All posts by Cody Flavell

I am an avid fan of all major and college sports teams throughout the Pittsburgh area.

Week 2 Preview: Vikings at Steelers

In week two, the Minnesota Vikings travel to Heinz Field to square off with the Pittsburgh Steelers after both teams picked up victories in their week one match ups.

Previewing The Vikings

Week One Result: Vikings 29, Saints 19

The Vikings picked up a win on Monday Night Football over the Saints with a good showing from a few offensive players.

While the Saints have an awful defense, so the performance on the Vikings’ offensive side of the ball may be deceiving. Time will tell when they run into a much more solidified Steelers unit on Sunday.

Sam Bradford had one of his best performances Monday night. He completed 84.4% of his passes last night while tossing for 346 yards and three touchdowns. Bradford, the NFL’s leader in completion percentage in 2016, did what he does last night and completes passes.

People forget Bradford was the number one pick in 2010 out of Oklahoma when the, formerly known, St. Louis Rams, made him their guy. He wasn’t good there just as Jared Goff, has yet to really show off in Los Angeles. But Bradford had everything needed to be a reliable quarterback. He won’t be a franchise saver for anyone. But, when the Vikings came calling after Teddy Bridgewater snapped his knee last season, Bradford has been nothing but consistent for the Vikings.

Bradford however, is injured and Case Keenum will start in his place. This is a big loss for the Vikings offense.

Two receivers, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs had breakout games and accounted for the majority of what Bradford’s stat line looked like.

Thielen had 157 yards on nine receptions and really saw the ball thrown his way often last night. Diggs only had 93 yards but was Bradford’s touchdown target as he caught two of Bradford’s three. The Steelers cornerbacks may have their hands full keeping these guys in check Sunday.

It is inevitable that Bradford will likely complete 70% of his passes or more. Include rookie running back Dalvin Cook into the mix and this Vikings offense could pose a big threat for the Steelers defense.

As far as the Vikings defense goes, they won’t make a ton of splash plays, but they are a solid unit. They aren’t a bad defense by any means, but they don’t have many big-time playmakers. Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes are the big splash players for Minnesota. Their secondary also includes names such as Trae Waynes, Marcus Sherels, and Terrence Newman.

The offense will win the game for the Vikings if they are to be victorious.

Keys for the Steelers

The offense has to play better. Whether it’s the gameplan or the execution, it has to get better from last week’s putrid performance in Cleveland. They need to clean up the penalties, which should help the offense play with shorter yardage situations. The Steelers look to be solid in the red zone, but they will need to sustain long drives and control the clock.

The defense was pretty solid last week. If the Steelers can play the classic “bend, but don’t break” defense, they should be fine as long as the offense scores like they should. The Vikings don’t have a lot of explosive weapons on offense, so the defense needs to make sure they don’t give up the big plays. 

Inactives

Steelers Inactives

No. 5 QB Joshua Dobbs

No. 11 WR Justin Hunter

No. 27 S J.J. Wilcox

No. 65 OT Jerald Hawkins

No. 71 OT Matt Feiler

No. 89 TE Vance McDonald

No. 91 DE Stephon Tuitt

Vikings Inactives

No. 8 QB Sam Bradford

No. 12 WR Rodney Adams

No. 24 CB Tramaine Brock

No. 63 G Danny Isidora

No. 76 T Aviante Collins

No. 90 DE Tashawn Bower

No. 94 DT Jaleel Johnson

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Watt Else Did You Expect?

The Pittsburgh Steelers have almost become “First-Round LB University” over the past ten seasons. Countless picks have been spent on linebackers. Even in 2017 when the Steelers had more glaring needs, they decided to take outside linebacker TJ Watt as the eventual heir apparent to James Harrison.

Through one game, the decision is already paying off.

Watt had two sacks of Cleveland Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer and picked him off once on a play where he had to elevate to get up. Add five tackles to that stat line and you will have Watt’s first career stat line in a regular season game. He is the third player in NFL history to record two sacks and have an interception in their first career game. Not too shabby for the rookie.

While his brother, JJ Watt, has been dominating the NFL in the Houston Texans front seven for a few years, Watt will have the opportunity to rival his brother. It’ll be tough to live up to JJ’s standards as he is potentially the best defensive player in the entire league. That doesn’t mean he can’t reach it, though.

