The View From 522: Steelers vs. Bengals

Since Gretz is a season-ticket holder, he’s going to take a look at the debauchery and insanity that takes place in the Heinz Field stands after every home game he attends.

As football fans we’re always demanding more. Whatever the team does on the field it’s simply not enough. It’s never enough. It will never be enough. We constantly crave more. We have a thirst for it, it’s our nature, and we’re all guilty of it at one time or another (or all the time).

Let’s go back to the summer and pretend somebody laid out the following situation: The Steelers would get through the first four games without Ben Roethlisberger, play most of the season without their best defensive lineman (Aaron Smith), be without Brett Kiesel for a stretch, be down to their third and fourth string offensive tackles (gah!) and have to replace both kickers for one reason (poor play) or another (injury).

And they’ll be 10-3 and on top of the division in Week 14.

You’d sign up for that on the dotted line, and probably think Mike Tomlin had done a hell of a job. Right? Of course.

That’s why it was mildly surprising — or perhaps not — that a person sitting behind us spent the entire game complaining about Tomlin and, at one point, called him — and I quote — “the worst coach in the NFL.” Awesome. Even if I don’t get it. I’m not saying the guy has been perfect this season, and I’m sure at some point there’s been something I’ve disagreed with, but right now you’re going to have to convince me that he’s NOT a front-runner for coach of the year. I can see an argument for Mike Smith in Atlanta. Bill Belichick, hate him all you want, has done a tremendous job in New England. Raheem Morris maybe?

But who else ya got?

After missing the previous home game against Oakland, I really wasn’t looking forward to Sunday’s game simply because the weather forecast looked to awful: mid-30′s, rain, potential for snow, wind. I’d prefer 10 degrees and snow.  In reality, though, it turned out to be somewhat decent. Or at least not as bad as anticipated. I’m not saying it was comfortable, but it was OK.

Missing the Raiders game was also disappointing because I missed out on the opportunity to take part in the “Refs You Suck” chant that echoed throughout the stadium for much of the second half. Fortunately, the Steelers were flagged for 18 holding penalties while the Bengals were given complete freedom to do whatever they wanted to Ben giving me us the opportunity to start the chant up again. This seems like it might become a regular occurrence.

THIS IS WHY WE’RE NOT COACHES

Whenever we talk about the draft and all of the players we loved that turned out to suck, Ryan likes to point out “this is why we’re not scouts.” And he’s right. We really don’t know what the hell we’re talking about — we just like to pretend we do. On Sunday this was on display in spectacular fashion.

After Emmanuel Sanders went down briefly with an injury, the Steelers put Antwaan Randle El into the game as the No. 3 receiver, a role he seems to have lost to not only Sanders, but also Antonio Brown. Now, I’ve always been a huge Randle El fan, almost to a fault. But at that point I said to my brother that I think I’d prefer to see Brown getting those snaps. Without fail, on the very next snap, Randle El goes up and makes the catch of the day, hauling in a one-handed pass to set the Steelers up inside the 20-yard line.

Later in the game, in the fourth quarter, the Bengals started a drive inside their own 10-yard line and my brother pointed out that he didn’t like the defense the Steelers were lined up in. That very snap? Pick-6 by LaMarr Woodley.

Again: This is why we’re not coaches.

Though, as Ryan pointed out in the recap, a lot of the credit has to go to Carson Palmer. Remember five years ago when the big debate in the NFL was who would you rather have: Ben or Carson? Well … debate settled. For a while there Palmer was a relatively productive player with a couple of really good seasons, but always just a bit overrated. He’s now blown past that and is just simply terrible. I know this isn’t Bengals Lounge (and thank you for that), but will this guy even be back with the team next season? The only thing — and I think this this is the only thing — that will keep him there is the very thing that might make him attractive to other teams: There’s simply not that many good quarterbacks in the NFL right now. Would you like an example of how dire the quarterback position is in the league at this moment? Consider that the following players have appeared in games this season:

Max Hall, John Skelton, Derek Anderson, Jimmy Clausen, Brian St. Pierre, Troy Smith, Alex Smith, Shaun Hill, Matt Moore, Kerry Collins, Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace, Colt McCoy, Bruce Gradkowski, Drew Stanton, Trent Edwards, Tyler Thigpen, Rusty Smith, Todd Bouman, Charlie Whitehurst, and it would only be fair to include Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch.

With all due respect to guys that have actually made it to the NFL (instead of, you know, writing about it): that’s a lot of young, unproven or washed-up crap. Bad as Carson Palmer is, he’d still be a sizable upgrade for Arizona, Carolina, Tennessee, or San Francisco, just to name a few. Not to mention the fact he would probably be replaced in Cincinnati by a top-two pick (Ryan Mallett? Andrew Luck?) that would require a HUGE investment and have plenty of growing pains for a year or two. Unless they decide to keep it in the family and turn to his younger brother, he’s probably back with the Bengals for at least another season. And as a Steeler fan, I’m OK with that.

