TUESDAY’S DAILY FIVE
*musings & opinions*
1. The New York Jets putting on another embarrassing display of football last night in their 14-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans, has ended any scenario of their being a three way tie for the final wild card spot between the Jets, Steelers and Bengals at 9-7. That is welcome news for Steelers fans and the stage is now set for the Steelers to control their playoff destiny. Win at home vs Cincinnati (8-6) and Cleveland (5-9) and the Steelers are in. That though is easier said than done.
Meanwhile, watching the Jets and Titans last night is a reminder why it’s insane that Roger Goodell is intrigued (aside from revenue) about expanding the playoff field to eight teams in each conference. If an eight team playoff field was instituted right now, the Jets (6-8), Dolphins (6-8), Browns (5-9), Titans (5-9), Bills (5-9), and Raiders (5-9) would all still be in the mix for the No. 8 spot going into the final two weeks of the season. We already have two mediocre teams in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati battling for the final playoff spot in the current system of six teams as is, and adding more playoff teams in the future is going to lead to a water down playoff field.
2. The New York Giants were 7-7 at this point last year and I’m sure some Steelers fans will be drawing that comparison this week, trying to talk themselves into believing that Pittsburgh has the talent to make a Giants type of run. One of the reasons I see Pittsburgh having no big run left in them is that they no longer have any special game changers on the defensive side of the ball. The Giants had them last year, Pittsburgh doesn’t. While James Harrison is turning his game on, Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley have shown no glimpses of being those dynamic game changers that have fueled Super Bowl type seasons in the past. Right now they just aren’t special players.
3. A growing concern moving forward for the Steelers that has hurt them this season in emerging as a serious contender in the AFC is that they can’t outscore teams offensively. During Bruce Arians tenure as offensive coordinator, the Steelers were regarded by many pundits as a yardage offense and under Todd Haley there’s been absolutely no difference. Pittsburgh just can’t put up 30 to 40 points like a New England, Denver and even Houston can in the AFC. The Steelers have had just one 30 point game this season and that came against the Oakland Raiders in week 3 when Pittsburgh put up 31 points. The Raiders by the way are ranked dead last in the NFL in giving up 28.7 points per game. One 30 point game through 14 games in today’s NFL is just unacceptable when you have a quarterback of Ben Roethlisberger’s caliber, dynamic wide receivers and a great pass catching tight end. As great as Ben Roethlisberger is, one reasonable complaint is that the Steelers have underachieved under him in being able to put points on the board. Far from an offensive juggernaut, a Joe Flacco led Baltimore Ravens offense has four games of scoring 30 or more points this season.
4. Pittsburgh is not a contender in the AFC but they are still a playoff capable team. However, the consolation prize of winning the final wildcard spot is going to be a trip to New England or Denver. On Pittsburgh’s best day, I have doubts they can keep up with either team offensively on the road. For reasons stated above, Pittsburgh will be a one and done team if they get to the playoffs.
5. Who are Steelers worthy of making the pro bowl? The four that I believe will make it is Heath Miller, Lawrence Timmons, Maurkice Pouncey and Ryan Clark. Ben Roethlisberger has also had a Pro Bowl type season with 22 touchdowns, 6 interceptions and ranking 3rd in the AFC with 98.1 QB rating, but my guess is Andrew Luck or Matt Schaub nab the 3rd QB spot behind Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. For those saying Ike Taylor should make the team, his atrocious play through the first five games can’t be overlooked to go with his injury, doesn’t make him probowl worthy.