Friday, January 4, 2008

Endgame: Pittsburgh Steelers

The NFL Playoffs are at hand. As such, Alex and Zac will be revisiting all twelve playoff teams, the characters that have made it to the final chapter in this season's story. Today's Episode: The Pittsburgh Steelers

"Einmal ist keinmal" German Proverb

If the Steelers were a Song:

"I know I'll See You" by a Place to Bury Strangers. Like the protagonist in "I Know I'll See You" the Steelers linger like a creepy ex you think you're on good terms with…you know, the kind that won't tell you that they're going to a show when you talk to them about it via gchat, but miraculously show up, alone, as if to say "I won't give you the satisfaction of coming with me. I want a rematch in successfully making you feel bad." The Steelers' path to the Superbowl goes through two teams that embarrassed them in the regular season. If the Steelers get past the Jaguares, they earn a rematch with the Patriots, something I'm sure the Steelers are looking forward to. Sure, they could have won both those games had they wanted to, but they were saving their best effort for now, when it would really hurt.

If the Steelers were a Political Figure:
Rudy Giuliani
Like Rudy Giuliani's campaign, the Steelers as a team are focused on one issue: Defense. Defense wins championships! The Steelers have the best defense! So what if Ben Roethlisberger has Eli Manning days? We have defense! These are scary times America! Be afraid! A Vote for Rudy means you honor the victims of 9/11 if you can conveniently forget that the first reponders (who did the dirty work) have been calling Rudy a lying, self-serving jerk for months and months!

And like the former Mayor, no one's realistically giving the Steelers a shot in today's (and upcoming Tuesday for RG) contest. Too many injuries to key players (RB Willie Parker, LTs Marvel Smith and Max Starks, DE Aaron Smith) are costing Pittsburgh, much like Rudy's disdain for people in small states, firefighters, and the public purse (there's fear of imminent attack, and there is abusing one's authority to provide a security detail for your mistress) cost him Iowa.

If the Steelers were a Vacation Destination:
A scenic Cruise America RV Rental with the wife and kids
The Steelers are budget America's team. Like the Cowboys, who appeal to Texans, lovers of "winners" and reality TV stars, and people who enjoy quarterback sex life controversies, it's hard to fault the Steelers long history of success and incredible thriftiness (seriously, the Rooneys run a tight a ship). They don't have cheerleaders (lead us not into temptation, Dan Rooney), they just have…football. Of the stingy-D and ground game variety. Except now, with Willie Parker out, they have no ground game and have to rely on defense and Ben.

I can think of no unsexier vacation destination than being trapped in an RV with your parents and siblings for however long it takes you to book it from points east (Pittsburgh, PA, for instance), to points west (San Francisco or Seattle…you see more interesting stuff on the northern route, at least according to Oregon Trail). Like watching the Steelers any given Sunday, you can see exactly how this kind of vacation plays out: mom and dad fighting over directions, your moody younger sister destroying the rental sink with Hot Pink Manic Panic she shoplifted from a Hot Topic in Kansas City, losing at hearts from one end of Wyoming to the other, the toilet backing up, dad not anchoring the sewage hose properly and spraying the RV parked next to yours with the remains of turkey chili night. However, like many families you see making that trek, the Steelers seem to genuinely enjoy what they're doing, and enjoy each others' company while doing it. Chemistry can make up for a lot of shortfalls, after all.

The Steelers are an old school football team. They play tough football, they don't make too many costly mistakes, control the clock, blah, blah, blah. But do those kind of old-fashioned values cut it any more in today's NFL? Like holding open the door for a girl, or referring to the person you sleep with as your girlfriend, the Steelers way of playing ball is a throwback to an earlier era with only one remaining extant practitioner: the Jacksonville Jaguars. For that kind of game to work, everyone needs to know their role in the greater scheme (no prima donnas), and the talent needs to execute said scheme 90% of the time for the team as a whole to be successful. For the Steelers the question this post-season is if they have enough playmakers left on both sides of the ball to make a legitimate push. Ben Roethlisberger has improved markedly since last season and has more successful playoff experience than anyone else playing in the AFC not named Tom Brady. Can he survive without a dominant rushing attack? Can a back up defensive end fill Aaron Smith's pass rushing shoes?

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