Watt is a bit under sized for an ideal linebacker but that didn’t stop him at Wisconsin and he won’t let it affect him in the big leagues. Watt is a dynamic linebacker who certainly may not have the pass rushing abilities as fellow outside linebacker Harrison, but he may be more athletic in the sense that he can make a splash play on the ball. Harrison specializes in pass rushing.

While it can’t be expected that Watt will have 32 sacks and 16 interceptions this season, it is okay to maybe boost your expectations for him a little higher than you previously had. It looks like he will get the majority of the time in the regular season. The postseason may be given to Harrison. Maybe not all the time, but he will pick up more time as he’ll be fresh and more experienced.

He is still JJ’s brother, so Watt else did you expect?

Game By Game Predictions Of Steelers Season

After falling short in the AFC Championship game last season to New England, the Steelers will soon embark upon another opportunity to win their seventh Super Bowl before any other team gets six.

Many believe that Pittsburgh’s only obstacle will be New England, yet again. They will play in week 15 this season in a game that could determine home field advantage for the playoffs, if it isn’t already.

The Steelers schedule includes six games against the AFC North, as usual. They will also play the NFC North and some other notable matchups. So, I’ll break it down game by game.

Week One (Sept. 10): at Cleveland Browns, 1:00 PM

The Steelers have tortured Cleveland ever since Ben Roethlisberger came into the league. Cleveland, of course, hasn’t been all that great of a franchise lately, anyway.

After having THREE first round picks including the number one selection in which they took Myles Garrett, the Browns retooled their defense. Jabrill Peppers and David Njoku were the other two first round selections.

Couple that their selection of DeShone Kiser, the Browns have some more potential than in recent seasons but this matchup and season likely won’t favor them.

Predictions: Steelers 27, Browns 6

Week Two (Sept. 17): vs. Minnesota Vikings, 1:00 PM

The Vikings got off to a 5-0 start last season despite the loss of star quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. It looked as though Sam Bradford may have rediscovered himself with his new team and was prepared to lead the Vikings on a deep playoff run.

Well, that didn’t happen.

The Vikings fell short but with additions like Latavius Murray and Riley Reiff while drafting former Florida State running back Dalvin Cook and Jaleel Johnson, their season, and this game should be rather exciting.

Prediction: Steelers 24, Vikings 21

Week Three (Sept. 24): at Chicago Bears, 1:00 PM

Chicago selected quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in the first round in the offseason’s draft even after signing Mike Glennon to a rather not-so-backup-quarterback-contract. The Steelers got torched on the road by a rookie QB on the road in week three last season (Carson Wentz), but that shouldn’t happen this time around. The Bears are still a pretty awful team. Yes, I have Trubisky starting by week three.

Prediction: Steelers 38, Bears 10

Week Four (Oct. 1): at Baltimore Ravens, 1:00 PM

Fresh off a 3-0 start to the season, the Steelers head to Baltimore and take on their nemesis. Baltimore’s hunger to avenge Pittsburgh for the Antonio Brown Christmas magic that sealed the division victory and their home-field advantage in the game provide the boost they need to win an early season important game. Though, a very close game throughout, the defensive battle goes to Baltimore.

Prediction: Ravens 17, Steelers 14

Week Five (Oct. 8): vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, 1:00 PM

The Steelers get the Jaguars in week five after a depressing loss the week before. They’ll take on a prettt mediocre offense that struggles to get anything going. The Steelers end up having a defensive clinic with three sacks and two interceptions in a rout of the Jaguars.

Prediction: Steelers 24, Jaguars 3

Week Six (Oct. 15) at Kansas City Chiefs, 4:25 PM

The Steelers handled the Chiefs easily in the regular season last year and barely beat them with field goals in the playoffs. They’ve got a really good quarterback in Alex Smith and their newest draft pick in Patrick Mahomes. Their still one of the league’s premier teams. Thus, presenting one of the biggest challenges on the schedule this year. I think the Steelers get the job done.

