Steelers fans unite and celebrate! Tom Brady has left the conference, Big Ben is throwing without pain, and the defense is ready to rock and roll.
Ding, dong, Steelers fans. The witch is dead. After two decades of nothing short of full-on torture, the great Tom Brady has fled the AFC and has landed in Tampa Bay. Can it be true? Is this just the cruel delusion of a wannabe journalist who has been trapped in his home for far too long? Is the home-schooling getting to me? I’ve slapped myself in the face at least 600 times this past week but every time I google “Tom Brady” I find the same news.
After two decades of unmitigated torture, the great one has abandoned coach Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots organization for warmer waters and an offense chock full of playmakers. At the same time, Ben Roethlisberger has emerged from his post-surgery beard-building exercise to proclaim he is throwing without pain for the first time in years. The Steelers have signed a new guard, Stefen Wisniewski who started in the Super Bowl two of the past three years. He will have an immediate impact and will be an upgrade.
But wait. That’s not all. Pittsburgh then signed tight end, Eric Ebron, who two seasons ago posted 66 receptions for 750 yards and 13 TDs with Andrew Luck chucking the ball in his direction. Last year he fell off with Jacoby Brissett struggling for the Colts, but his average yards per catch went up from 11.4 to 12.1.
This is great news for those of us who worried the Steelers might not find an adequate backup TE in the draft. They did us one better. They found a starter. For anyone who worries about someone to take the top off of defenses, stop and look at the lineup for a moment. Imagine a two TE set featuring Ebron and Vance McDonald with James Conner in the backfield and JuJu Smith-Schuster split out wide. Roethlisberger sends JuJu in motion and reads man coverage. Audible. Ebron suddenly splits out, covered up by a linebacker. Vance is ready to chip the pass rusher and then hammer the seam. New FB, Derek Watt, maintains his FB spot in the offset eye. Smith-Schuster realizes the safeties have begun to panic. Do they roll to him? Do they cover up the TEs? Ben smiles through all that facial hair. Snap!
Yeah, I’m making up offensive plays that probably have earned an eye-roll or two, but you get the idea. The once foreboding beast in the AFC East is now vulnerable. The Super Bowl champion Chiefs are still around but San Francisco proved that a capable defense can slow down Patrick Maholmes and company enough for a potent offense to win the game. The Texans have managed to trade away their best player while the Jaguars are a mess. Something about the Colts seems… off. The Ravens will not be 14-2 again. The AFC is to be had by a team with a championship-caliber QB and a defense with a nasty streak and a nose for turnovers.
All that said, I wanted to wait to post my lone Steelers mock draft later in April, but we’re all stuck in our houses trying to remember how algebra works so that we can keep our kids from becoming video game-induced zombies. We deserve to have a little fun, right? So let’s do it.