Let us gather on this Sunday, the third day of October, for a proper and necessary ceremony. For inside Lambeau Field, in the depths of Titletown, the Green Bay Packers have a chance to bury the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It’s a complete shift from the expectations after Week 1. The Packers were repeatedly stomped on by the New Orleans Saints in a 38-3 loss. Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers went to Western New York and beat the Buffalo Bills 23-16. Oh, how long ago that seems.
Since then, the Steelers have lost home games to the Las Vegas Raiders and the always intimidating Cincinnati Bengals. It’s been brutal to watch. Roethlisberger threw 58 times for barely 300 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions in the loss to the Bengals. Even more startling, their rookie running back Najee Harris was targeted 19 times and had 14 receptions for 102 yards. Roethlisberger kept checking it down over and over again. Harris has a ton of potential, but his strength isn’t in catching check-down passes 14 times a game. This isn’t the Carolina Panthers effectively using Christian McCaffrey. It’s Roethlisberger being broken.
Even in the win against the Bills, Big Ben went 18-for-32 for 188 yards. He wasn’t the reason they beat Buffalo; they won despite him.
It’s a classic scenario of a team hanging on to a quarterback a couple of years too long and that signal-caller continuing to cash the checks. Green Bay was the punchline after taking Jordan Love and igniting a fit of anger within Aaron Rodgers, reminiscent of when they had Brett Favre and drafted Rodgers.
The Kansas City Chiefs were a consistent playoff team with Alex Smith and still traded up to draft Patrick Mahomes. Why don’t more teams go the route of drafting a successor when it’s earlier rather than later? What the hell is the succession plan in Pittsburgh? Nobody is signing up for Dwayne Haskins stock. Thus, they are stuck with Roethlisberger for now.
The brutal part is how much Roethlisberger supposedly invested in the offseason to get into shape. At one point, per Ryan Burr and on CBS Sports, Big Ben’s camp stated that his diet was allegedly stricter than Tom Brady‘s.
Ryan Burr noted that Roethlisberger is reportedly in “the best shape of his life,” going on to report: “Ben’s camp says biggest concern is weight loss. He has been so driven since season ended. Source says his diet is stricter than Brady.”
Are we supposed to believe that after 18 offseasons of cheeseburgers and brews, Big Ben is suddenly invested in getting into shape? I’d be hard-pressed to find those results on the field. The Steelers and Roethlisberger will milk this bad boy out to its bitter end, one check-down pass at a time.
The loss to the Las Vegas Raiders was explainable. Vegas looks like a decent team this year, and although the result was somewhat surprising, it was a loss that could be swallowed. Losing by 14 points at home to the Bengals and putting up 10 points on a defense that flat-out isn’t good spells doom and gloom. Now, they head to Lambeau Field to face a Packers team riding high after a dramatic win over the San Francisco 49ers.
Before the year, the matchup was billed as two quarterbacks who faced off in the Super Bowl a decade ago. Rodgers vs. Roethlisberger. While it’s still true, the trajectories of their career paths could not be more different.
Rodgers is 37 playing like he’s 30 coming off an MVP campaign. There’s a legitimate case to be made that No. 12 has never played better in his career than he did last year. Roethlisberger is 39 and looks like a 1990 Harley Davidson that sputters and sometimes doesn’t start but some will swear still has plenty of juice left in the tank.
It’s not all on Roethlisberger, though.
While there’s a clear need to change the blueprint, offensive coordinator Matt Canada reassured all Steelers fans that they would be sticking to the plan this week, per TribLive.com. Because it worked so well as they combined for 27 total points over the last two weeks against the Raiders and Bengals.
“We’re gonna stick with what we’re doing,” Canada said Thursday. “That’s not the sexy answer, but we believe we are on the right track.”
“We believe we’ve got the players to do it,” Canada said. “If we go out and execute our plan and everyone does what they are supposed to do, starting with me. … Once we do that and see that executed, I supposed at that point if none of it worked, then we might have something to talk about.”
Not exactly the speech Herb Brooks gave to the Americans before they wiped the ice with the Russians.
Have you ever seen the 1974 bout between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman? Ali knocks out Foreman in Round 8. It’s one of those fights that you repeatedly watch, expecting to see something different, but you never do. That’s how Matt Canada is with this Steelers offense. It’s the same thing over and over, and he’s expecting different results.
This matchup doesn’t have the hype that it did before the season started. Green Bay is ascending, and the Steelers are fizzling out fast. The Bengals got the shovels out and dug the hole. The Packers can pour the dirt on top this Sunday. At this point, they’d be doing Pittsburgh a favor.
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