It’s been quite awhile since I fired up the old keyboard and mouse to put down some thoughts on SCB, but after the AFC Wildcard game last night in Cincinnati between the Steelers and Bengals, I just couldn’t resist the chance to come on here and give my .02 on the wild affair that went down last night.
I’ve never been the kind of guy to sugar coat anything Steelers related and I’m not about to start now, so here it goes.
First, let’s be realistic here, with less than 2 min to go the Steelers were heading home to clean out their lockers. The Bengals had this game won. AJ McCarron lead his team on 2 TD drives that gave the Bengals the lead, and the interception by Steelers backup QB Landry Jones had sealed his team’s fate. Marvin Lewis’ team just had to take care of the ball and this one was over. Or at the very least just keep their heads in the face of adversity.
Speaking of Marvin Lewis, let’s not sit here and feel sorry for the guy who’s now 0-7 in the post season, regardless of his ties to Pittsburgh or the fact that he is “a nice guy”. He built this team, or at least had a major say in the draft picks and free agent acquisitions. He knew that Pacman Jones and Vontaze Burfict were uncontrollable hot heads who couldn’t resist the opportunity to lose their minds at the most crucial moment of the game. Those two players single handedly cost the Bengals this game, and that’s a fact.
Speaking of facts, the Bengals fans are now the new standard in classless behavior. We all remember the Browns fans throwing beer bottles on the field. We’ve all seen the Ravens fans cheer when Ben Roethlisberger got hurt. We know the reputation of Oakland fans. However, last night, the fans at Paul Brown stadium who were cheering the tiger stripes, put on a display of epic, childish behavior the likes of which none of us will soon forget. Throwing bottles at a player leaving the field, regardless of team affiliation is wrong. Throwing bottles on the field during the game, cheering a player who’s been concussed after an epic dirty play is borderline insane. Yes Bengals fans, congrats to you for showing your true colors.
On that subject of dirty play. Make no mistake about it, that hit on Antonio Brown by Vontaze Burfict, was a calculated, vicious, attempt to seriously injure Brown. The ball was clearly too high and already past Brown’s hands on the catch attempt. Burfict had 3 steps with which to lower his shoulder and lead with his head to intentionally turn’s Brown’s head into a weeble wobble. You can see the hit here, courtesy of CBS Sports. The fact that he tried to plead his case to the officials was as comical as it was pathetic and irritating.
Pathetic you say; how about the social media tirade by one Pacman Jones after the game. Dropping F bombs and expletives in a short tirade, blaming the officials and Joey Porter for the loss last night. This guy is a joke and doesn’t deserve to be in the NFL. We shouldn’t have expected anything different from this thug, he’s out of control and only sleeps at night knowing he can cast blame anywhere but himself. “IF you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs”….remember that famous poem? Clearly 55 and 24 do not.
Now for the Steelers side of this:
Credit Mike Tomlin and his team for largely being able to keep their head and stay focused. They knew that the Bengals players would come unravelled, and it happened multiple times. Say what you want about Tomlin, and trust me we do here on SCB, but credit is given where it’s due. He made sure his players didn’t stoop to the level of the opposition.
Joey Porter was allowed to be on the field during an injury timeout; you see coaches on the field many times in that situation. With Antonio Brown down on the field after the hit from Burfict, Porter saw the opportunity to stroll out and take advantage of a situation to get into the heads of the Bengals. Never let it be said that Peezy isn’t above taking advantage of an opportunity to bend the rules a tad. Mission accomplished.
Martavis Bryant responded to the constructive criticism by his Quarterback earlier in the week by coming up with what should be considered one of the greatest catches of all time. This circus, flip, ball pinned to his leg, touchdown catch is something you can’t even describe in mere words. So watch it here!
Who needs Le’Veon Bell or De’Angelo Williams when you have Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman?!? Well ok let’s not get crazy here but if I told you that the latter would have 123 yards combined rushing and did an admirable job in reserve duty in their biggest games to date, you wouldn’t have believed me for a hot second. Both guys did amazingly well in the face of adversity.
Ryan Shazier was the player of the day on defense. 13 tackles, 2 Forced Fumbles, 1 recovery, and 2 Passes Defensed. The absolute only knock on this kid is that he can’t stay on the field, but when he can, he is the new breed of fast, quick, ILB’s that the Steelers need to succeed in the future under Keith Butler’s regime.
Butler you say? Well yes, he did have his unit ready to go for this game. For just over 3 quarters, the Bengals could not move the ball at all. They were dishing out big hits and blanketing McCarron’s target regularly, as well as shutting down the run. Did they run out of gas in the 4th quarter? Maybe so, or perhaps the Bengals were just good enough to make plays and score points to take the lead, but regardless when it came right down to it, when they had to have splash plays to give the offense a chance, they came through.
Speaking of “coming through”, did anyone else get chills when Big Ben came back into the game to try and drive the Steelers down for the go ahead points? If you say, no, then I don’t believe you! I read today on Twitter that Ben was not planning on coming back into the game, he was down on the other end of the sidelines when Tomlin nodded to him after Jeremy Hill’s fumble. Both he and Tomlin knew that if the Steelers were to have any chance, #7 was going to have to go back into the game. The Steelers QB lead a the offense on a series of short throws to move the ball just into Bengals territory before the gift personal fouls by Burfict and Jones did the rest. And short throws was all it took, fortunately, because as Ben mentioned in the post game, he didn’t have the arm to throw anything down field.
Coming through you say? Well yes Chris Boswell is as much my team MVP as anyone else. Ok, that’s maybe stretching it a tad I suppose, but this kid calmly walked out there in booted the game winner with only seconds to go in a hostile environment, with no playoff experience, in less than ideal conditions.
After all of that, are the Steelers or we fans considered “saints” after all of this? Of course not. We as black n gold fans love to hate our rivals, and we certainly have no love loss for the likes of guys like Vontaze Burfict and Pacman Jones. We can be brutal on social media after our team wins.
The players get torqued up on the field and retaliate as much as anyone else, after all these guys are human and will come to the rescue of their teammates at any moment’s notice. That’s how it should be. They let their emotions get the better of themselves on Twitter at times, too. It’s just life in this day and age.
The difference is, the class of the Rooney’s organization and commitment to the team concept in the locker room shines through when it needs to the most. And for us fans, well, call it karma or poetic justice, but we’re just happy our boys are moving on and our hated rivals have the next 8 months to think this one over.
Thank you for your time ladies and gentlemen of SteelerNation! Here We Go…to Denver!
Photo courtesy of triblive sports.