Prediction: Steelers 28, Chiefs 17

Week Seven (Oct. 22) vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 1:00 PM

Now, maybe more exciting than Ravens games, the Bengals come to Heinz Field to impose their will on the Steelers. Head coach Marvin Lewis will do as he usually does and come oh-so-close to a victory but fall short. While the running back trio of Gio Bernard, Jeremy Hill, and Joe Mixon will be tough to prepare for, Andy Dalton will struggle and the Bengals fall victim to the Steelers again.

Prediction: Steelers 14, Bengals 10

Week Eight (Oct. 29) at Detroit Lions, 8:30 PM

Sunday Night Football on NBC! Roethlisberger and Matthew Stafford engage in a duel for the win. This is a game, if they are a plus team by week eight, that I can see the Lions winning. The Steelers are going to show up ready to play but Stafford, on a mission to prove the doubters wrong on national television in regards to his new contract, outlasts his QB counterpart and the Lions prevail in a thriller.

Prediction: Lions 38, Steelers 30

Week Nine: Bye Week

C’mon, only the Jets and Browns manage to lose to the bye week. Steelers sit at 6-2 and first place at the bye.

Week Ten (Nov. 12) at Indianapolis Colts, 1:00 PM

This is a hard game to call right now. The health of Andrew Luck seems to be of question heading into the year. Whether or not he plays by this time won’t matter. The Steelers should prevail anyway. But, of the Colts want any chance at winning games this year, they’ll need him. If Luck isn’t starting, expect newly-acquired back up Jacoby Brissett to crumble against this defense. Steelers win big.

Prediction: Steelers 32, Colts 3

Week Eleven (Nov. 16) vs. Tennessee Titans, 8:25 PM

Thursday Night Football and the beginning of a four week stretch of primetime games, the Steelers face one of my more intriguing dark horses of this year, and my pick to win the AFC South, Tennessee. The Titans young QB, Marcus Mariota, is a stud in the making and has some weapons at his disposal again this season. They will make it an exciting game but one the Steelers will win. My bold prediction is that Le’Veon Bell will rush for 150 yards and have two touchdowns. Big fantasy day on Thursday to start your fantasy week out with a big lead.

Prediction: Steelers 20, Titans 18

Week Twelve (Nov. 26) vs. Green Bay Packers, 8:30 PM

Talk about a good primetime football game. Aaron Rodgers vs. Big Ben at Heinz Field. The Packers, one of my favorites heading into the year, pose a threat to the Steeler in this game. Rodgers might be considered the best QB of his generation, at least in my eyes, if he had even one more Super Bowl. He has a better skill set than Tom Brady and don’t argue with me otherwise. My man crush on Rodgers makes me hesitant to bet against him. The Packers get a win on the road.

Prediction: Packers 27, Steelers 17

Week Thirteen (Dec. 4) at Cincinnati Bengals, 8:30 PM

Primetime. Steelers vs. Bengals in Cincy. I’m not even going to bother with this one.

Prediction: Steelers 24, Bengals 3

Week Fourteen (Dec. 10) vs. Baltimore Ravens, 8:30 PM

Their final primetime game of the season, Pittsburgh at home against Baltimore. Ravens won the first meeting at their house. The Steelers win the latter meeting at theirs.

Prediction: Steelers 30, Ravens 17

Week Fifteen (Dec. 17) vs. New England Patriots, 4:25 PM

I shortened the last two weeks because I already previewed those teams and everyone circled this game on their calendar. “It’s going to determine home-field in the playoffs!” I’ve got news for you. No, it won’t. The Patriots are going 15-1. The consolation? The Steelers are the one. Last year, back up QB Landry Jones had to play and, honestly, looked pretty okay doing it in Foxborough and gave the Steelers a chance to win where no one ever does. The Steelers will, hopefully, have Roethlisberger and a healthy core while adding Martavis Bryant back into the mix. They’re going to be the “1” in the Patriots’ loss column and play inspired in front of their home crowd.

Prediction: Steelers 24, Patriots 20

Week Sixteen (Dec. 25) at Houston Texans, 4:30 PM

Christmas time and the Steelers will play in it again. Last year, the Christmas miracle heaved them to a division title. This season, such won’t be necessary. But, TJ Watt and JJ Watt both record 1.5 sacks trying to outdo each other. TJ’s team wins in a game where points will be hard to come by.