On the game’s opening drive the Bengals offense looked somewhat competent, moving the ball and picking up a touchdown. I’m not going to lie, though, I would have never guessed that Andre Whitworth would catch more touchdowns than Chad Ochocinco or Terrell Owens in this game. After that? Just total domination by the Steelers defense, which once again shows its pass defense isn’t as bad as its reputation. Entering play on Sunday the Steelers were allowing just 6.7 yards per pass attempt (8th best in the NFL), a number that surely dropped after limiting Palmer to 5.6 yards per pass. They were also in the top 10 with 14 interceptions, and added three more to their total.

The first Troy Polamalu pick was a thing of beauty, simply because you could see it coming a mile away. He read the play perfectly, jumped the route with perfect timing, and outran everybody to the end zone. The lateral after the second pick? Not quite sure about that one. But let’s remember: TROY’S DONE THAT BEFORE AGAINST THE BENGALS.

2005 Wild Card Playoff game: Troy picks off Jon Kitna in the fourth quarter and laterals to safety Chris Hope. I remember watching one of the wired-for-sound shows from NFL Films after that game and Joey Porter, comedic genius that he was, walked up to Troy and recited a line from Dumb and Dumber: “Just when I think you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this … AND TOTALLY REDEEM YOURSELF.”

But enough about that, a few more random observations:

– Walking over to the stadium before the game we saw a Bengals fan that couldn’t have been older than 10 wearing a t-shirt with the following phrase: “Throwing picks and assaulting chicks.”

– The Heinz Field scoreboard has started keeping track of “fan stats”: False starts, delay of game penalties and forced timeouts for the other team. Sunday’s Fan Stats: 1 False start, 1 forced timeout. Not bad considering the announced crowd of 57,000 and change was about 8,000 short of capacity.

Speaking of the crowd, I’m not sure what brought this on, but for some reason, out of nowhere, after a Steelers first down the PA announcer said the following: “the result of the play is another Steelers…” and then he paused for a second. And without prompting, nearly everybody in the stands screamed “first down!” at the exact same time. And as the game went on, so did the routine. And it grew each time. I’m not sure what to think about this. On one hand, it was really cool that it just started happening for no reason. But if you watch a Broncos game in Denver their fans do that annoying (maybe it’s annoying because we’re not rooting for Denver) “IN-COM-PLETE” chant after every incompletion.

Pass or fail on this one, folks?

– Going to a future game and don’t want to eat inside the stadium (and I would advise against eating in the stadium) and want to grab a quick bite before the game? Allow me to suggest Giovanni’s Pizza on Sixth Street. We stopped in for a tasty $2 slice (nice size) and were in and out in five minutes. There’s some free advertising, Giovanni’s.

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  • SteelerBill

    Thanks Adam – I was curious about all the empty seats…not pretty on TV…also in Chicago, in response to the First Down thing you experienced they have this:

    Announcer: There’s a timeout
    Crowd: Where?
    Announcer: On the field

    • Anonymous

      That’s very funny. But it probably gets tiresome.

  • GlennW

    > Pass or fail on this one, folks?

    Fail. The Patriots do this and it’s highly annoying, especially after, oh, say 40 first downs…

  • rambler

    Adam,
    Love the column and have to second the free ad for Giovannis. Took my family to the Oakland (4 total) and didn’t have to morgage the home to have lunch at Giovannis…and the food was good.

  • B Meekins

    i was in 524 row e, and you were right man, the seats were awesome! Watching the game straight on was much better than watching it from the side. i was calling out recievers who were open before ben released the ball. And on the ARE page, im right there with you. when i saw Manny go down, i was like “shit now randle el HAS to play”. and he made one hell of a catch!

    i was really worried about the weather, but other than my socks getting wet, it wasnt that bad. i would definately do it again.

    the “refs you suck” chant was awesome! nice write-up bud!

  • eddie

    love this blog, and i really like this view from 522 section. i live in california, but i used to be able to fly back once a year for one home game at 3 rivers and a few at heinz. repeat, i’m from CA, and, gretz, i’m calling you out for being soft.

    it’s kinda pathetic hearing you complain about about the weather when most of us would step on a cat’s face to get to a game… haha! only kidding… peta – i love ya!

    anyway, the main reason i the view from 522 is that it makes palpable the memories of the handful of games i’ve been able to get to. keep up the great writing guys!

  • 58 for life

    Must stop the “FIRST DOWN” chant. I am a lifelong Steelers fan living in, of all places, Massachusetts. One of the many, MANY annoying things Pats fans do at games, no, not chanting Yankees suck, although they do that too, is the “FIRST DOWN” thing. So stupid.

    What does it do for anyone? Does a loud reminder of their recent first down charge up our team? They know they just got a first down…Does it scare the other team? It might piss them off. Filling in the blanks with a “FIRST DOWN!” only helps the announcer do his dumb job.

    My suggestion is to get word out for the crowd to yell something obscene when the announcer prompts us to fill in the blanks. Example: “The result of the play is another…BLOW JOB!” That would get everyone’s attention.

    Seriously, if you can make it stop, do us all a favor, and make it stop, but I’m guessing it’s too late.

    Thank you. Go Green Bay (this week only). And Pitt of course!