The (Lucky) 13th Annual Steelers March to the Super Bowl Thread

Yes, it’s that time again. The anthology rolls on with its 13th iteration. Damn, I’ve been doing this since my son was small enough to be covered by a Terrible Towel. It has seen its ups and downs, its heartbreak and triumph, and still it remains constant. Some of you don’t like this thread. I don’t care. Don’t post in it then. Anyway, without further ado, here we go…

Preseason started last night with the Hall of Fame Game, a glorified scrimmage which still managed to do major damage. Shaun Suisham, the Steelers’ placekicker, is out for the year with a torn ACL. Some might wonder why that’s such a blow, given that he had been cut by the Redskins prior to his tenure with the Steelers and wasn’t ever considered one of the NFL’s elite kickers. Well, it’s a big deal because he excelled at Heinz Field, perhaps the toughest place in the league to kick. If there is any doubt of that, note that in the 13 seasons the Steelers have played there, there have been exactly 8 field goals of 50 yards or more, with zero, none, occurring at the open end. Suisham doesn’t have the big leg, but he knows how to kick there, a necessary skill when half the season is played there. The team is bringing in Jay Feely, Garrett Hartley, and Alex Henery for tryouts. I’d rather have Suisham, especially with the new long extra points.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that the offense is amazing. I’m not sure whether or not we can credit that to Todd Haley or to the men responsible for some pretty good recent drafts. I’m going to try to give Haley the benefit of the doubt, but if we get another year of bubble-screen Heaven and 3rd-and-1 Hail Marys I’ll lose my mind.

Anyway, Le’Veon Bell is arguably the best back in the league, able to both run and catch passes out of the backfield. Antonio Brown is arguably the best receiver in the league. Ben Roethlisberger is a top-5 quarterback, finally having the numbers to prove it. Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant have developed into genuine threats. Finally, the offensive line, bolstered by the best center in the NFL, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, and Kelvin Beachum, is the best it’s been in a very long time. Ben said, perhaps jokingly, that they could score 30 points a game. I say seriously that it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Much depends upon whether or not they turtle up in the Red Zone like they have in the past, going super-conservative in the play calling and settling for a field goal.

The defense, on the other hand… the best I can say right now is that they have a TON of potential. Potential, however, doesn’t win games. They have so much talent at linebacker that whoever gets cut will be snapped up right away by some other team. Ryan Shazier showed some of what he could do in the Hall of Fame Game last night. If he stays healthy he’ll be a monster. Jarvis Jones and rookie Bud Dupree have to justify their 1st round selections. Sean Spence is really good as well considering two years ago his knee was essentially shredded. James Harrison is, well, James Harrison. Lineman Stephon Tuitt is looking good so far in camp and the game last night. Cameron Heyward is a stud. None of this is anything to really worry about.

No, the worry is the secondary. Pittsburgh has newly-acquired Brandon Boykin and who-knows-what defending the pass. If they can’t do even an adequate job the team will score 30 and give up 40. On the plus side, Goddamn Ike Taylor is gone. On the minus side, they signed Cortez Allen to a fat contract and then benched him because he sucked. Also, no more Troy Polamalu, although that was due, he’d lost so much from his best years that it was time. He’ll still be missed.

All of this is happening with a new defensive coordinator, Keith Butler. Dick LeBeau, thanks for the memories, but it was time. Good luck in Tennessee. Butler has a big task ahead of him, I can only hope he’s up to it.

Special teams, long the most special part of the Steelers, hasn’t changed. They’re still prone to giving up huge returns, plus the loss of Suisham.

Oh, and the best part? The Steelers have THE toughest schedule in all of the NFL. They get the AFC West, the NFC West, a first place schedule, plus their division. Ouch. Fortunately, everybody else in the AFC North plays those divisions too. The winner of the North this year could well have an 8-8 record. Simply brutal.

So, how will this all go? God only knows. I do know that anything less than a playoff berth with such a prolific offense will be a severe disappointment. I’m optimistic, though. I think they’ll put up 9-10 wins, win the division, and be the only representative from the North this year in the playoffs. They ought to beat the Patriots without Brady, but then again Bell is out for two weeks. The Niners are DOA this year, easy win. Same with the Raiders. The Rams? Better than they were but they can’t hang. The Seahawks, Broncos and Cardinals are ridiculously tough, anything could happen. The Chargers are tough. The division is tough. I just don’t know. So I’m going with 10-6 and sticking to it.

