughable until it took down Jack Lambert. So I thought it was a unique way to pay a homage to one of my favorite Steelers and be a blog name that no one else was using.
I’ve been a Steeler fan since 1973, not great days for the Steelers back then. The way a kid from New York became a Steeler fan is a little bit silly. I was 9, I had a friend who was a bit older and he asked me who my teams were, I told him I was a Pirate fan. I’d had the privilege of seeing the Pirates beat the Mets live, including the great Roberto Clemente robbing a homerun during the game. It was his last season and would tragically die at the end of the season. I also told my friend I liked the Celtics, I’d seen them play a couple of times live. But I had no hockey or football team so I quickly picked the Islanders because I watched them on cable. Finally, for football, I didn’t want a NY team, I was, and still am a bit of a contrary bastard, and so I went with Pittsburgh because of the Pirates.
It was a decision that would lead me to suffer through five seasons of not very good teams, but I stuck with them. Then in the late 70’s, it became a very good time to be both in junior high and a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. It has led to a lifetime fandom, even though I’ve lived in NY, KY, TN and in CA for the last twenty years. I’ve made my pilgrimages to Three Rivers, Latrobe and Heinz Field over the years. Even was in San Francisco during the famous Monday Night Football blackout game.
I’ve been a blogger for the last ten years, I write a somewhat popular blog about living a happier life called The Ministry of Happiness. I write about being happier, about my travels and some hiking trips including hikes to Mt. Everest, across Scotland and a thousand miles on the Appalachian Trail including my book, Appalachian Trail Happiness. But this blog will focus on one thing, my love of the Pittsburgh Steelers and an opportunity to lay out my thoughts and opinions and to hopefully get yours.