PITTSBURGH-Each NFL season brings with it a set of expectations for every single member of the league. Year in and year out, each fan has a good idea of what to expect from their team each and every year.
That being said it is tough if you happen to support or follow several teams that all have the same problem. The New York Giants are definitely one of those teams. Over in the NFC, the Redskins arguably, are another.
But there is one other team that is really suffering these days.
The date was Monday, September 16. The Cincinnati Bengals were the visitors at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, PA. Andy Dalton out-threw Ben Roethlisberger by 280 yards to 251 yards. Only a difference of 29 yards. Both of the quarterbacks had one touchdown, Roethlisberger had one interception. His QB rating was 44.2. What?
Really? No way.
Believe it or not, Dalton was even worse.
But what I remember the most about that Monday night was Head Coach Mike Tomlin and his star QB Roethlisberger standing there on the sidelines. Roethlisberger was a Super Bowl Champion (XV) at the age of 23. Mike Tomlin had become the youngest Head Coach to guide a team to the Super Bowl, winning XLIII, with Roethlisberger as his man.
What does all of this mean? When those two stood next to each other on the sidelines that Monday night about a month ago, they stood there like best friends/teammates watching their team play a game, pretty much motionless, dejected, amazed, bewildered, whatever you want to call it.
But if you think that these guys are worried about everything that could, and everything that has gone wrong, don’t be.
None of them seem to be and at least two of them already know exactly what it takes to win games in this league.
Ryan Clark may or may not know, but he shot back at some idiot reporter who questioned him on whether or not this season is a write off for Pittsburgh.
Currently, Pittsburgh is 0-4. They haven’t started like this since 1968. Most of these guys weren’t alive back then.
“What do you mean, do I think maybe it’s still doable?” the free safety (Clark) said. “Are we mathematically out of the playoffs? Well, it’s still doable.”
History shows that the Steelers face a climb to the postseason that is steeper than any of Pittsburgh’s many hills. They are in last place in the AFC North and are already three wins behind the Cincinnati Bengals,Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens.
But Clark said none of those teams — all 3-2 — are beyond the Steelers’ reach because Pittsburgh has five division games left on its schedule.
The Steelers will try to break into the win column Sunday when they visit the New York Jets (3-2).
“I feel like with where our division is, where we are, the games we have remaining, that we have a good chance of being a playoff team,” Clark said.
“It’s not a guarantee or prediction. It’s fact, and the fact is we’re not out of it. The fact is of the three teams in our division, we play two of them twice and we have another one at home, which I feel like are five winnable games. You win those games, you put yourself in better position as opposed to those teams.”
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger echoed Clark’s sentiments (did anyone expect him to NOT echo them??!).
“We really believe that,” Roethlisberger told 93.7 The Fan during his weekly radio show. “We believe going into every game that we’re going to win it.”
There is a reason he’s nicknamed ‘Big Ben’. It’s because there are few linebackers out there strong enough to bring him down. He doesn’t have the flexibility of Michael Vick or the ‘youth energy’ of RGIII, but he has more physical strength than both of them put together; it takes a group effort to sack him.
Since the playoffs expanded in 1990, only one team has overcome an 0-4 start to qualify for postseason play, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Clark said the Steelers have confidence they can join the 1992 San Diego Chargers in beating such long odds.
“You don’t want guys saying we can’t win enough games to get in [the playoffs], and I don’t think that’s the feeling at all,” Clark said. “It is still early. We have worked through situations where we lost four games or three games in a row but we were still playing to get in the playoffs late in the season, so we know you can do that. In those seasons we lost in the back half, so we’re hoping to get some wins to get us back in this race.”
Coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that the team’s focus has not been affected by the poor start.
“I haven’t sensed that at all in terms of the focus,” Tomlin said. “I like the demeanor and approach of the guys in terms of addressing [the 0-4 start] and dealing with it, and I don’t believe focus has been an issue at all to this point.”
Meanwhile, changes that Tomlin tersely hinted were coming following a 34-27 loss to the Minnesota on Sept. 29 have resulted in the demotions of left tackle Mike Adams and defensive end Ziggy Hood. Adams will give way to Kelvin Beachum or newly acquired Levi Brown, and Hood has been replaced in the starting lineup by Cameron Heyward.
NEXT ON THE SCHEDULE
Pittsburgh next entertains the New York Jets and their dynamic stud-of-a-QB Geno Smith. Smith set up a win for his team against Atlanta this past Monday when he moved the ball all the way down the field for a 28-yard FG. Smith has skill, but Roethlisberger has more experience than McDonald’s has hamburgers. Should be a good game.
Nothing could be better for a team that hasn’t won a game yet than their bye week. Then they face New York, Baltimore, the Raiders, Patriots and the Buffalo Bills. I see some wins here. The only thing better than that would be a game with the Browns!.