5 Smoldering Questions on the Pittsburgh Steelers: Week 14

Sobering. That’s the only way to describe the Steelers win over the Bengals in light of Ryan Shazier’s injury. Nonetheless, we will sally forth with our 5 Smoldering Questions on the Steelers.

1. Many are commenting on the brutality evident in Monday Night’s game and for good reason. When the announcing crew on ESPN Deportes brings up 1990 Eagles-Redskins “Body Bag” game you know things are bad. However, Shazier’s injury, by far the most serious injury of the night, came on a completely legal hit.

When that dawned on me, I wondered if it wouldn’t have been wise for defenders to heed Rod Woodson’s call for rugby style tackling. Do you think this could have made a difference?

2. The Steelers didn’t just lose Shazier, they also lost Tyler Matakevich, yet they reacted by re-signing Sean Spence, whose own injuries, ironically, contributed to the Steelers’ decision to draft Shazier.

In two years of play, Spence validated the faith the coaches showed in keeping him on IR for two years, yet he nonetheless was unemployed in early December.

Does that fact count as a yellow or even red flag for you?

3. JuJu Smith-Schuster was (rightly in my view) suspended for gloating over Vontaze Burfict, yet after the game Colin Cowherd had this callous comment:


How do you react to such statements, and do you think that his employers should sanction him for such remarks?

4. Here at Going Deep we endeavor NOT to repeat questions as much as possible. Yet sometimes events take control. And such is the case with the Steelers’ corners Coty Sensabaugh and Cam Sutton.

After taking exception with Jon Ledyard’s comment that fans couldn’t wait until Cam Sutton pushed Artie Burns for playing time, yours truly made this observation:

One reader pointed out that the more realistic scenario would be Cam Sutton  pushing Coty Sensabaugh for playing time. Both scenarios breathe new life into the old cliché of “grasping at straws….

…Should a serious Super Bowl contender really entertain the thought of replacing that kind of experience with a raw rookie 12 games into the season? That’s one’s hard to get your head around.

So. I’ll take an order of crow, white meat (yes, deserve to sink my teeth into something dry) and then follow with a healthy portion of humble pie because that is exactly what Mike Tomlin did at half time.

How do you assess Cam Sutton’s play, and do you think he should start in place of Senasbaugh against the Ravens?

5. Sunday brings the Ravens to Heinz Field for yet another December show down with the AFC North title in the balance. Keeping in mind that the Steelers haven’t swept the Ravens since 2008, here a little statistic I’ll share to stir up the pot:

What does this tell us about James Harrison?


  • cold_old_steelers_fan

    1) Having seen one of my son’s and some of his classmates from the football team learn to play rugby only to find they had trouble adjusting to a new tackling scheme (while still just teenagers), I would suspect the period of adjustment would take years. The people I pitied most were the kids on the other team who were getting brutalized by bone crushing hits as my son’s team kept using NA football tackling (though they would sometimes remember the correct variety). At the end of the game the ref called our team over and complimented them on their zeal but gave them a lecture on the dangers of what they were doing.

    This change needs to start at the bottom and be implemented year by year as the generations move through the various ranks. Also, as long as players are wearing hard helmets and body armour, there is no chance the rugby style tacking will take over.

    2) What flag? The flag that says we need a warm body who can play special teams and maybe, just maybe play inside linebacker? The team is desperate. They have lost 50% of their ILBs, and this is December… who would left looking for a job if they had anything much to offer. Spence is likely as good as it gets. Butler will need to be a miracle worker to keep this defence together if either Williams or Fort goes down.

    My guess a lot of thought will be going into figuring out which outside linebackers will be competent/flexible enough to move inside and call the defensive signals if Fort goes down. BPWG was magnificent in relief last game but the Ravens will likely have adjustments in their offence this week that will abuse him if he is cast in that role for too long.

    3) I disagree with your initial assumption. Players should not be suspended for gloating. As a first time offender, a fine would have been far more appropriate but ESPN had to blow it out of proportion along with their love fest for Burfict. Poor, poor Vontaze. He hasn’t crippled anyone for games. He must be reformed. Balls.

    Colin Cowherd is a bit like Skip Bayless. Not worth the effort of listening to him.

