Tuesday, September 6, 2011
NFL ACLB PREVIEWS - #6: PITTSBURGH STEELERS
PERTINENT DATA: 12-4 last year, won AFC North, beat Ravens in divisional round in Pittsburgh, then beat Jets in AFC Championship also in Pittsburgh, finally losing to the Packers in Super Bowl XLV; 14 to 1 odds to win Super Bowl XLVI.
BEST CASE SCENARIO (Raven): Let's be honest here - there is not a better NFL franchise than the Steelers. I am no Pittsburgh homer, but honestly, the only period of irrelevance for the black and yellow black and yellow black and yellow was all the way back when Bubby Brister was a name. And granted, there was a long spell between those '70s dominators and their recent run of success. In fact, let me tell you the story of the Steelers first post-'70s Super Bowl, and how it relates to me. I lived with two guys in a shithole in Richmond, Virginia, a shithole that we made even shittier. Our back steps were busted up, outside the apartment, so sometimes you'd fall through if you were drunk. Our front steps to the foyer by the other apartment, the girls downstairs had put a 2x6 across the door because they were afraid of us, like some Medieval shit, so we started throwing our empty beer cans down the stairs and had filled the stairwell up to about the sixth or seventh stair. Every knife in the kitchen was stuck in the wall because we liked to throw knives, and the house was covered in pornography. A couple of windows were busted out, either from people downstairs afraid to come up the broken back steps trying to get our attention, usually to buy drugs, or from the terrible idea we had to have a couple of pump action BB guns available at all times for a game we called Dangerball, which basically meant you were always in danger, but someone would have to yell DANGERBALL! before shooting you from like 2 feet away with the BB gun. It was an amazing place. But both of these roommates of mine were Steelers fans, and leading up to the Super Bowl, we got a keg of beer in anticipation, just kind of for the weekend, not really for any sort of Super Bowl party. Me and the one roommate both got stinking drunk on the Saturday night before, and got into a fight, probably over something stupid, but it was okay, because we were (and are) both the type of guy who sometimes knows how necessary it is to fight with good friends, to just sort of get all the bullshit out your system, and blow off whatever negative bullshit you might be harboring towards a homeboy over trifling shit that ultimately doesn't matter. After the fight, a friend who was hanging out needed a ride home and being I had the closest car (I parked in the alley behind the house usually because nobody went through that alley except homeless hobos and us), and I was probably not that drunk I thought, so I took my boy Scan back to his crib like ten blocks away or so. Unfortunately, as we turned into his side street, blue lights went off behind me, and it was the police. I was disagreeable, they wouldn't let me park my car once they were gonna arrest me, I tossed the keys over the cops head to a girl I knew who drove off in my car for me (that girl was down), and I got hauled off in a paddywagon, to end up downtown in a room with a Mexican kid who also had caused trouble, while they waited to give us blood breathalyzers or something, and when it got quiet, me and Mexican dude would laugh about what degenerates we were, right in front of the cops. Then they tried to scare me quiet by putting me in a holding tank with a bunch of dudes, a number of whom were just brought in on multiple felonies from a drug sting. Lucky for me I had a couple outstanding warrants for failure to appears, so I started jailhouse lawyering with them, being like, "Don't get a public defender man, they'll fuck you. That's why I'm in this bitch now," and on and on, making some questionable friends fairly easily, so the cops put me in a different tank by myself until I could get put in a regular Richmond City jail cell.
The unfortunate thing about this was the Super Bowl coming up. That night and next morning, I felt fine, sleeping off a good drunk, giving my hard boiled egg between two slices of white bread sandwich to the dude across the aisle from me, who was really the only person I could see. At some point I had used a phone call to leave a message on my girlfriend's (now my wife) phone that I was in jail, and to come bail me out. Wasn't sure my roommate who would be home would come get me, after we had just had a blowout fight and shit. But basically I hung out, me and the dude across from me, who had also just been placed in there the night before, talking to the dudes in cells around us about whether they'd play the Super Bowl or not in here. They wouldn't, not even on the radio, but the guards apparently promised to yell down the hall updates as people scored. It got mid-day I think, hard to say, and other than worrying about whether they were gonna make me take a shower in a room full of other dudes and I would get fucked, I was mostly like, "Shit, I'm gonna miss the Super Bowl."
Then, in swoops a guard who opens my door and is like, "Mack, come on, you made bail," and I was like, "What?" because I knew my girlfriend didn't have any money. The dude across from me was like, "Damn, you lucky," and I was. I walk out, and a bail bondsman and my roommate who I had fought was standing there, and the bail bondsman gives me paperwork to sign, saying, "Don't fuck this up. And here's my card, because I understand y'all still have half a keg of beer left, so you might need still need this." I was like, "No sir," but then he laughed and they told me that he and my roommate had split a six-pack of Schlitz Ice while working out my bail. And his company was called Freebird Bail Bonds. Nice.
