Friday, December 27, 2013

Steelers Week 16, Reflections

Before the Green Bay game:
Steelers are a good 6-8 team. [late note, this story confirms my point] Why? Because in our wins, we've been dominant the whole game. They are clean wins.  But all close games we've lost; and almost all of them were close.  We're not like the teams, e.g. patriots, who've won ugly. That's why we are better than our record shows.  It's one of the quirks of football, that since it's only 16 games, each one matters enormously. There's a real difference between a 9-7 and 10-6 even though it's just one game.

As for Green Bay: I may be wrong, but I conceive them as the NFC equivalent of the Steelers.  They seem old-school and classy.  I don't pay much attention to the NFC, but I guess if I had to root for a team in general, I'd boost the Packers. And, as my middle child said last night, in Black & White, the uniforms look almost the same!

After The Game:
We won.  And EVERYBODY ELSE WHO WE NEEDED TO WIN, WON.  Gadzooks.   This is too much to ask for. Holy cow. After this crazy season I didn't expect we could ever make the playoffs. And I still don't because (see below). But I will accept this one gift: because of how all the games went yesterday, at least every week in the season has mattered. We're playing at 1, so that means all the other games that could knock us out of contention will be at the same time. So when we start the game, it will still be a relevant one. And that's nice.

OK, so what has to happen for us to make it to the playoffs? Only this (this website makes this stuff fun and easy):
  • 1:00 PM: Baltimore at Cincinnati
  • 1:00 PM: NY Jets at Miami
  • 1:00 PM: Cleveland at Pittsburgh
  • 4:25 PM: Kansas City at San Diego
The Breakdown:
  • CIN must beat BAL (oh please, oh please).
  • NYJ must beat MIA (this is the really hard one, because the Jets basically suck, Miami is better than I expected, the Jets are out of the playoffs and Miami is the putative 6th seed.
  • PIT must beat CLE (of course; and this is a trap game because our Defense always lays down when they think the game will easy)
  • KC must beat SND - this is also not a fait accompli, because KC is already in, and SND needs to win to get in the playoffs, and they are division rivals.
Sadly, I think Miami will easily handle the Jets.  However, what the sports pundits seem to forget - and I blame both Madden and the stat-crazed Moneyball type analysis - is that NFL teams don't seem to lay down when a game is "meaningless [for the playoffs]"  Maybe the fat journalists who care about stats and postseasons only would think that way, but professional athletes don't.  I assert this not only because it's backed up by observation, but it also fits theory:  professional athletes, by definition, are these things: (a) they love the game they're playing, especially football, because the monetary rewards barely cover the pain for most players; (b) they are fiercely committed to winning because otherwise the motivation to be in top physical condition, and receive bone-snapping punishment, isn't worth it.

Ironically, the only teams that seem to take it easy in meaningless games are the ones who actually have already MADE the playoffs, e.g. the Chiefs (potentially).

So I hope, I hope, that the Jets will come to defeat their division rivals.  If this were the Steelers versus the Bengals (in the AFC East, the analogies for us would be Patriots=Ravens, Dolphins=Bengals, Bills=Browns) and the Steelers were out of contention, and the Bengals needed to win to get into the playoffs, all Steelers players and fans would want the team to play their damnedest to knock the Bengals out.   I assume the Jets would feel the same way.

This can't be said for the Chiefs, alas.  Possibly the players would feel the way against the Chargers as I described above about rivals, but the dynamic is different.  The Chiefs have no way to improve their position; Andy Ried's M.O. is to rest his starters in this scenario; and maybe the Chiefs don't hate the Chargers?   What I'm hoping for is that (a) the Chiefs actually do hate their rivals and want to keep 'em out; (b) that the Chiefs are good enough to beat SND even with their second teamers, especially on defense.

But look, I think just beating Cleveland will be enough because it will be an awesome way to go into the postseason because it will demonstrate to the team that they are monsters, that they will have a winning streak going into the offseason, and that's a lot to build on.

About the game itself.
These past 2 games fulfilled what I said a few weeks ago:
"I will still try to watch the Steelers in future weeks. They occassionaly make a nice play, and that's fun to see. That's what I think makes a real fan. I like watching them win, even when the games don't matter. So if they win any of the last 3, it'll be fun! And if they lose, then it doesn't matter, and it may even be better for our draft position. So it's a win-win. In a filthy depressing way."  
The Bengals game was freakin' awesome (even though I saw it from a hospital bed).  We beat them up, literally, and while it may be like last year's Week 13 pasting of the Superbowl bound Ravens, that's why being a fan is rewarding.  Because even if you don't make the playoffs, football is fun to watch, and every win is precious.  Especially over a division rival.

And the Green Bay game was also fun, even though Tomlin messed up the ending... but that just made it memorable.

I'm seeing the game now and I can say one reason the defense is performing a bit better is due to improvement in the special teams. If McBriar isn't consistent then buy a good punter or ugh draft because they are WORTH IT. We still need way way way better performance on kickoff/punt return defense. Gadzooks, we stink at that. But considering how bad ST has been for years, this year is much better.

As I said here, I think the refereeing - which sucks league-wide - is especially bad for the Steelers.  How many times have they snatched our scores away?  The blocked field goal call was a insult and miscarriage of justice.  We block a field goal, and the refs give GB a touchdown.  And the NFL, as expected, won't admit failure.  Yet they're set to dock us a draft pick because of Tomlin's sideline idiocy.   I hope the Rooneys will use whatever heft they have left to protest this, preferably with lawyers.

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