There’s nothing quite like that final nail being driven into another nail as a precautionary extra-nail to make sure that even if the first nail in the coffin for the Steelers’ season somehow rusts and falls off, there’ll be another nail to ensure that the coffin will definitely remain shut, even though it’s six feet underground and has no way of opening back up anyway and also it can’t score a touchdown against the league’s worst-ranked defense and takes eight sacks and couldn’t look less like it cares about anything.
That metaphor became muddled a bit in the middle, but the basic thesis statement was the same as it’s been the past four weeks, that being “Wow is this team pathetic”. The Browns game was, in the words of one Myron Cope, “A dee-bacle! [And a complete waste of our mother-effing time!]“. I’m assuming he would’ve said the second part.
The Steelers scored six points against the Cleveland Browns. SIX. It’s the NFL equivalent of Bob Uecker’s “One goddamn hit?” Major League quote. SIX points is beyond worthless, unless you draw three little lines on the I and turn it into “SEX POINTS” and it’s a woman saying it and it turns out that I’m actually watching a football-themed porno and not a season-defining Steelers/Browns game, but that unfortunately was not the case here, as much as I attempted to take giant huffs of glue to make myself hallucinate into believing this every time Roethlisberger got sacked on third down.
The Steelers defense only gave up 13 points, but still, is this team capable of stopping an opponent on third and ANYTHING? If the other team was up against a 3rd and ????, like the question marks that people put on party invitations when they don’t know when it’s gonna end cause it might go on forever, some running back would take a two-yard pass, then every Steeler would literally have their hands wrapped through the dude’s bone and sinew and around his heart and still somehow not tackle him until he got far enough up the field for the refs to all agree “I don’t know what question mark stands for, but they definitely got it.”
It’s probably too late in the season to get back to the basics, but let’s take a quick moment to go over some very simple vocabulary for two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger:
1 : a usually rectangular-shaped bag (as of paper, burlap, or canvas)
2 : the amount contained in a sack; especially : a fixed amount of a commodity used as a unit of measure
3: a thing you should not take on first down at the opponents’ 35 when you’re down by 7 points with 2 minutes in the fourth quarter of an absolute must-win game.
1 a : blitzkrieg 1 b (1) : an intensive aerial military campaign (2) : air raid
2: you don’t even need me to write a jokey football definition for this one, because if that first definition is happening to you, you need to throw the ball in less time than it takes for you to hum the “Light My Fire” organ solo to yourself.
giving a shit
1: a thing you should do or at least look like you do, ever.
That last one was more a lesson for all the Steelers, not just Roethlisberger. Holmes and Woodley, you’re the closest to being off the hook, but your performances would’ve been less noticeable if you weren’t playing the majority of the game surrounded by piles of crap painted and shaped to look like Steeler football players by some pointlessly controversial pop artist.
It’s time to start the blame game (well, resume the ongoing blame game that all fans have for their teams, only now we won’t laugh it off knowing the Steelers will probably be fine, because they actually suck). Aside from special teams coach Firedo McFiredson, I imagine Bruce Arians will get most of the heat this offseason, which is justifiable; his constant inability to adapt to other teams’ blitzes, or to be in any way innovative from week to week, or to manage the clock with fourth quarter leads (in 5 of the Steelers’ 7 losses), are all too constant and glaring to overlook, and we’re far enough removed from last season for Arians criticisms to be immediately parried away with “well he must suck if they won the Super Bowl!!!” A Super Bowl doesn’t instantly absolve every element of the winning team of criticism. No one is perfect except The Lord, and even he suffered from predictable playcalling on third and shorts.
Let’s not overlook the potential Dick LeBeau fallout either; the dude’s clearly earned enough respect to keep doing whatever he wants to do for however long he chooses to do it, and even the slightest insinuation that the game has passed him by or that he’s somehow losing his edge would be ludicrous, but that said, how can a team with the Steelers’ compliment of linebackers spend essentially an entire season failing to pressure the opposing quarterback in any meaningful situation or with any remote consistency? The constant failure to get pressure is especially demoralizing when on the flipside, no matter what defense the Steelers are playing against, their own quarterback goes down the millisecond the sideline down-marker holder flips the thing to “3″.
Needless to say, Steeler Nation is gonna have more than a few things to complain about this offseason, but this time, they’ll be unshackled by last year’s argument-ending rebuttals of “…but they won the Super Bowl, so Problem X couldn’t have been so bad.” This year, Problem X was that bad. And the X, for the record, stands for “Xjust about everything.”
More Browns game things to complain about:
– Giving up a sack to Hank Poteat isn’t quite getting knocked out of the playoffs on an OT goal by Gary Valk, but it’s part of the same phylum.
– I’ve noticed myself saying “Wow, Heath Miller dropped an easy pass, you don’t see that too often” very very often.
– Can we preemptively throw away the term “Super Bowl Hangover” to describe the Steelers’ season? They started frickin’ 6-2. It’s not a “hangover,” it’s a “playing well then suddenly playing really horribly in every single game then giving up-over.”
– Only a 55-yard kick return by Josh Cribbs this time? Steeler special teams for Comeback Player Of The Year! Yes, all of them.
– Through all the Steelers’ uncharacteristic but maddening apathy all game, did anyone appear to be giving less of a shit than Hines Ward? Has this ever happened in a game, ever? I know the guy was hurt, but his performance was sub-nonfactor, with the demeanor to boot. If you’re looking for a symbolic image with which to sum up this Steeler collapse, I’d think Smiley O’Hardplay’s lifeless performance would suffice.
The most crushing part of this Browns game, though, was that it clearly pushed my Steelers-season mindset from anger to complete and utter apathy. After the Oakland loss last week, I consciously professed apathy to myself and my friends, but that’s a contradiction; as much as I kept saying I didn’t even care about the Steelers’ season any more because it was “over”, I still had enough interest (/hope) to gather with a bunch of friends Thursday night, order some pizza, and act like not the worst thing in the world might happen this week.
Now that I’ve entered true Steeler-season apathy, I’m past the need to constantly declare it. I no longer need to trick myself into believing that my expectations have been lowered as if to pre-diffuse my eventual, inevitable disappointment. In a way, it’s liberating; I don’t have to spend any more Sundays this winter being angry until 4:30 then calling my brother to talk about being angry for the next two hours, then realizing I’ve spent the entire day indoors being angry, thus making myself angry.
No — next Sunday, I’ll be reading a book, going for a walk, planting a tree, and helping orphaned children. All simultaneously, actually, and in my living room right next to my demonstratively turned-off television.