Stillers 4th Quarter Blues

Steely McBeamLearning to watch the Steelers has been an exercise in learning to watch football. Not that I didn’t know how to watch football—but when you are watching a specific team (and I know how “duh” this is), it means learning the ins and outs of all the rules. Even the little ones. Most of the time, Brad is patient with me, which helps. Having someone interrupt and say “but why can he get back up after he’s fallen?” during a high-anxiety moment  isn’t easy. So for this, I thank him. For everything else, I thank the Steelers’ mascot: Steely McBeam, so named for the Steel Industry, the owning family’s Irish roots, and everyone’s love of whiskey.

Lessons learned so far? College football and professional football are different (again, this is “duh” for some of you, but for me… new). My second lesson: the Steelers, in particular, are a stressful team to watch .

Mostly because I know they are good. They are very good. Which means that when the defending Super Bowl champs, and the team that’s won the most Super Bowls ever, fails, it’s really hard. They should be better. They can and have been better.

The win over the Titans set a good tone—the Titans are a good team. They’ve done well in the past and I would never count them out. Although, I guess this season has not been too good for the 0-6 Tennessee Team, as they recently lost (terribly and embarrassingly) to the Patriots (59-0).  Which just proves that in football, being good is no reason to succeed.

After Jeff Reed missed two field goals (something I simply don’t understand, although most everyone says I’m being way too harsh oh him. I know he’s only missed three field goals out of the last sixty or so, but still. He missed twice when it mattered) and the Steel-City lost to Chicago, I was bummed. I thought it would only be a fluke. It was, after all, the kicker’s fault (and oh, the Ace Ventura quotes that kept popping in my head, “laces out!”). But it established an interesting trend for the next few games—a trend of fourth quarter comebacks, from the other team.

Chicago scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, winning 17-14. Cincinnati (a team I’ve always hated for Oiler type reasons) scored 14 points in the fourth quarter, to win 23-20. San Diego scored 21 points in the fourth quarter, coming back, but still losing 38-28 to the Steelers, only because our offense managed to score 10 points as well. If not, the game would have been tied. Detroit scored seven points, and thanks to a healthy Pittsburgh lead, were kept at bay 28-20. And yesterday, the Cleveland Browns only managed a field goal during the last quarter. In four out of the five games, the Steelers haven’t been able to get it together to score during the last fifteen minutes of the game.

Why do we peter out at the end? Is because we’ve (metaphorically) blown our load during the first forty-five minutes and are too weak to defend? Or are we complacent? Do we know we’re good, and simply not care?

I don’t know. What I do know is that this needs to change. The boys need to wake up and get their shit together. Polamalu is back. Our Running Backs have either turf toe or idiocy with which to contend (no offense Mendenhall, you’ve been brilliant, but sometimes you do seriously dumb things, like not come to practice or learn plays, but you do attend the Pittsburgh Poetry Slam, sometimes, which is awesome), but that’s not the defense’s fault. The offense is still connecting. Ben Roethlisberger, although heavily sacked, keeps connecting that ball. In fact, yesterday’s game was amazing. He has over 400 passing yards, which according to Brad, may be some new kind of record for him or something. (We just looked it up, it’s his second best game, three years ago he passed for 433, which is a little more than 417.)

There is more to be said.  I’ve been taking notes, but one of the things I’ve realized is that note-taking and analysis do not a fun blog post make. What I do know is that I’m still learning.

Apparently you’re down till you’ve been touched. A push of sorts. Which I think is a nice metaphor. Until someone knocks you down good, you can always get up and keep going. Turf toe be damned.