First Call: Steelers a playoff sleeper in 2019? | TribLIVE.com
Breakfast With Benz

First Call: Steelers a playoff sleeper in 2019?

Tim Benz
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers cornerback Joe Haden celebrates with fans in the final seconds of the game against the Patriots Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018, at Heinz Field.

In “First Call” for Tuesday, optimism for a bounce-back Steelers season. The TV ratings are good for the Women’s World Cup. And creative use of a player’s day with the Stanley Cup.


Don’t sleep on the Steelers

Some in the media and the fanbase seem to think the Steelers will thrive now that they are freed of distracting players such as Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown.

Others feel that the absence of their production will be too much to overcome, and the Steelers will have their first losing season in the Ben Roethlisberger era.

Right now, I have them down for eight or nine wins. So I’m closer to the second camp. But NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks is more optimistic.

He listed the Steelers as one of five teams that missed the playoffs in 2018 but could bounce back as playoff threats in 2019.

“Mike Tomlin might trot out a team possessing less talent than he did last season, but I’m on record as a believer that he will get better results with a more cohesive unit in the locker room,” Brooks writes. “Sure, the departures of Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown will defuse some of the offense’s explosiveness, but James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster are Pro Bowl-caliber playmakers ready to step into prime roles.”

That’s certainly the offseason logic. Or, “spin,” if you are a pessimist.

“If the defense comes together and holds its own against some of the premier aerial attacks in the AFC, the Steelers could finally realize their potential as title contenders,” Brooks concludes.

Sure. That’s a big “if,” but sure.


Rodgers ‘easier to sack than most’

I’d say, “Keep an eye on this one.”

But they won’t play each other for another two years, so forget that angle.

Regardless, this is an interesting nugget coming from Green Bay and Cincinnati.

Bengals pass-rusher Carl Lawson was on the NFL Network, and he had this comment about Aaron Rodgers.

“Honestly, I think it’s easier to sack Aaron Rodgers than most quarterbacks,” Lawson said. “He sits there, and he pats the ball.”

That’s interesting given that Rodgers is coming off a 49-sack season. Two years ago, when he faced Lawson and the Bengals, he was dropped six times, with Lawson totaling 2 1/2 and another negated via penalty.

Lawson went onto say: “He’s an easier quarterback for me to sack personally, because he sits there, and he probably gets eight to 10 yards in the pocket. He’s got a great left tackle in (David Bakhtiari). So, he just sits there, he waits, he waits, getting that read. When he gets sacked, he doesn’t get flustered.”

In other words, Rodgers holds onto the ball forever looking for a big play. Meanwhile, Lawson bemoaned how hard it was to sack Tom Brady because he gets rid of the ball so quickly.

Steelers fans can probably relate to that.


Well, that didn’t last

Some thought the Steelers may follow Denver’s lead on this. If they do, they may want to do it better.

The Broncos are pulling the plug on their “All Broncos, All the Time” radio station. It only lasted two years. According to Barrett Sports Media, 760 AM is flipping to conservative talk. It’ll also have an FM handle at 93.7.

Many have wondered if the Steelers would adopt that strategy at some point on 970 AM or another outlet. The club has “SNR,” which simulcasts on that platform quite a bit, but not 24/7 over the air. The rest of the time it can be streamed at Steelers.com

Maybe the outlet launched at a bad time for the Broncos in terms of their win-loss numbers. Maybe it wasn’t marketed right. Maybe not enough people listen to AM anymore in Colorado.

Or maybe people know a company-owned product when they hear it and they think it’s propaganda.

Then again, the Broncos station is getting replaced by conservative talk. So that’s probably not it.


We’ll give it a 10

Television ratings for the Women’s World Cup are in. And the USWNT 2-0 win over the Netherlands got a 10.0.

It’s a little mixed depending on time zones and comparisons to the men’s game.

Via Sports Illustrated, “the 2018 men’s final between France and Croatia that kicked off at the same time had an 8.3 metered market rating and was watched by about 12.5 million people in the United States.

The most-watched soccer match in United States history is still the 2015 World Cup final in which the USWNT defeated Japan 5-2 and the contest garnered 25.4 million viewers. However, that contest was also played during primetime.”

So with a lesser time slot, the match didn’t do quite as well as four years ago. But it did better than the men’s game of a year ago. The difference being that there was no American presence in the final.

Want a comp to, say, the Super Bowl? The Patriots versus Rams game got a 44.9 rating, the lowest for a Super Bowl in a decade.


Wasted away again in … Saskatchewan?

St. Louis Blues players are enjoying their days with the Stanley Cup. And Tyler Bozak is using the sainted chalice as a way to drink margaritas.

If any Penguins have this in mind for next July, I always suggest heavy on the salt and “Cuervo Gold.”

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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