5 Smoldering Questions on the Pittsburgh Steelers: Week 3

photo via Steelers.com

By Hombre de Acero

The Pittsburgh’s 2017 home opener saw the Steelers dismantle the Vikings to the tune of 26-9. Yet despite the 2-0 record, much of Steelers Nation is wanting more, particularly from the offense. This week’s opponent brings the men in Black and Gold to Chicago, where they’ve only won once in 13 tries.

But before we can see whether the Steelers can improve on their fortunes in the Windy City, this corner of Steelers Nation must resolve these 5 Smoldering Questions on the Steelers.

1. You could argue the point, but the Steelers post-Super Bowl XLV rebuilding effort hit rock bottom on September 29th in London against the Minnesota Vikings in a loss that dropped them to 0-4.

In looking at all that’s happened since then, the changes on both sides of the ball appear to be mirror images of each other.

There were only three or four of the starters on offense from that dreadful day in London at Heinz Field last Sunday, while only 3 players on defense from the ’13 team remained for Sunday’s “Rematch.”

Which changes do you feel have made the most impact in altering the trajectory of the team between then, now and looking forward to the future?

2. When T.J. Watt went out, Anthony Chickillo stayed in while James Harrison sat on the bench. Mike Tomlin explained the move by wishing to stay with a “hot hand.” What do you think of this decision and do you think it is appropriate to read anything into it?

3. FOX’s commentating team pointed out that Antonio Brown has never had a 100 yard game against a Mike Zimmer-coached defense, a period which covers Steelers offenses of varying potencies.

Again against the Vikings, Antonio Brown was held below the century mark.

What’s going on?

4. Danny Smith has taken a lot of heat in recent years, some of it fair and some of it unfair. In the first two weeks of the season, his special teams have come up with big plays in the form of a blocked punt and a successful stop of a fake punt attempt.

Yet against the Vikings the penalties cost the special teams a shot at a 2 point conversion and turned a field goal situation into a punt (which Danny Smith’s teams downed at the one – something we’ve not seen a lot of.)

So, with 1/8th of the season complete, is your Steelers Special Teams cup half full or half empty?

5. As Homer observed in his game analysis of the Vikings win:

“We are so damned spoiled that the Steelers can win by 17 points against a very good team with one of the best defenses in the game, and we still carp and moan like the worst bunch of yinzers.”

While yours truly agrees with Homer’s criticism of the much of the fan base, the Steelers offense has seemed to be stuck in a low gear, given the talent (and salary cap space) the team has invested in it.

What type of effort against Chicago will be necessary to stop the carping?

You know the drill. Use only Number 2 dark pencils, and we strongly caution against using Faber Castels. You must show work to get full credit, and looking at your neighbor’s paper is strongly encouraged.


  • Good Questions! Hmmmmmmm…..

    1. I think it is more just a culmination of many small changes that have led up to where we are now. If I was to pick any one thing, it would probably be the luck of the Draft. We found some good talent in the draft the last few years.

    2. With Harrison’s age, and the talent at the position, keeping him on the bench this early in the season is probably more to make sure he is available later in the season when we may need him. So far though, we haven’t really needed him. Won’t stop me from wearing his Jersey for every game though.

    3. First, for this game, huge props to Rhodes who did a darn good job blanketing Brown for most of the day. Other than that I find it is just a stat. It is strange that Brown hasn’t had a 100 yard game against the Bengals though.

    4. I would say the cup is MOSTLY FULL for the special teams so far. The 2 point conversion delay of game is on the offense, not special teams. ST has been playing really well so far this season.

    5. 500 yard, 6 touchdown game from Ben. 200 yard 3 touchdown game from Brown. 150 yard, 3 touchdown game from Bell. The rest of the passing yards and td’s between Bell, Bryant, Rogers, and James. Really though, there is no way this game will silence the carping, it will take a string of great offensive performances to do that. The most important thing is to come away with a win.

    For me though, I would like to see the offense just be cohesive and have some nice drives, while winning the game.


  • 1. The youth movement. Despite the Steelers defense finishing well in 2011 the handwriting was on the wall. It’s seriously annoying to think Warren Sapp had a point…

    2. Tomlin explained it as “riding the hot hand,” and indeed, how do you keep a guy on the bench who had a touchdown and two sacks the previous week? It’s an exciting problem to have, and I expect Old Man Harrison to make a significant contribution at some point this season, when he’s rested, fresh, and mad…

    3. It’s pretty obvious that if a team decides to focus their efforts on Brown they can, at least to some extent, neutralize him if they have the talent in the backfield to do so. Last year there wasn’t an obvious person to take advantage of that after Coates became injured and consequently ineffective. This year is, so far, a different story.

    4. Defenitely half-full. I would say 3/4 full or more. In two games special teams have had more “splash plays” than they had all year last season, IIRC, and haven’t given up big returns even to some talented guys. Jordan Berry is still somewhat hit or miss, and as much as I love Boswell I wish he was reliable beyond 50 yards, but honestly you can’t have everything.