Prediction: Steelers 13, Texans 7

Week Seventeen (Dec. 31) vs. Cleveland Browns

Back-ups will play just as last year’s week 17. Steelers back-ups still beat Browns’ starters.

Prediction: Steelers 17, Browns 3

AFC Wild Card Round

The Steelers finish the regular season at 13-3 and get the second bye behind the Patriots. The three-seeded Raiders beat the six-seeded Bengals in round one. Fifth-seed Chiefs defeat the four-seed Titans. AFC Divisional round features the Patriots vs. Chiefs and Raiders vs. Steelers.

AFC Divisional Round

Man, this will be a fun game for me to watch as I am a fan of Oakland. As I will undoubtedly root for the Steelers, it will be exciting to watch Derek Carr and Roethlisberger battle it out. The Raiders potent offense will show. But, their suspect defense ends up being their demise. Watch out, though. 2018 could seriously be their year. Patriots handle the Chiefs easily.

Prediction: Steelers 38, Raiders 28

AFC Championship Round

Here is your rematch, folks. It is, yet again, in Foxborough. Remember, the Pats don’t lose there. It won’t change here. The Steelers pulled out a huge victory in week 15 but the Patriots and Tom Brady will get the best of the Steelers again. It sucks to say it. Want more consolation, though? The Seahawks will revenge the Patriots in the Super Bowl from the Pete Carroll decision to pass on the two yard line.

Prediction: Patriots 24, Steelers 20

Cornerback Conundrum

For the Steelers, finding some sort of solidification in the secondary has been a problem since guys like Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu, and Ryan Clark graced their defensive backfield. Now, there is no indication of who will even be amongst the cornerback group when the season opens in Cleveland in less than two weeks.

The safeties are pre-determined. Mike Mitchell is the team’s free safety, assuming he returns from injury in time. He has never missed a game in his Steelers tenure. Opposite of him, Sean Davis, entering his sophomore season in the league, will be the team’s strong safety. This was the tandem last year and it was a solid one that helped lead Pittsburgh to an AFC Championship game.

Outside of Artie Burns, the cornerback situation isn’t so prepared.

With every training camp, there are young guys and veterans who battle for spots in the starting eleven on defense. In Steelers camp this season, it’s been the younger guys stepping up at the cornerback position while some long tenured veterans may lose their starting job and, quite possibly, their roster spot.

Ross Cockrell has had a horrific camp and has looked outmatched in the Steelers’ three preseason games to date. He was burned on a sure touchdown so he committed a defensive pass interference to try and prevent it. He was later beat on a downfield sideline pass. He looks very ill-composed and doesn’t have the foot speed necessary to stick with the athletic wide receivers of today’s NFL.

Another Steelers cornerback, William Gay, could soon find his roster spot taken from beneath him. Gay, 32, was the team’s slot cornerback last season and was the number one guy until Burns’ emergence in his rookie season last year. Now, Gay is battling offseason acquisition Coty Sensabaugh for that spot. Sensabaugh seems to be winning the battle.

The Steelers decided to use two of their draft picks in the spring on cornerbacks to try and add some meaningful depth with a guy like Gay beginning to age and this league quickly transitioning to a passing league. The receivers are getting better so the defense must continue to produce cornerbacks who can cover these athletic freaks.

They chose Cameron Sutton in the third round, a 5’11” corner out of Tennessee. Sutton was a starter as a true freshman and had been part of the defense at Tennessee ever since. He was drafted along with his roommate at Tennessee, quarterback Josh Dobbs.

Brian Allen, the Steelers’ fifth round selection, is a tall 6’3″ and played his college ball at Utah. His college career actually marked the beginning of his transition from a wide receiver to a cornerback. He has issues with tackling but is quick for his size and could be a practice squad candidate as he learns more about how to be a cornerback.

A longshot to make the team when camp started, Mike Hilton has impressed in camp and may have done enough to take a job. If not, Hilton has been on his third team since signing with Jacksonville as an undrafted free agent in 2016. He may get another chance somewhere after his solid contributions thus far. Or, he’ll have the chance to impress for the Steelers and make a name for himself.

