Did Big Ben save the Steelers’ 2018 season Monday night with a first half for the ages?
Perhaps. The Steelers’ QB seemed determined to strap his team to his back and drag them through the mud of the first two games and back where they are expected to be – in the thick of the AFC North.
Too bad Denver did not show up in Baltimore last week or the Steelers, at 1-1-1, would find themselves ahead of the Ravens, this Sunday’s opponent at Heinz Field, and only a half-game behind the 2-1 Cincinnati Bengals.
As it stands, Roethlisberger’s rescue mission worked enough to restore some belief among the growing legion of doubters about this iteration of the Steelers. Should the Steelers beat the Ravens Sunday, optimism will soar and expectations will return to where they were before that sloppy mess in Cleveland and that joke of a home opener against Kansas City.
I’ve been known to overstate a thing or two in the past – some of my former students once dubbed me, “Captain Hyperbole,” but this is not an overstatement – against Tampa Bay, Ben carried his team to one of the most important regular season victories in his time as the Steelers’ starting quarterback.
Erin slept her way through the drama, but were she awake, she would have seen the old gunslinger – fearless as ever – zeroed in on receivers, converting crucial third-down throws and making the plays that were there to be made, and some that were nowhere to be found.
Ben’s doings were contagious. Almost in perfect sync with Roethlisberger’s excellent play, the defense rose from its ashes, dusted itself off (if only for a few minutes), and pressured the other team’s quarterback – you know – the one that had grown men wearing fake beards and sunglasses on national nighttime television – and intercepted him three times to give the Steelers a lead even they couldn’t blow once the defense remembered that it is not very good.
Suddenly, the Ravens seem utterly beatable, the division looks ripe for the taking and that silly Super Bowl pipe dream may not be as absurd as some (not mentioning names here or pointing fingers at myself) have been suggesting.
Or maybe it’s just one win that the Steelers barely squeaked out and their warts will resurface when Ryan Fitzpatrick is not the other team’s quarterback (apologies to the fake beard wearing fandom in Tampa – not really).
- Tigermania befell the PGA Tour Championship late Sunday afternoon as throngs of enthusiasts trailed hot on the heels of Tiger Woods as the imminent champion walked the 18th fairway. Some are happy that Tiger has made it back, others believe he is not back until he wins a major, and some wish he’d never play the sport again. Regardless, it is impossible to deny the polarizing effect of Tigermania on golf fans, and, more importantly to those who love the game and want a healthy sport, the economics of golf through interest and television ratings.
- Rug cuttin’ time for the Buccos. Clint Hurdle’s classy move to pull Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer from Sunday’s game – most likely the final home game for each in a Pirates’ uniform, signaled that the Pirates have moved on from both players. The Pirates must move on from both to take steps forward next season, but I cannot help but feel a twinge of regret that Mercer and Harrison could not have ended on better seasons. Both were key figures in the rise of the Pirates from obscurity to relevance, and I have great memories of some of their big moments during their careers, especially Harrison, and admire how both players with limited ability maximized their opportunity and became good to very good players for several years.
- Pitt’s loss to North Carolina last Saturday is easy to believe and easier to explain: water finds its level. Pat Narduzzi said that nobody on the defense has met expectations. He never mentioned himself or his defensive coaches in his long-winded press conference. He did, however, spend an inordinate amount of time explaining how unstoppable Central Florida’s offense – Pitt’s defense’s next opponent – will be this Saturday.