TGFBW: Thank God For Bye Weeks

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

Wednesday, October 1st, 2012
By Travis Boariu
Steelers Fever Columnist


BYE WEEK BLUES

When the NFL released the 2012 schedule back in April, Steelers fans felt slighted. How and why in the world do we have yet, another BYE week so early in the season? In years past, it was notorious for the Steelers to be inherited with an early BYE, only to see them rattle off months and months of victories. Typically, early BYE's are a wash, but this time around is EXACTLY what the Pittsburgh Steelers needed. The BYE week upon WEEK 4 couldn't come soon enough.

Since 2004 (Ben's rookie season) the Steelers record coming off the BYE reads 6-2

Here's a closer look on how the Pittsburgh Steelers have responded coming off of their BYE week since Roethlisberger took over at quarterback:

2004: Week 7 BYE. VS New England Patriots; W 34-20
2005: Week 4 BYE . At San Diego Chargers; W 24-22
2006: Week 4 BYE. At San Diego Chargers; L- 23-13
2007: Week 6 BYE. At Denver Broncos; L 31-28
2008: Week 6 BYE. At Cincinnati Bengals; W 38-10
2009: Week 8 BYE. At Denver Broncos; W 28-10
2010: Week Week 5 BYE. Cleveland Browns; W 28-10
2011: Week 11 BYE. At Kansas City Chiefs; W 13-9
2012: Week 4 BYE. Philadelphia Eagles; TBD

With an extra week of preparation for their next opponent coming off the BYE, the Steelers coaching staff seems to have things in check in having their team ready to go after one week of rest. Week 5 VS the Philadelphia Eagles in Heinz Field could arguably be the most important game of the season which could either kick-start a deep run, or ultimately be the downfall of a lost season.

Pittsburgh can NOT afford to be in an 1-3 hole to what could be a tight AFC NORTH race with the Baltimore Ravens (3-1) and Cincinnati Bengals (2-1.) A must-win Vs the Eagles by no means, but a sense of urgency matchup nonetheless.

Picking up where leaving off

In 2011, the Pittsburgh Steelers finished with the #1 ranked defense in the National Football League. Typically, a #1 ranked Steelers defense would consist of Godly number of sacks, tremendous number of forced turnovers and more than a handful of interceptions in Dick LeBeau's 'confusing' fire zone-blitz defense. Neither was the case last season, ranking near the bottom half of the league in +turnover ratio.

Fast forward to the year 2012 and the Steelers defense picked up right where they left off.

Ranked #7 in total defense, the Steelers defense by the numbers in forcing the turnover are actually worse off than they were a season ago. That's alarming. The number one thing I looked at coming into this season was to anticipate the return of forcing the turnover. Mix that fabrication in with the Steelers offense controlling the clock to what seems to be TRIPLING opposing teams (35:58 on average per game) this team should nearly be unbeatable.

The Steelers walked into halftime with the lead in all 3 contests thus far, only to see 2nd half defensive collapse's that has resulted into an 1-2 record. With the numbers being weaker than last season's totals (which were ALREADY weak as it is for an all around Steelers defensive unit) the Steelers could only hope for a turnaround or else the Steelers offensive efforts (77 total points) will seemingly be all for nothing.

The dreaded 'SPLASH PLAY' comes back to haunt the Steelers

Coach Mike Tomlin insists on a year to year basis for our athletes to come up with 'splash plays' that ultimately decide football games. Who can forget Troy Polamalu's tomahawk-chop on Joe Flacco at Baltimore in the 2010 season that resulted in a Pittsburgh Steelers come from behind victory? That was a splash play.

Who could forget Rashard Mendenhall's scamper for a touchdown in overtime to begin the 2010 season without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the lineup serving a suspension VS the Atlanta Falcons? That was a splash play.

Who could forget Antonio Browns opening kickoff return for a touchdown in week 2 of the 2010 season at Tennessee that set the tone without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger out of the lineup serving a suspension? That was a splash play.

Who can forget Antonio Brown's 3rd and 19 helmet catch in a 24-24 'all' divisional matchup against the Baltimore Ravens that set us up at the 1 yard line to advance to the AFC Championship game? That was a splash play.

You can see a trend happening here. I keep referencing the 2010 season because in timely and predictable fashion, the Steelers (offensive and defensively) came up with their own splash plays that decided each and every outcome to a football game. We advanced to Super Bowl XLV that season VS the Green Bay Packers in 2010.