    And BTW Bob Labriola explained the “illegal snap” penalty on Kanaday. I don’t know about you all but I found that whole sequence baffling, and was happy to have it explained. As far as the snap goes, though, apparently what Kanaday did was to squeeze the ball before he snapped it, which is illegal—if you’re caught. Labriola also noted that Greg Warren was a master of doing it so the officials couldn’t see it…

    5. I don’t think anything could stop the carping of a certain segment of Steeler Nation, unless the Steelers won all their games by 50 points. And only if the defense managed to keep the opposing offense from scoring – at all. But for much of Steeler Nation, at least with my fingers on the local pulse, the Chicago game is seen as a trap game, and a convincing win would shut down the complaining for a few days, anyhow.

    And I’ll use this as an opportunity to insert a plug for tomorrow’s post, which, as sort of a long appendix, shows Mike Tomlin’s record as viewed from various perspectives. I think some may find it surprising…


  • Five Feverish Answers

    1. Question number two, kind of answers question number one. The Steelers invested heavily in the offense before they started investing in the defensive side of the ball. Looking at today’s defense I see highly talented and highly picked players filling most spots. Easy, obvious, answer.

    2. I think Mike Tomlin was being considerate of not only James Harrison’s feeling, but also Author Moats. “I pity the fool” who is not considerate of James Harrison’s feelings.

    3. In the big picture, it will take a better football mind than mine, to answer. As for the last game, Antonio Brown’s performance was hindered by one of the best cornerbacks in the game, Xavier Rhodes. Zimmer did adjust nicely and place a Safety over the top after Brown burned Rhodes, early in the game.

    4. Asking me about the fullness of the Steeler’s glass, lol. Believe it or not, I am going with half-full. Good thing as well, the Danny Smith poster I have been using as a dart board is about worn out.

    5. The Steelers and I could care less about fans carping (I will look up that word, carp to me is a fish) we are only interested in the Steelers reeling in a victory.

    Every since you started authoring these articles, they have always been highly anticipated posts. TYVM for keeping the tradition alive, it is much appreciated.

    BTW….if anyone is receiving unwanted emails from this website concerning replies and likes to your commentary, that can be taken care of in your profile, if at first glance the function appears disabled, check a little further and you may find some boxes that need to be unchecked. Hopefully resolved the situation myself without having to email Rebecca.


    Now watch it not work, taking my smart feeling away (insert smiley face).


  • 1. Hiring Mike Muncher in 2014 is a major factor in the improvement of the team’s performance. But the complete answer is, obviously more than that.

    2. I expect Chickillo was o a “short lease” and if he didn’t perform well Debby would have come in.



    • Well I hit the wrong key.

      3. With statistics, I want to know the sample size, i.e. how many games? Also how many touchdowns did AB score against Zimmer?

      4. two thirds full.

      5. Nothing will satisfy the nay-sayers and Tomlin haters. So I don’t care. An impressive win is always good.


  • 1.They invested in defense during the NFL Player Selection meetings. Burns, Davis,and Gravedigger going 1-2-3 in last year’s draft was a remarkable confluence of need and BPA. The defense was clearly too old and too slow, and Tomlin focused like a laser on that weakness. He and Colbert drafted extremely well.

    2. Tomlin is able to play the long game, and he knows that Deebo is a precious but finite resource. He also knows that Watt is a rookie and rookies always hit the wall midway through the season. He also knows that Dupree has been injured and admitted hitting the wall in his first season. The guess here is that CT knows that championships are won in December and January, and he has the luxury of using Deebo as his relief pitcher, maybe even his closer. And it’s only the second inning right now. As far as his explanation, it’s partly true. Chickillo does have the hot hand. He also needs the experience and the snaps. On the other hand, Deebo needs to stay healthy and ready, because the call to the bullpen will surely come when it’s all on the line.

    3. Zimmer has focused on AB, but the Steelers have other weapons. Sunday, they had guys one-on-one deep. You take what they give you. It is an interesting statistic, though, and the battle between AB and Rhodes was a classic competition that really was NFL football at its best.

    4. I don’t blame Danny Smith because JuJu convinced his mates that he was Stagger Lee. That was the offense, minus DeCastro, who was much too white for all that Casino Night stuff. The video of DD walking away is, as Tomlin says, hilarious. The special team’s glass has been pretty darned close to full. No major mistakes. Decent KO return decisions and runbacks. Lotsa field goals.

    5. I believe it was the philosopher Descartes, a Steeler fan from way back, who summed it up best. “Je kvetch, donc je suis.” Complaining is not only a yinzer’s proof of existence, it is their raison d’etre. ‘Twas ever thus. Fire Tomlin. Fire Haley. Fire everybody.

    Now it’s on to Chicago. This is the year.

    Liked by 1 person

  • 1. Have a good D, draft a good O, and so on. If both are good, BPA. (Wonder where I learned that?)
    2. I agree with MT and as with 3, a W > a player/stat/ect.
    3. I think AB gets his 100 if he wasn’t interfered with on the smaller of the two big PI’s last Sunday, but see above about W’s
    4. 1/2 full and filling.
    5. I wanted the Steelers to win 19 games by 19 points this season, just to have the ridiculous “fans” heads explode so we didn’t have to deal with them while I was out celebrating the SB victory. Metaphorically anyway. Plus I know they are here to stay.


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