Having survived such a tough schedule, the Steelers will be poised for a deep run, culminating with their seventh Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl 50, probably against the Packers or Seahawks. Don’t act like you didn’t think I was going to say it. I may have kept this low-key compared to some of my past efforts, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t think my Steelers are better than your favorite team or make me hate your boys any less.

So let’s get the season started already.

Today the Steelers signed Garrett Hartley to replace Suisham. Can somebody reassure me that this is at least an adequate pickup? I wasn’t impressed with him when he was with the Saints. Of course, the pickings are very slim at this point. I’m not expecting Justin Tucker or anything, just a guy who will make a reasonably high percentage of his kicks.

Also, the Steelers released Devin Gardner, their QB/WR prospect, to make room for Hartley. Why didn’t they just IR Suisham? If he comes back at all it’ll be in the playoffs, and if they make it that far Hartley will have proven himself at least reasonably dependable, so there’s no reason not to shut him down right now. The chances were slim Gardner was going to make the team anyway, but it doesn’t make sense to cut a guy loose to save a spot for someone who won’t be playing this year.

They may be thinking that Suisham will be eligible and good use of their IR Designated to Return slot. But to be eligible, he has to be on the final 53 man roster at the end of preseason. So I’m guessing they’re pitching someone who has no chance to make the cut, so they can keep him on the roster until the end of preseason, then they ship him to IR designated to return to open up the roster spot he’s taking.

The schedule is our friend. Other than the Browns, there’s no team for which to “play down to their level” to in this schedule.

I’m afraid this defense will give up more than a few long gains or TDs on very long passes this year. But if they keep everything else in check, the offense should make up for that.
So schedule, schmedule, I’m hoping for 11-5, expecting 10-6.

If Garrapolo leads the Patsies to a win in the very first game that will put some wetness in your blankets. Or perhaps GODdell will suddenly abandon his Rooney/Steelers bias and rule in favor of Brady not being suspended at all, in which case you simply cannot chalk up a win there.

Either way, our division is going to be TOUGH. The Rats are always tough. The Bengals will look to rebound on offense by adding some key pieces back from injury (Eifert, Marvin Jones). They still have Jeremy Hill coming into his second season, that guy is a bruiser at RB. AJ Green is always a threat although I’d agree that Brown is a better WR at this stage. Tyler Eifert is going to be HUGE for the Bengals offense IF HE CAN STAY HEALTHY for a change. We’ve never seen anything other than flashes. He stays healthy I am telling you the Bengals offense rolls. Bengals D has serious question marks at LB, the Dline will be better than last year with Atkins another year removed from devastating injury/surgery, the return of Michael Johnson, and the secondary is rife with young talent that will emerge this year like Dennard and Kirkpatrick, along with Iloka at safety (watch that guy!). Even cagey vet CB Leon Hall looks to be put into the slot.

The Browns…eh. I think they will be better too quite honestly. I don’t foresee them being a rollover and frankly within the division no matter how bad they are, they never seem to be an easy out. Their QB situation has been a mess for almost 20 years so who knows how that will play out. I even heard today that they are considering signing Ray Rice. How awesomely predictable would that be?


It’s not even Rooney and the Steelers pushing for the penalty, it’s Irsay and the Colts along with the Ratbirds. Bengals fans find Steelers bias around every corner, I guess.

I’m going to be straight with you: I am absolutely terrified of this schedule. There really isn’t a bad team in the bunch. As you said, not even the Brownies are an easy out. With nothing under center they went 7-9 last year. The Rats still have weapons, but they have the same issues the Steelers have, secondary. The Bengals don’t have anything under center, either, and they almost won the division. Yeah, yeah, hype Dalton all you want, he had the single worst game I’ve ever seen last year against the Browns and then he choked in the playoffs yet again. He’s the third-best QB in the division only because the Browns don’t have one yet. You guys took a serious bath on that contract.

I am not optimistic about the defense at all.

I know it is early, but trading for Boykin was a strong indication of how bad the situation is. Golson (the 2nd round pick) is hurt, and based on the trade, I think he is hurt more than they have led on.