    4) I am not competent to assess Sutton’s play but the little I have read by folks I respect suggest he was a step up in the situation. Against the Ravens, it may depends on the match ups and how the ILB situation unfolds.

    5) He has had quite a career against the Ravens in Lebeau’s defence. His inability to drop into coverage makes him a one trick pony in Butlers defence. Still, in certain situations that will not matter and he will be free to abuse whatever tackle he faces.


    • Interesting point about the Rugby tackle. When I read about Woodson’s initiative, I was fascinated, particularly because one of my friends down here had joked not too long ago that football players hit, whereas Rugby players tackle.

      But when I did research more and some some videos on how to tackle, my first thought was, “When you don’t have a helmet on, protecting your own head becomes much more important.

      As for Harrison, I don’t know that the coverage issue is so much a product of the LeBeau to Butler transition as it as an age issue.

      I believe that the single most important reason why the Steelers turned their season around last year was because they started James Harrison (and I say that as someone on REALLY wanted to see Jarvis Jones succeed, and drank some of the “well at least he’s good in against the run” Koolaid the Steelers PR arm was pedaling to the press.)


  • In light of the latest updates on Shazier, it’s with a heavy heart I write anything about football, because as Rebecca said, this just doesn’t seem as important.

    1. I actually question if this game was more “brutal” than any other game in the NFL this season. Shazier’s injury, while horrific, looks like a freak play. Injuries to Matakevich and the head hunting of Brown happen every game. And the “injury” to Burfict seems to be in question at least in some quarters. ESPN is a one trick pony of ratings. It’s only concern is inciting more gossip-fueled “news” to boost (temporarily) ratings.

    As an anecdote – I was at the Steelers / Bengals game (last year I believe). When I got home everyone was talking about “all the fights” and the “violence”. But in the stadium, you could clearly see it was only a handful of 5 or so players from both teams and it was SUPER minimal. But the networks chose to focus “for ratings” on those 5 or 6 players. It’s all pre-written stories I’m afraid.

    2. Tough spot to be. Next man up I suppose.

    3. Steelers beat a desperate team, who’s hatred of Pittsburgh consumes the city of Cincinnati. We are literally their Super Bowl. And they did it overcoming a horrific injury to a key part of their team leadership and defense. Seems to me the Steelers took care of business. And Cowherd’s “analysis” was incorrect.

    4. Football is a game of adjustments. If Sutton is an improvement so be it. If he’s not, well adjust back.

    5. It says to me that the Raven’s Left Tackle can’t stop Harrison.


    • You know you bring up an interesting point about your experience in the stadium last year.

      The power of mass communications, be they cable TV or social media, to distort things can be incredible.*

      I was down here in Argentina in 2001 when (an organized and orchestrated) mob forced the President to resign. While the unrest was very real, most porteños, however, tried to go about doing their jobs and living their daily life.I even have pictures of two people going about their business painting Luna Park (an indoor arena) less than a 1/4 mile from the Casa Rosada, where violence erupted between police an protesters.

      Yet, when my folks saw the footage on CNN, they came away thinking that there were either riots, looters, barricades or protesters on each and every corner.

      *Of course this isn’t always the case and there are definite upsides to technology, including but not limited to police cameras that give visibility into what happens at traffic stops.


  • 1. I don’t know enough about rugby to comment. Still holding out hope for Shazier, as a person, football isn’t that important.
    2. Spence should be able to contribute this season. I don’t see any other options unless Timmons mysteriously gets cut from the Dolphins. But that’s never happened before……..Oh wait.
    3. Cowherd was one of my favorites when he was local out here in the NW. Fame/success, which I can’t blame him for chasing, has changed him in a way I cannot listen to.
    4. I think it’s Sutton’s job to lose now. Sensi is was he is. Sutton has upside, and since his first action resulted in better hand Sensi in the same game, he should get a chance to develop it.
    5. I’m guessing Harrison gets a hat. Watt and Dupree have lined up in a ILB type position, plenty of times this season.


  • 1. Rugby? What’s rugby? Homer is still getting over the time the Continental Soccer Association came to Soringfield.

    2. Spence knows the defense and most of the schemes. He might just surprise you. Remember, they picked up Haden off the scrap heap, too.

