December 03, 2007

Consider the Gauntlet Thrown

OH, JOY! OH, RAPTURE! How wonderful was it to see the glorious Pittsburgh Steelers -- actually looking somewhat glorious -- defeat the hated Cincinnati Bengals Sunday evening at Heinz Field. While the Bengals got off to a strong start, driving for a touchdown on their opening possession, that was about all they could do offensively in the Steelers' triumphant 24-10 victory. As for the Steelers, the running game looked pretty sharp, the offensive line actually performed well, our receivers were outstanding and our defense was phenomenal.

Perhaps the best part was that we achieved the victory without Santonio Holmes, Troy Polamalu, Najeh Davenport and Marvel Smith -- four of our top players. They've been hurt. I suspect that our clever coach, Mr Mike Tomlin, decided to rest the four so they'll be in top shape for our game against the evil New England Patriots next week. We'll get to the Patriots in a bit, but first we must talk smack about the Bengals.

Boy, did they stink up the joint. While I have to admit that even I have a soft spot for Chad Johnson, the Bengals' flamboyant wide receiver, I do not share such emotion when it comes to the Bengals' other key wide receiver, the loathesome T. J. Houshmandzadeh. No. 84's key contribution to the game tonight involved whining to the officials about imagined infractions the Steelers' defenders supposedly committed, and it was enjoyable to see his frustration and anger. This is, after all, a player who wiped his feet with a Terrible Towel, and as such no Steelers fan can ever show him mercy, much less respect. As for the Bengals organization, like all Steelers fans I hope they are able to work out the extended legal troubles facing so many of their players, because it's clearly a distraction for them. That doesn't make for good football.

Now, I would remind the Bengals and their fans that there's always next year, and that you'll have a chance to beat us then. In the meantime, go home. Take a powder. Get a relaxing massage. It'll help take your mind off your 4-8 record and your blown playoff hopes, to say nothing of this:

Who dey? We dey.

The other NFL action today was pretty exciting. I thought Cleveland got robbed in its comeback attempt against the Arizona Cardinals, and I was sorry to see the Browns lose. Not entirely sorry, though, because it put Pittsburgh one game closer to winning the AFC North and giving us an automatic playoff berth. I was sorry to hear the Minnesota Vikings blew out the Detroit Lions, and I was also sorry to see the New York Giants launch an amazing comeback against the Chicago Bears. I don't like the Giants and I don't like their coach and I don't like their quarterback, the younger brother of Rocket Arm, and so I was sorry to see them emerge victorious from a hard-fought game.

Speaking of hard-fought games, I was somewhat pleased to see the Buffalo Bills pull off a victory against the Washington Redskins. I felt bad about the whole Sean Taylor situation, of course -- what a tragedy for such a talented athlete to be cut down in his prime, and while at home defending his family from intruders. Still, I'm certainly not a Redskins fan, and for the Bills to pull off the win thanks to an idiotic coaching decision on the part of Joe Gibbs -- well, I'm not going to complain about it. I did feel a moment of pity for Gibbs, though -- he knew it had cost his team the game and you could see the hurt and regret on his face. They have certainly had a bad week.

I was not at all pleased to see the Indianapolis Colts and Rocket Arm cruise to victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, especially because it seemed as if Jacksonville really had some good momentum going for them. But they just couldn't get the job done.

But moving on. On Sunday evening, the gang back at Heinz Field put up a banner that taunted the New England Patriots with the legend: "Five Rings. No Cheating." For the record, I'd like to say that I do not consider this the wisest thing Pittsburgh fans could have done leading into next week's game. Now the Patriots will undoubtedly get all worked up and make a point of throwing everything at us, when it seemed pretty clear this was setting up to be a Classic Trap Game in which we could have sneaked into Foxboro and lit out with a victory.

But what's done is done. Furthermore, since the fans at Heinz Field decided to go great guns with the trash-talking, I guess that frees me up to talk smack about the New England Patriots. Even though I'm going to regret it. Even though I've been talking about our upcoming game against the Pats with the phrase "God help us" attached at the end of every sentence. Even though I'm going to get teased about it at work all next week, after New England beats us 42-3. Let's get the party started.

It pains me to write what I'm about to write, because I'm writing about a Michigan man and I don't like to speak ill of fellow Michigan graduates. But here goes:

Tom Brady is a candyass.

There. I said it. And I'm sorry I had to say it, but someone must. Have you ever noticed how much Brady whines to the officials? Let's say there's a hard-fought defensive blitz that pressures Brady considerably, and half a second after Brady releases the ball a defensive lineman lays a hand on him, potentially smudging that glare-reducing stuff the players wear. Quarterback Candyass will gripe and moan to the officials. Does a call not go Brady's way? Gripe and moan. Does the offensive line get overpowered? Gripe and moan.

I mean, I'm sorry, but come on. It's petulant and unmanly and conduct unbecoming of a Michigan graduate. So I would ask Brady to stop it. Because I don't want to see it on Sunday afternoon. Especially if Pittsburgh's defense plays like Pittsburgh's defense and shreds Brady's Five Layers of Protection and slams him to that not-grass turf-stuff New England has at its field. Play the game.

That said, I can only hope that Pittsburgh's defense plays like Pittsburgh's defense next week, because Brady is too good for us not to bring anything other than our "A game" to the contest. We have got to hurry him. We have got to sack him. We have got to make him throw interceptions. In short, we've got to make him break. New England has too many offensive weapons for us to not throw everything we have at him.

On the other side of the ball, I can only hope Pittsburgh's offensive line -- which looks improved -- will play at top form. I can also only hope our receiving corps will play at top form. New England has a good defense, but it's not a great defense and there's opportunity for us if we don't make stupid decisions. Traditionally, Pittsburgh fans are willing to give Parker a fumble and Roethlisberger an interception, but in this game, we've got to rescind the allowance and demand top form. If only to humble Evil Genius Hobo Coach.

For let's face it -- most football fans, myself included, would like the Patriots if it wasn't for Bill Belichick, whose professional conduct makes the Grinch look like Santa Claus. Every player on the Patriots, after all, is likeable -- although Brady annoys me because he is so good, I actually kind of like the guy, and I like Maroney and Samuel and Bruschi and the Five Layers of Protection. But Belichick fouls the nest. For me, as a Pittsburgh fan, the most enjoyable thing about the idea of beating the Patriots isn't just that we'll have proved to the league that we can compete -- it's that we'll have humbled that son-of-a-gun. Oh, and it'll shut up Tony Kornheiser for as much as three minutes.

Regardless, though, even though I don't like the Patriots and don't like Belichick and wish Tommy Boy would stop whining, I must say that I still give the Patriots the Boba Fett Nod of Respect. They're too good not to do so. And since the Patriots are so good that they may well beat the Steelers like 56-7 on Sunday, and I'll be mocked until June as a result, I have just one request for the Pittsburgh Steelers as they go into Foxboro:

Leave nothing.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at December 3, 2007 12:46 AM | TrackBack
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