There is no talent in the secondary, and the LB’s, although they have the pedigrees of 1st round material, there has been very little to show for 3 straight years of investment. Jones is a bust. He will make the team because they have no depth and they have a lot or money tied up with him, but I suspect that if he doesn’t shine this year, he is gone.

And you mentioned the biggest problem never addressed… The not-so-special teams. They have lost their kicker for the season, and they have had terrible kick-off and punt coverage for years. Especially for kick-offs, if the Steelers score as much as they are supposed to, they NEED to get better here. Otherwise, that pourous defense will be playing on a short field, and they can’t afford that.

I wasn’t impressed with much in the first game, but I am never expecting much with Jones under center. He was a terrible draft pick. Worse, though., is that he highlights a problem with the Steelers coaching staff under Tomlin… They rarely develop ANYONE, especially on D.

I disagree that LeBeau was the problem. The problem was the players drafted for his system. With LeBeau, he masked a lot of average secondary play with outstanding LB’s and a great pass rush. They don’t have that anymore, and unless Butler has some magic up his sleeve, that isn’t going to change with a coaching change.

Instead of drafting Jones, what happens if the Steelers draft Mosely (who the Ravens took right after Jones?). That is a different defense. Also, they have never adequately replaced Hampton, a big body who eats up two lineman and frees the LBs to do their jobs.

I think you are giving WAY too much credit for the drafting of players. I am in the opposite corner. I think Butler/Tomlin have stripped this team to the bare bones, and they have zero depth. They get a lot of credit for finding Brown in the 6th round, but seriously, when you have a QB like Ben, you can draft WR’s late and watch them blossom into stars.

Look what happened to Santonio Holmes after he left the Steelers… His career went into the dumper. Same with Mike Wallace. When the Steelers invest a high pick on a WR, they either get a headcase like Holmes or Burress, or stone hands, like Limas Sweed. The only guy I can think of who has done well after leaving the Steelers is Sanders, and look who his QB is… That isn’t an accident.

They have been terrible at both evaluating and drafting talent, especially on D, for a decade. And if it wasn’t for Ben, the offense would be terrible. I know there are great skill position players, but you still need someone to get them the ball and avoid the rush. No one does that better than Ben. He truly makes the engine run. Tomlin has benefited from the Cowher draft years like no coach I can think of. Yes, they took Bell in the second round, but other than that, who has developed? O-lineman are good investments and they have done pretty good there with Pouncey and DeCastro, but Adams is another high round bust.

I’ll be conservative in my prediction this year. The Steelers go 187-3. I mean they lost their kicker.

It’s slightly amusing to see the Steelers blaming Suisham’s injury on the bad turf in Canton. :wink:

Less whining, more football, okay, guys?

That’s rich, coming from you.

Addressing the bolded:

  1. Eh, not really, I was mostly joking although Goodell’s arbitrary decisions are often puzzling. I don’t really care either way, the games are won on the field and Goodell doesn’t have control over that.

  2. Actually, Dalton’s contract is hugely team friendly. Yeah, there’s a decent amount of guaranteed money there, but if you look at the contract the Bengals can jettison him after a year or two without much more money on the table to do so. Also, he’s getting paid about what an average starting QB in the NFL is commanding these days. I think it’s more of a case that there wasn’t a better option going into the draft where they were drafting, coupled with the uncertainty that surrounds a high pick on a QB in the league.

I completely agree that his playoff performances are awful and they need to improve, but I’ll take getting there four years in a row and losing the first game over not getting there at all, as much as not taking the next step sucks.

The Bengals offense (and LB corps) was decimated by injuries by season’s end last year and we’re getting everyone back. I am not joking when I say that Eifert’s health is a HUGE factor. If you watch his plays against the Ravens in the first game on the first drive, he’s literally unstoppable until he blew out his elbow. Time will tell if he’s actually injury prone or been unlucky in the last two seasons. They are really counting on him as a big part of the gameplan because of his skills and size. Get busy covering him over the middle, lose a safety on Green or Jones, and then the run game opens up as well.

[QUOTE=FoieGrasIsEvil;186030892) Actually, Dalton’s contract is hugely team friendly. Yeah, there’s a decent amount of guaranteed money there, but if you look at the contract the Bengals can jettison him after a year or two without much more money on the table to do so.[/quote]
I wouldn’t call a salary that gives an average QB $16 million and maybe up to $19 million, a year as “hugely” team friendly.