Back at our dilapidated shitty apartment, I was in one of those severe post-drunken binges "I'm never drinking again" modes, which usually lasts about two or three days, so I just sat and watched the game. My roommates made anyone else who came around to watch the game have to root for the Steelers. Unfortunately, this was the year that Neil O'Donnell secretly played for the Cowboys, and threw the prettiest passes of his career to the opposing safety, whose name I can't remember but ended up parlaying that one good game into a giant contract. That was a sad day in our apartment, yet high-spirited as always, probably due to alcohol and cocaine, but still. But that was also when Bill Cowher established himself as a top-tier coach, which he never really validated until that first Roethlisberger Super Bowl victory. And ever since then, it's been nothing but yearly contention to be the champs again for the Steelers, which isn't gonna change this season. They seemingly breed defensive monsters, to where you've never heard of these guys coming out of college, but they get plugged and end up being destroyers. Seriously man, James Harrison and Lamar Woodley have a direct lineage to Jack Lambert, and there's never really been that large of a destructive defensive presence lapse in all that time. The offense has sputtered, but never the defense, and now that the offense is able to generate points as well, it's really not anything that's gonna slow down. At least I can't see it happening under Mike Tomlin. Just like I said yesterday about Mike Smith of the Falcons missing something you'd expect, even at a young age, Tomlin has a presence that just oozes success magnet. I feel as long as he is there, and as long as Roethlisberger keeps himself functional, they will contend. And I am fine with that. Also, I never got another DUI, ever again, because we referred to it as a Neil O'Donnell. I drank and drive probably thousands of times since then, and contrary to media misperceptions, I never drove over kindergartens full of playing children, or anything like that, but I never allowed myself to get a DUI. That is the Steeler way, which is why Steelers people do not respect Neil O'Donnell, and never will.
WORST CASE SCENARIO (Neil): I respect the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is mostly because I have a deep respect for that psycho James Harrison and because of my unabashed Michigan homerism which causes me to root for Lamarr Woodley, who is a prince amongst men and also a 12th level Incan Shaman. He will of course deny this but that’s because he’s also a man of deep modesty and he credits the Ayahuasca for delivering him both peace and salvation rather than his own native powers. I know this because we have communicated on the celestial planes of . . . you’re right, this is already too weird. Anyway, I have grown to like the Steelers in the last couple of years. They are tough, angry, violent and most importantly, they are not afraid of pissing in Sheriff Goodell’s face. They have positioned themselves as a team of renegade warriors and a part of me – a big part of me – wants to see James Harrison rip the Lombardi Trophy from Sheriff Goodell’s trembling hands and then tea-bag him in the middle of the stadium while the Sheriff weeps and pisses his pants. But this is supposed to be about the worst case scenario for the Steelers, not the best, and so I am forced by the constraints of format to acknowledge the ugly fact that every so often the Steelers inexplicably disappoint everyone, finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs. Now, I’m not saying this is particularly likely, but it’s possible. Really, the offensive line isn’t as good as it used to be and too many times the offense is forced to rely upon the drunken scrambling of that degenerate Ben Roethlisberger. One of these times, I fear his reckless style will get him killed, either by a 350 pound defensive tackle or by an angry, knife wielding boyfriend in the back alley of some shithole bar. If that happens, the Steelers will become a very, very human team and while they will still likely kick all manner of ass on the defensive side of the field, these are alas offensive times meant for offensive people.
PLAYER TO PULL FOR (Raven): You know what, fuck political correct internet sportswriting bullshit. Ben Roethlisberger is fucking awesome. He was a womanizing drunkard who wrecked motorcycles, and if you are a real dude and do not wish that was your life, you are an un-American piece of shit and I do not trust you because you are not being honest with yourself or you have been feminized by too much soy in your diet. (Soybean plants contain a high concentration of female plant estrogen, and even though plant and human estrogen are chemically different, this is why so many vegetarian men often times become effeminate and weak. I do not say that judgmentally because I don't eat meat either, but I supplement by diet by drinking the blood of rabbits - tiger blood was a stupid meme and missed the point - with a pinch of garlic powder usually because you don't want to be mixing too much blood without garlic. There's a reason that's a stereotypical vampire prevention, and why garlic - even if vampires aren't admitted scientifically to be true - was mentioned as a blood-thinner in the eclectic medical texts of the 1800s.) Now, Big Ben had gotten married, probably as a PR move being Mr. Rooney and everybody was giving him massive amounts of shit last season. Whatever man, Roethlisberger is the best.