While there are many questions to be answered before week one, it seems that the Steelers may have some depth at cornerback. They made it to the AFC Championship game last year with an average secondary. The Steelers have advanced one round further than the previous year the past three seasons. If you believe in liner progression, this group of cornerbacks will see you in the Super Bowl.

 

Three Steelers To Watch In 2017

Public Traning Camp practices have wrapped up for the Steelers and they will finish the rest of camp at their South Side facility with three more games to play in the preseason.

They’ll open in Cleveland on September 10 and the starters, who see limited time in preseason, are chomping at the bit to be able to finally play.

Everyone has high expectations for the Ben Roethlisberger‘s and Antonio Brown‘s of the world (and Le’Veon Bell if he decides to show up). But what about some specific role players who may have a big impact, positive or negative, based on the way they play?

The Steelers have one of the most tenured offensive lines in football. They’ve played together for a few seasons now. They’ve got a secondary corps that, while they still may have some growing pains, spent the majority of last season together and are familiar with each other. Their linebackimg core, one of the strengths of this franchise for almost its entire existence, has a few new faces that could make an impact.

Here are three players, all of which come from one of these positions mentioned above, that you should keep an eye on in 2017.

OT Alejandro Villanueva


Military veteran Alejandro Villanueva spent some time playing some tight end and on the defensive line while in the Army. He was cut from the Eagles upon his start in the NFL. The Steelers saw something they liked and decided to take a chance on the big guy.

They noticed him during a preseason game against the Eagles in 2014, a game in which Villanueva was waived two days later. The Steelers signed him eight days after he was waived and stashed him on the practice squad.

In 2015, former Steelers left tackle Kelvin Beachum went down with a torn ACL. The next man up mentality kicked in for Villanueva who never looked back. In fact, he caused the Steelers to let Beachum walk in free agency and move ahead with him as the starter. He was fantastic to finish the 2015 season and was even better last year.

His play earned him a lucrative 4-year, $24 million deal on the day that Training Camp opened. He would’ve had to play on a $600,000 restricted free agent tender had the deal not been signed.

Villanueva struggled early last season when he allowed 5 sacks in the first 6 games of the year. Keeping in mind that the Steelers almost set a record for the lowest amount of sacks an offensive line has allowed in a single season, Villanueva was responsible for a majority of the early ones. So, what made him worthy of the contract?

His play late in the season and into the playoffs. He ranked as the 23rd best offensive tackle in the league last year but his play was so solid heading into the playoffs that it seems he’s really come into his own.

If the Steelers get playoff Villanueva, then the contract was well worth it. If they get early season Villanueva for all 16 games, there may not be much hope for the playoffs if Roethlisberger gets battered around.

Keep an eye on how Villanueva plays this upcoming year.

CB Ross Cockrell


Count me amongst the crowd who’s been tough on Ross Cockrell during his Steelers tenure.

Head coach Mike Tomlin was high on Cockrell as far back as the 2014 draft when he was coming out of Duke. The Steelers had planned on taking him but the Buffalo Bills had other plans.

It just so happened that some underwhelming performances in Buffalo had him cut a week before the season started in 2015. The Steelers signed him five days prior to the beginning of the season.

He routinely sat out the first game but received some heavy playing time after that. He’s been starting for the team ever since.

With last year’s emergence of Artie Burns and the Steelers going with Cameron Sutton in the draft this season along with signing Coty Sensabaugh, Cockrell’s playing time has a real chance of being cut down if he doesn’t perform.

The Steelers brought Cockrell back for this coming season after his 8 tackles against Miami in the Wild Card round last year in his first career playoffs start impresses some people.

With some more depth at corner and Cockrell not having his best camp thus far, what role will he play when the Steelers arrive in Cleveland in three weeks?

OLB Keion Adams


When picking a seventh round selection, you’re looking for a real diamond in the rough. It’s likely you won’t find the next Tom Brady, although that’s happened before. But finding an impact player is something you’d like.

Maybe a special teams returner or, in the Steelers case, a quick linebacker to add to their already scary pass rush.

Keion Adams played at a smaller Western Michigan University and got his name known by being a solid pass rusher. He had 12 sacks and 28 tackles for loss over his final two seasons at WMU.

