Friday, September 27, 2013

London Calling - It's Time For The Steelers To Put Up Or...

After Pittsburgh Steelers head coach said that "we're going to roll our sleeves up and keep our mouths shut", Steelers players did just what you'd expect them to do - they started talking.

Some of it was basically benign, as when safety Ryan Clark said that he'd retire rather than play for a London team if and when the NFL expanded there. -

UM...RC25, you will be - the NFL won't be expanding there for 10 years.

Did Troy Polamalu really call someone a yinzer?

Isaac Redman caused a bit of a stir when said that he had a concussion against the Cincinnati Bengals, but lied about it. He said he "was pretty much out of it the rest of the game. I had a concussion. I said I was all right." -

The NFL has said it is satisfied with the Steelers' explanation of the incident, but why say anything in the first place?

The one, however, that has caused the biggest stir and that has polarized Steelers fans is the comments made by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The man-child quarterback, when asked, said of the Steelers second-round draft pick, Le'Veon Bell, that he had "no idea" about whether Bell will contribute or not.

“Honestly, I have no idea with him,” Roethlisberger said. “You can’t get a read on him. One day, he’s practicing, one day, he’s not; one day, he’s going hard, the next day, he’s not. I wish I could. If he was a guy like Heath Miller that you knew was busting his butt every day to get back there … Le’Veon is a rookie, I don’t know him quite well enough yet. But if he can come back and help us, we’ll take him.”

First of all, though I personally have no problem with what he said, it isn't exactly a vote of confidence nonetheless. Big Ben is right - we don't what Bell will bring. He could be the next Franco Harris or the next Tim Worley.

What is a problem is the fact that a player who is directly responsible for all three losses this season and who has been nothing more than an average quarterback over his last seven games is seemingly calling someone the media.

Remember back in 1983 when former San Francisco 49ers QB Joe Montana called out rookie running back Roger Craig?

Neither do I.

Big Ben has since said that he was complimenting Heath Miller more so than he was insulting Bell (with which I agree), but the damage was done. Whether perceived or actual.

The time has come to shut up and play football. As the old saying goes, "He who thinks by the inch and talks by the yard will be kicked by the foot." And the Steelers can ill-afford to another foot kick them in the a...well, they can ill-afford another loss.

They face a Minnesota Vikings team led by 2012 NFL MVP and 2,000-yard rusher Adrian Peterson. He alone is enough to keep a defensive coordinator up at night. For a week of nights. Dick LeBeau may not be worried about jet lag, but he is about AP-lag.

"I don't think anybody has stopped him too well for six or seven years....but we recognize he is probably the best there is in the business. To beat that team, we've got to hold him down." -

Holding him down will be a Herculean task for this Steelers defense. When they faced him back in 2009, a Steelers victory, he was held to 69 yards on 18 carries. He is still, though, a tough man to bring down.

Just ask William Gay.

Nonetheless, his presence will be felt in the passing game as well. As LeBeau pointed out, if even one player bites or is out of position on the play-action pass, the results could be disastrous. The Vikings passing game, led by QB Christian Ponder and wide receivers Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson, definitely has the ability to capitalize. *

However, they have some of the same problems as the Steelers in that they've turned the ball over 10 times this season. The Steelers themselves have nine turnovers. The difference is that the Vikings have forced 10 turnovers while the Steelers have none.

Therein lies the fulcrum on which the game may hinge.

In each of the three games this season, there were one or two key moments that led to the team's losing - all being from turnovers. To that end, offensive coordinator Todd Haley knows they and Big Ben especially cannot surrender the ball.

"...We're all pretty clear on why we're not winning," Haley said, "it's because of turnovers."

We've talked about that as staff," Haley further said when asked about Ben in particular, "and have talked with him and really tried to look at it, and it does not appear that anything is happening because he's trying to do too much....It comes down to protecting the football at all costs." -

Yet, protecting the ball is something Big Ben hasn't done. With eight interceptions in his past seven games and more than 10 total turnovers in that stretch, he is the catalyst in avoiding having to provide excuses for why they lost yet another game.

The way he goes is virtually the way the Steelers will go. Protect him, protect the ball and protect international relations when Big Ben strikes 6 p.m. London time.

addendum -  I know some of you don't like this cut, but the last time I ended an article with it the Steelers won. So, again, two words: Taylor Gang! -

*UPDATE: Christian Ponder has been ruled out and the starting QB will be Matt Cassell. The only thing that this will change is that Cassel isn't a running QB and more of a pocket passer.

TIDBITS: Steelers Thursday Practice Report:  Cortez Allen, Le'Veon Bell, Brett Keisel and Steve McLendon were full participants. Heath Miller was limited.