I’ve been saying for years that the “average starting QB” salary is ridiculously inflated. Andy Dalton making $16 million a year is a good example of that.

Which is why you draft a QB every year.

Getting to the playoffs is because of the team, not because of the QB. The Bengals, to my mind, make the playoffs because of defense, running game, and AJ Green, not because of Andy Dalton. All Dalton has to do for the Bengals is not suck, which he can do against average teams, but not so much with great teams or in the playoffs. Paying a “win with” QB as if he’s a “win because of” QB is, to my mind, an unsustainable way to compete every year. What was great about Dalton was that he was cheap and not sucky, so the Bengals could pay Green, Atkins, Hall, Whitworth, Dunlap, Johnson, and others.

Yes, I know, “STEELERS!:wink:

As far as Dalton’s contract is concerned, it IS team friendly because they can bail on him after year two and owe him practically nothing (in relative terms) in doing so if he continues to suck in big games. And as far as drafting a QB every year goes, that’s all well and good, the Bengals drafted AJ McCarron in the 5th round in the last draft. When you pick as low as the Bengals have been in recent years in the first and second rounds, it becomes a crazy crapshoot to expend a pick on a QB when the guarantees for at least a competent starter elsewhere on the team are much higher in that area of the draft versus taking a stab at a QB (I know, Russell Wilson, Tom Brady…exceptions rather than the rule). This doesn’t even address the locker room/team leadership issues that may be created when you pick another QB in the higher rounds when you just signed your current one to a big deal.

I do agree that the price for even an average NFL QB has gotten out of hand, but it is what it is. There’s no going back now. I also agree that the Bengals as a team are the reason they are making the playoffs more in spite of Dalton than because of him, although he does have some great moments in the regular season. He just needs to be better, a lot better, in the post season.

I would not describe $16 million a year for “not sucking except in big games” to be a team friendly contract. YMMV.

I liked the McCarron pick. Had they done that in the years before, they could have had a Wilson or a Foles or even try and develop a Kirk Cousins or Ryan Nassib. That’s why you do it every year, so you can try to find that diamond in the rough.

Doesn’t that strike you as a bit silly of a point. Kinda like “if everyone jumped off a bridge” illogical thinking? A mistake is still a mistake, even if other teams make it too.

He is what he is. Sure, he could possibly develop into a more consistent QB. But the Bengals are paying him as if he already is.

I actually like this strategy, and I am surprised not more teams do it.

If you look at the starting QB’s in the league, the vast majority are 1st round picks, or high 2nds. But there are also the Wilson’s and Brady’s of the world, who were available to all teams for multiple rounds.

Look at the Steelers current situation. They hit a home run with Ben, and IMO, he was the best of the 3 QB’s to come out of his draft (Eli Manning and Rivers were the other 2, and I would’t trade Ben for either one of those guys straight up). But that scenario is not happening every time you need your franchise QB, which makes GM’s reach out of desperation for a guy who is either BOOM (rare) or BUST (all too often).

The Steelers have NO backup QB that could be anything more than a placeholder. Landry Jones was a reach in the 4th, and he has shown little development in 3 years to believe he can be a starter in the league for years. Instead of drafting a marginal player in the mid rounds, if a QB who has potential is still around, take him, and then you can cut Jones and try out the new guy. Lather, rinse, and repeat until you find a guy that may be Ben’s successor. I don’t think Gradkowski is that guy, and no one believes in Jones, so why not?

Today’s preseason game was damaging, to say the least. The best center in the game, Maurkice Pouncey, is going to miss a large part of this season with what appears to be a broken ankle. Also, Bruce Gradkowski hurt his hand, no word on how bad that is. If it’s bad, Landry fucking Jones is one cheap-shot away. Last, Stephon Tuitt got his ankle rolled up on so he’s out for the indefinite future.

It’s a good thing Cody Wallace can cover the center spot at least adequately, but Tuitt is a blow for an already unsteady defense.

This is going to be a hell of a season.

You misspelled “Nick Mangold”.

No, I spelled it correctly.

That’s odd… why did you cut your quote off right then? Certainly the next sentence provides some context to why Pouncey won the award?