Tim Benz: Steelers 'All right, all right, all right' at midway point
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is well known for his ability to turn a catch phrase.
Iron sharpens Iron.
The standard is the standard.
Run 'em 'til the wheels fall off.
We don't live in our fears.
And as Tomlin said recently, the bye week at the halfway point of this 16-game season might be a good time to globally assess a few things about his football team.
So let's do that with one of the few people who can spin a philosophical catch phrase better than Tomlin: Matthew McConaughey.
Just about all of the Steelers' 6-2 campaign thus far can be summed up in a few McConaughey-isms that he has either uttered himself , or in character.
Sure, on occasion they might be borrowed, massaged, stolen or otherwise erroneously attributed to him in some way shape or form.
But they always tend to sound better in McConaughey-ese.
And by the end of this post I hope to have you convinced that the Steelers will win the Super Bowl.
And that you should buy a new Lincoln MKC .
“I found myself right where I left me.”
When we left Latrobe, where did we think the Steelers would be after the first eight games of the season?
Probably about 6-2, right? Halfway to a 12-4 season.
Well, that's where they are. But, wow, have they taken a circuitous route to get there. Upset losses to the Jaguars and Bears. Road wins at Kansas City, Detroit, and Baltimore that looked like major tests in August.
All that with anthem controversy, flying Gatorade coolers, quarterback self-doubt, wide receiver benchings and social media storms along the way.
Yet here they sit at 6-2 atop the AFC North with a perfect 3-0 mark in the division. Right where we thought they'd be when camp broke.
“Yeah. It's been a winding road,” laughed safety Sean Davis.
Well, actually that's a Beatles quote. But I'm sure McConaughey would like that one, too.
“Sometimes you gotta move back to go forward.”
The Steelers season was about to wobble when they threw the ball 55 times against a good pass defense from Jacksonville that was renowned for not being able to stop the run. Le'Veon Bell had 15 carries and said he would like more after the defeat.
So the next week they went back to what worked during their nine-game winning streak at the end of last season: all Bell, all the time.
The Steelers running back has proceeded to touch the ball 100 times over the last three games since then. And the Steelers have won all three contests.
“Kiss the fire and walk away whistling.”
The Steelers have come within a whisker of getting burned on a few occasions already flirting with danger.
They needed a late-fourth-quarter red zone stop — their fifth of the game — to avoid an upset loss in Detroit on Sunday.
Kansas City was in Steelers territory mounting a potential game-winning drive with less than a minute to go when James Harrison was finally allowed out of dry storage to sack Alex Smith and save the day.
And even the Browns came within a possession of potentially forcing overtime in the season opener.
Yet they managed to stroll away with smiles on their faces each time. Will they have that kind of luck against the Patriots in December, though? Or more importantly, perhaps in January?
“I think we need to focus on our deficiencies,” offensive lineman David DeCastro said. “And that's something that's great to do when you are playing well and winning.”
“Don't make a straight line crooked.”
In other words, don't overcomplicate things.
As in, the red zone offense.
Roethlisberger says he'd like to just give the ball to Roosevelt Nix sometimes. Todd Haley says they might have to look at putting the quarterback sneak in the playbook. Bell managed to fall forward for a 5-yard score Sunday.
That all sounds pretty simple to me. And it should all help a red zone “attack” that currently scores touchdowns at a putrid 41 percent clip.
“The man who invented the hamburger was smart. The man who invented the cheeseburger was a genius.”
This has nothing to do with the Steelers. It's just plain truth. And needs to be said.
“There's a difference between thinking that you are a champion and knowing that you are.”
I'm pretty sure someone said this before McConaughey. But whoever did obviously saw the Steelers play against teams they were favored heavily to beat.
That bugaboo that haunted Tomlin-coached teams over the years vanished during the second half of last year. But it has cropped up at times in 2017.
If the Steelers truly want homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, they can't afford another misstep. The New England game is looming in six weeks. And, like the Steelers, the Patriots appear to have found their rudder.
That also might be the only game remaining on the schedule where the Steelers could enter as an underdog.
So don't go into any of these other contests thinking you deserve to win it, before you play it.
Maybe if the Steelers follow the ways of McConaughey, after another eight games we'll all be saying, “All right, all right, all right,” entering the playoffs.
Tim Benz hosts the Steelers pregame show on WDVE and ESPN Pittsburgh. He is a regular host/contributor on KDKA-TV and 105.9 FM.