    3. Your premise is DEAD WRONG, and Homer is still waiting for his invite to the Gruden-Burfict wedding. Just look at the damned film and follow along. Juju clocks Burfict and lays him flat. Burfuct at first springs up, and he tries to twist and grab Juju’s legs. Then the flags start flying and Burfict flops like some damned Serbian midfielder in a match against hated Croatia. Just like he falls to the ground game after game during other team’s offensive drives. Just like he said Antonio Brown did in the playoff game two years ago. (So it wasn’t something he hadn’t thought about) He laid there like a slug. And they strapped him to the gurney and took him to the field hospital where the Civil War surgeons were ready to amputate his leg or something. But, wait! According to media reports, the second he got into the tunnel and away from cameras, the SOB demanded to be unhooked, and he jumped up and started to head back onto the field. He was faking it!

    Meanwhile, Gruden is nominating Burfict for the Nobel Effing Peace Prize and demanding that Juju be taken to the Hague or Nuremburg to account for his crimes against humanity. Homer has just joined those who are sick of ESPN, and have decided that Gruden’s fawning over Superthug makes them the World Wide Leader in Jagoffs.

    No question Juju deserved 15 for taunting, but NO PLAYER IN NFL HISTORY HAS EVER BEEN SUSPENDED FOR TAUNTING. You throw the flag, give him 15, lighten his wallet and move on, damn it.

    Burfict was clocked all right, but he faked the extent of his injury. Part of that may have been because he got his butt kicked by a rookie wide receiver. It’s embarrassing when you’re the neighborhood bully and the youngest kid on the block kicks your ass.

    Meanwhile, I hope the Gruden-Burfict couple are happy together, but Homer isn’t check their gift registry just yet.

    Now, what was your question?

    4.You might want to give Sensabaugh one or two series for confidence sake, but Sutton played far above the line for a very, very raw rookie seeing his first NFL regular season action in a situation like that. You don’t want to dump too much on Sutton, so right now you have two dogs and one bone. Eventually, the younger dog will have it, but for now, they both get a piece of it. Switching CB’s on and off during the game might also mess up Baltimore’s game strategery is they go along.

    Meanwhile, that draft of Watt, Juju, Sutton, Conner, and Dobbs keeps looking better and better and better. Now, about Holba….

    5. James has been other-worldly against Baltimore in the pass rush, and may have had the greatest defensive half in Steeler history on one Monday night game against the Ravens. But he hasn’t always been the best against the run, especially the stretch play. They need a strong rush against Flacco, and they are weak at LB, so it will be interesting to see how they use Deebo in a closer’s role this week and for the rest of the season.


    • That’s exactly how I saw the burfict play. The Steeler-hating Arizona State fan in the office next door to mine saw it the same way. Here in Phoenix we saw quite a bit of him before he went to Cincy.

      Homer’s the greatest. Can i have a Duff’s and a donut now?


    • cold_old_steelers_fan

      4) Holba fooled us all. Goes to show there is no guaranteed sure thing.


  • 1. Sea change will come from parents deciding when or how to let their kids participate in youth football and such players make their way thru the college and into the pro ranks.

    2. Flags? Aint we had enough flags? In all seriousness to be available in Dec any player must have limitations or they would have had employment. I love Spence and his recovery and the way the Rooney’s stood by him. The is more than wins and Lombardies why we are the best franchise in the NFL. Anyways back to limitations. Spence’s limitations do not necessarily leave a hole in our defense. He is totaly fresh, knows our system and is known by our coaches. It is the coaches duty to scheme away these limitations. Watt and Dupree will be a jolly do I dare say Gay of big plays part of that scheme I think.

    3. Cowherd is just trolling for ratings. Ratings = advertising= Dollars. Just everything on TV is purposly provoking reactions for their ratings.

    4. Do I recall correctly Hayden is expected back for the playoffs? IMO both Cam & Coty have shortcomings. As long as they take coaching play them both for a half. Here again it is coaches duty to scheme away from their limitations. Which would be different for each and one more thing we can throw at the *asterisks. Then on our second game against them change up again by having a different player in that role.

    5 Harrison is an emotional player that gets up for rivalry games.


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