This season, the Steelers are well behind in the 'splash play' category and are subject to their own philosophy set by Coach Mike Tomlin. Holding a lead in Denver, the Steelers kept Broncos QB Peyton Manning off of the field for almost an hour of play (includes halftime) only to see the Broncos run one offensive play that resulted into a 71 yard touchdown on a WR screen to WR Demaryius Thomas. That was a deciding factor in our week 1 loss. That was a splash play.

In week 3 at Oakland, Raiders QB Carson Palmer checked out of a passing play at the line of scrimmage as he sat back and depicted the Steelers defense, only to call a zone running play off the right side that saw RB Darren McFadden sprint 64 yards to the endzone, untouched as the Raiders tied the game at 7-7. That play right there proved to the Raiders that they could very well beat the Steelers on their home turf as underdogs and that's exactly what they did, coming from behind by two 10 point deficits in the 4th quarter to shock the Steelers 34-31 in the 'Black Hole.'

That 64 yard splash play set the tone for Oakland's victorious afternoon. That was a splash play.

The Steelers must find it deep within themselves to come up with their own set of splash plays rather than falling victim to them because over the course of years past, that statistic was the difference between a Super Bowl birth, and a one and done Wild-Card defeat by the lowly Denver Broncos and Tim Tebow in 2011.

O captain! My captain!

Before the season began, the Pittsburgh Steelers named their captains for the 2012 season. Usually going with multiple players, the Steelers decided to only pick two captains to lead the football team. One offensive and one defensive. Ben Roethlisberger is serving as the teams offensive captain and living up to that honor by overwhelming performances that are made of legend.

Roethlisberger's 3rd down completion percentage is something this league hasn't seen in years. His quarterback rating of 109.2 and 904 yards passing (301.3 ypg) ranks atop the NFL in quarterback efficiency. Ben's 8 TD's to only 1 interception sets an early discussion of him being crowned AFC offensive player of the year, or if you really want to go overboard, NFL MVP. It could be a long-shot, but if Ben keeps this pace up, MVP is defiantly in the cards.

The defensive captain on the other hand is nowhere to be found. In fact, he's been invisible to the naked-eye. DE Brett Keisel was voted captain by his teammates, only to round out a WHOPPING 6 tackles, 0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles and 0 interceptions in 3 games.

A captain is a man that leads by example. One can be a mouth but the true leaders leave their mark by the play on the field and Keisel simply isn't getting the job done. His performance is a reflection of how poorly this defense is playing 3 games into the season.

With DE counterparts like Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward (former #1 draft picks) looking for more and more repetitions and playing time within the trench's of the defensive-line, one could only imagine that it shouldn't be too long before Keisel hands over the keys to the young-guns. Judging by Keisel's recent performance coming off one of his best years in 2011, that seems to be in transition as we speak.

FINISH

The old adage in the NFL continues to hold true. FINISHING. There are many, many things to be concerned about with this Pittsburgh Steelers team. Lawrence Timmons continues to be a dead-fish out of water. Larry Foote, the old-man who was cut by the Steelers once and who takes over for future Hall of Famer MLB James Farrior, is the best linebacker on the field when he clearly shouldn't be.

OLB James Harrison could be done donning a Black and Gold uniform with a surgically repaired knee. His replacements, Chris Carter and Jason Worlids, are playing 'below the line' at best.

LaMarr Woodley is being double, sometimes triple teamed as our only edge rushing threat. Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark have yet to play a down together since Christmas Eve of 2011. Their chemistry in the defensive backfield is undeniable.

Casey Hampton has yet to lose his starting position to a man that had one of the best training camps/pre-season's to date (young NT Steve McClendon.) Our running game is off to the worst start in 62 years, averaging a putrid yards per attempt on the ground, something the Steelers owner pounded his fist on the table to an area that MUST get better moving forward.

But yet, the Steelers could very well be 3-0 at this point. They've held their ground on the road and have had leads going into hostile environments to the West Coast (at Denver, at Oakland) and have statically dominated their opponents in their own back yard. In all of this doom and gloom, the signs point to a winning product in 2012 even though we ride into week 4 at 1-2. Finishing holds the key to our fate moving forward.

100% of the time, you could always determine what kind of football team you have whenever they decide to RESPOND. One thing that is always, always... ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, and the future of football fans around the world.. one thing is for sure about the Pittsburgh Steelers is to NEVER, EVER count us out of ANYTHING until the fat-lady sings.

I expect this team to hold the fat-lady hostage all the way to the opening kickoff of Super Bowl XLVII as we take on the unprecedented challenge of going for our 7th Lombardi trophy in 80 seasons.

HERE WE GO STEELERS, HERE WE GO!