At 6’2″, 245 lbs, Adams is light on his feet and makes it tough for linemen to be able to hop out of their stance quick enough to cover him, at least at the college level.

His small size for an NFL pass rusher may cost him in the end. He will easily be pushed around by some of the league’s bigger linemen and he will need to find some more counter moves to get around them.

NFL scouts compared him to Arthur Moats as he entered the league. Ironically, he is battling Moats for the final outside linebacker spot. The trouble is, Adams’ shoulder injury caused him to miss the first preseason game, one in which Moats looked really strong.

If Adams winds up making the team, he could be a sneaky weapon for Keith Butler‘s defense. If not, another NFL team might find a solid depth linebacker to place on their practice squad, assuming the Steelers wouldn’t place him on theirs.

COLUMN: Dishing On CTE

Chronic Telepathic Encephalopathy, otherwise known as CTE, is probably a bigger topic than how many Super Bowl’s Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will end up with. It’s the most widely talked about topic in football, and possibly sports in general, right now.

In a recent study, 110 out of 111 deceased football players’ brains were found to have some form of CTE. That’s one brain that didn’t show signs of the disease.

There are currently so many theories out there on what CTE really even is, whether football actually causes it, or whether it’s something that can be detected before someone dies.

As of now, CTE can only be detected through brain studies after a patient has passed. There is Alzheimer’s disease, which is being linked to early on-set CTE but it can’t be confirmed at this time.

A lot of the CTE research and physical traits are science. But, to me, there is a lot of common sense that comes with CTE as well.

Anyone who thinks football doesn’t cause CTE is beyond idiotic. In many players cases, and lineman especially, their heads are banging off of one another on every play. While the helmets players wear are padded and well-prospective, it’s not even close to an end-all-be-all innovation to protect someone from head injuries.

How often have you seen head to head collisions result in people being concussed and literally knocked unconscious? I’ve seen it a ton.

One of my biggest problems, though, are the people who cry for football to be eliminated completely or changed to flag football.

Look, people. That’ll never happen.

Football is one of the biggest sporting draws in all of US sporting events. The Super Bowl contends to be one of the most watched television programs in a calendar year and it happens 11 months before the calendar even turns to a new year. People’s Sundays revolve around football. Some people skip Sunday Mass for football. Others will watch it over their wife’s television programming. It’s even aired on Thanksgiving and last season had a few games on Christmas Saturday.

The players love for the sport runs deep. It shows by the passion and the will to play through injuries every Sunday (or Monday or Thursday) even if they shouldn’t be.

The biggest thing is, these players know the risks they face playing such a high-speed and dangerous sport. They sign the contract full-knowing that one bad headshot could end a career. More importantly, it can impact your life after football, which many fans seem to forget that players still have.

Here’s an interesting soundbite from former quarterback Boomer Esiason on his belief that he has CTE:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/boomer-esiason-says-he-most-likely-has-cte-all-football-players-probably-have-it/amp/

As he says, he thinks all players have some form of it due to the head shots they often give and take. He also mentions that players get paid much better and have better benefits than those who played maybe 20 or 30 years ago and obviously further back.

Ask yourself, if those players knew what the current generation of players know now, does the older generation of players still play football?

Likely, the would’ve. But as we see some players like Patrick Willis, Chris Borland, and Brandon Albert retiring at the physical prime of their careers, it makes you wonder what truly would’ve impacted those players. Now, they’ll suffer the consequences.

Consider Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Big Ben has had his fair share of injuries, including concussions, over the years and went so far as almost hanging it up because he wants to be a dad for his kids and now a vegetable. That’s just one case.

That’s why the NFL has a lawsuit against it now with all the individuals who suffered life-altering injuries due to football and the league’s lack of protectiveness for their players.

Many parents are restricting their kids from playing football now because of the dangers and all the studies coming out. If that trend continues, their won’t be anyone to continue to fill out rosters. That shouldn’t be a problem for multiple generations but if large groups begin to quit at a time then eventually there won’t be football anymore.

Can you blame them for blocking their kids from doing it? There are many alternatives out there.

While no sport is really much safer than another, football is very dangerous.

Will that stop anyone from watching? No, including myself.

