Boy if there was ever a metaphorical image for the Pittsburgh Steelers of 2012….
This Sunday is a Steeler’less Sunday, but with that notion comes a bit of relief – for fans and for players.
I don’t think my blood pressure could take another weekly spike, and my couch cushions certainly could use the break from my hands crushing the padding with a 4th quarter meltdown death grip. I love my Steelers, and I love football – but for this early week off, I am grateful.
So me, the wife, and the boy are packing up the car and headed on a brisk hike for the day. The fall seasons are beautiful in Wisconsin, and the trees are in full bloom with fall colors. It will be like any other fall Sunday for me – basking in the beautiful weather, breathing in that wonderful smell of the seasons changing (aka decay of leaves), and getting in a bit of exercise in before it gets too friggin cold to do just about anything. This Sunday just won’t have any Steelers in it. So to replace it, I will do a bit of soul searching as I trek up the trails and take in the breathtaking views. I hope the Steelers do a bit of soul searching too while they are away from the gridiron.
The players must be relieved to not have to play this Sunday. It sounds blasphemous – about as blasphemous as me saying I’m kind of glad to step away from the TV this Sunday. But, their relief is probably not that far from the truth. A couple of 2nd half defensive meltdowns, the worst running game in 62 years, and a handful of key injuries have left the Steelers at a 1-2 record going into Week 4 knowing full well that they could easily have been 2-1 or even 3-0. I don’t think anyone with an ounce of sanity was or is ready to hit the panic button quite yet. But surely, the majority of Steeler Nation (and probably the players) would be worried about heading into another game day while seeing the unpredictable Eagles ready for an intrastate battle. The team could easily have been at 1-3 before anyone could blink were it not for this bye week. Any semblance of confidence would begin to deflate like air rushing out of a balloon. You begin to doubt. You begin to lose hope.
Fortunately, the team can blink. I hope they blink often – like when after you splash water on your face while standing at the bathroom sink early in the morning. The blurry figure you can barely recognize in the mirror becomes more in focus with each blink and rub of the eye. Eventually you recognize who you are.
The Steelers need to reach within and find themselves once again. Just about every player aside from Ben Roethlisberger needs to have a moment in that metaphorical NFL mirror. The team is currently teetering between becoming a team that can either face reality and adjust the defense and offense to win games, or become consumed by its own stubbornness by refusing to face the truth that the phrase ‘the standard is the standard’ is only a mere sound bite and there are truly a bunch of ‘Average Joe’s’ out on that field.
There are those who say that it is too early to be so critical of this team as it is only three games in the books. That is true to a degree. This football team is not defined by it’s 1-2 record. It will be defined by how it responds over the next few games after coming off the bye week. Sounds like a bit of soul searching is needed.
So while this Sunday comes and goes and the players and coaches take some time to relax with friends and families and possibly catch some of the games on TV, I hope they take some time to look within. The remainder of the season rests squarely on this Sunday and the week ahead as they prepare to face the Eagles. 1-3 vs 2-2 doesn’t sound bad – but indeed for this team it couldn’t sound any more worlds apart.