PLAYER TO HATE MOST (Neil): I don’t really have anything against Hines Ward personally. For all I know he’s a solid dude, but then again, probably not. I base this on a couple of ridiculous factors. First of all, he is adored by the same Gritballs Fun Plucky McDuck Granny Get My Overalls An’ Mah Gun gang who worshipped Brett Favre’s scandalous ass. Apparently, Hines Ward just plays the game the right way, which sounds suspiciously close to the old Rod Marinelli coaches the game the right way talk we heard so much in that year of unnumbered tears known as 0-16. So, right away, my gag reflex has been triggered and I kind of want to drown Hines Ward in a vat of acid, and not the good, fun kind of acid either. That may sound harsh to you, but you didn’t have to live through 0-16. I did, goddammit. That season worked its dark arts in the deepest nether regions of my brain and sometimes that results in me saying shit like I would like to see Hines Ward drowned in a vat of acid. I would apologize, but I think I’ve suffered enough debasement, don’t you? Anyway, aside from all that dumb bullshit, Hines Ward was also on that infernal Dancing With the Stars show, which to me is the most vapid and inexplicable of all the damned reality shows that exist out there, which is really, really saying something, you know? I don’t give a fuck if Hines Ward or Pat Morita’s corpse can’t dance. Fuck you, I know they can’t dance. I don’t need to watch The Situation blind his partner with Axe Body Spray and then peel off his own skin to reveal a demon lizardman whose only goal is to enslave all of humanity. I already know all about that shit. That is a show for worthless has-beens. Everybody knows this. Even the people who are obsessed with this show know that shit. By being a part of that nonsense Hines Ward self-identified as a worthless has-been. The motherfucker didn’t even have the decency to wait until he retired. Clearly, this is a creature with no soul or self-esteem. If you want to root for Hines Ward, that’s your business, but shit, you might as well root for Hitler or Bigfoot or Drew Stanton. There are principles here, people. That’s all I’m saying.
BEST NAME ON TEAM: Jerricho Cotchery is a name that will always sound like a Biblical crime to me, probably sexual in nature, and somewhat forgotten behind the tall shadow of the oft-mentioned Sodom and Gomorrah. Did you know that Sodom and Gomorrah were punished by the fake Christian God not for sexual deviancy but because they did not take in strangers as neighbors and fellow citizens? To suck another man's dick is not a crime so much as turning a blind eye and locking your door to a traveler in need of help. Seriously, I know. I had a religious studies minor, and read most of all the world's major monotheistic texts, both sober and while in an elevated sense of awareness, so to speak.
IN A PERFECT WORLD (Neil): In the Steelers perfect world, they would concuss half the league on their way to the Super Bowl, racking up millions of dollars in bullshit fines along the way. They would win the Super Bowl, James Harrison would perform the aforementioned tea-bagging of Sheriff Goodell at mid-field and then the team would collectively rob his ass, stripping him of his wallet, his rings, even his clothes so that they could recoup some of that money stolen from them via the Sheriff’s fascist fines. That’s the Steelers perfect world and I’ll be honest, even though my perfect world involves the Lions somehow winning the Super Bowl (Your laughter is ill-conceived and base, you Philistines.) I wouldn’t exactly be opposed to watching this go down. Of course, having written this, I expect Sheriff Goodell to show up at my door like fucking Darth Vader and smash shit up or at least try to fine me but I have lawyers goddammit, good ones, and they all know how to use a baseball bat and brass knuckles. Plus, I studied to be a lawyer myself in another life and even though that didn’t work out because I refused to sell my soul to the dark lord of the law (and also because the bar I favored included shots instead of torts), I still remember the combat arts taught to me in those savage days. For instance, my Constitutional Law professor taught me how to properly garrote a rabid orangutan and I once maimed a man with a throwing star who refused to recognize the 21st Amendment. That prohibitionist walks like a neutered duck to this day thanks to my law training. What I am saying here is that no one should be afraid of Sheriff Goodell, for he walks with the shadows and converses with darkness and we are all warriors of light. So are the members of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and as long as they remember their own law training, they will rise above his vicious ways.
PROGNOSIS (Raven): The Steelers are still a great team, and that defense will rack up enough fines this year to bankroll a couple third world governments. An 11-5 season, which won't be enough to win the AFC North, but will get them into the playoffs, looks likely. They'll cap that off with a return to the AFC Championship game, but they won't get back to the Super Bowl, at least not this year.