But do you feel for these families that have to watch their husband, son, father, grandfather, uncle, etc. suffer because he played football? Of course.

CTE is not going away any time soon. It’s going to continue to effect players’ decisions for decades to come. The research will only get more extensive by the day until a cure, or even a way to detect it pre-death, comes out.

COLUMN: Signing Tomlin A Winning Move

Say what you will about Mike Tomlin. All the dude does in win. In fact, in his ten seasons as the head coach in the organization, Tomlin has never had a losing season. He has had two 8-8 seasons and one 9-7 season. All seven others have been 10 or more. That is the definition of success.

Personally, I can say that I have stood by Tomlin for as long as he has been here. I did, however, turn against him during the losing skid last year. I had wanted him fired for the sole reason that, in a year where the Steelers were built to contend, they had fallen to 4-5 and seemingly had their playoff hopes crushed. Obviously, they did not lose a game the rest of the way.

Friday afternoon, the Steelers announced that they had given Tomlin an extension through the 2020 season.

As the news emerged, fans began voicing their opinion on the move throughout the social media waves. Many were in favor of the move. Others were mildly disgusted.

Tomlin can easily be ranked as one of the top five most polarizing figures in Pittsburgh sports today. Not that that’s something sports figures enjoy, but Tomlin isn’t one to listen to the outside noise. That is something that separates Tomlin from other coaches and players around the league.

Tomlin was well aware of his team’s first half underachieving in 2016. He didn’t need to check his Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook to know it. He surely wasn’t going to take it from the media members.

He had lost Cameron Heyward very early on due to injury. He was without Ben Roethlisberger for one of the most important regular season games of the year against New England. He had to take a 4-5 team and right the ship and somehow carry his team to the playoffs. He had to trust his quarterback to find the right player to stretch a touchdown across the goal line in some crazy Christmas miracle.

He took this 4-5 team and turned it into a team that headed back to New England for the AFC Championship and simply got outcoached by one of the best to ever wear a headset.

Despite this, people forget that Tomlin was not only the youngest head coach to reach the Super Bowl, but also the youngest to win it. He is also only the eighth head coach to reach 100 wins in his first ten seasons. That means only seven other coaches in NFL history had averaged 10 wins in their first ten seasons. The Steelers are the only franchise to have three.

But people still want more, right?

One argument I’ve seen used over the years is that Tomlin has underachieved. He’s always had a Hall of Fame quarterback. He’s always had a very good running game to complement. While the defense hasn’t always been spectacular, the offense could’ve made up for it. So, is that on Tomlin?

I’ve always thought that Tomlin was good at in-game adjustments and had always risen to the occasion when the Steelers needed a big win. Whether regular season or a long playoff run, the Steelers’ head coach since 2007 has always stepped up.

Another knock on Tomlin, though, are his unimpressive numbers against sub-.500 opponents. He is well below the .500 mark in those. It’s said that he doesn’t get his team up for these games and always overlooks opponents.

Last season, they were shredded by a rookie quarterback, Carson Wentz, against Philadelphia in week three. He put up 34 points. They lost to the Miami Dolphins in week six by a 30-15 score. They allowed 422 yards, including an ungodly 204 yards to running back Jay Ajayi, which were the highest numbers allowed all season in both overall and rushing yards allowed.

How did Tomlin respond to his critics? By burying the Dolphins in the AFC Wild Card round. By beating the Kansas City Chiefs relying on Chris Boswell to nail six field goals in an 18-16 victory and losing to Bill Belichick and Tom Brady in the AFC Championship game like previously mentioned.

Which brings me to my next point.

Belichick and Brady might be the league’s best quarterback-coach tandem in NFL history. Both have won five Super Bowl’s in their Patriots tenure. How can one possibly argue against someone who has constantly fallen to the two guys who make a case to be the best EVER at their respective jobs?

The Steelers are the best franchise in NFL history and that is backed up by the fact that they have won more Super Bowls than any other franchise in league history while putting themselves in a position to win another every year. They didn’t do it by hiring bad head coaches. Ask the Steelers what they thought about Chuck Noll (four Super Bowl’s) and Bill Cowher (one Super Bowl) and compare Tomlin likewise. It’s not even close. Mike Tomlin is an elite active NFL coach.