The Steelers now have legitimate hope in the season’s second half

by Brandon Walker, For New Pittsburgh Courier

It’s funny how one missed field goal from the most clutch kicker of all-time can make a difference between hope and lamentation.

If Adam Vinatieri had made that 43-yard field goal on Sunday, Nov. 3, the Steelers would be kicking themselves for failing to capitalize on countless opportunities to beat a quality opponent playing the majority of the game with backup quarterback Brian Hoyer. Pittsburgh would be sitting at 3-5 and we would be hearing questions about Coach Mike Tomlin’s future for the next two months. Instead, the Steelers are 4-4, one game back in the AFC Wild Card race, and have a favorable schedule in the second half of the season.

Mike Tomlin should be appreciated more by the city of Pittsburgh for the way he has righted the ship of this team without his future Hall of Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He has maintained the “Standard is the Standard” mantra that he has instilled in his team for the past 13 seasons. Tomlin has heard rumors about his coaching the Washington Redskins, or the Atlanta Falcons, in 2020. These rumors are ridiculous and over the past month, Tomlin proved that he is a Hall of Fame-caliber coach. Tomlin has proven on a yearly basis that he can get the most out of his players by not only motivating his team but also player development. Roethlisberger goes down for the season, in steps Mason Rudolph. When Rudolph goes down, Devlin “Duck” Hodges leads the Steelers on the road to a victory over a Los Angeles Chargers team that may have more talent overall.

As for Sunday’s game, the Indianapolis Colts played a sloppy game and they were without their best offensive weapon, T.Y. Hilton. However, the Steelers showed me that what has been missing from this team for the past few seasons is fortitude. In the Killer B’s era, it was an arrogant, front-running culture that allowed the team to play up and down to their competition at will and hope that their high-end talent would pull them out of the fire. The Steelers had a habit of finger-pointing, drama, and the dreaded “me first” mentality that often prevents talented teams from reaching their ultimate goal, a Super Bowl.

As for Mason Rudolph, he has also shown toughness over the past two games after coming back from the concussion he suffered last month against the Baltimore Ravens. He struggled with two early turnovers against the Dolphins last Monday night, but responded by going 11-of-15 for 112 yards and a touchdown in the second half. On Sunday, Rudolph threw an interception on the first drive of the game, and took a safety in the third quarter, but he kept battling and made key plays when the Steelers needed it. One such play was the 40-yard completion to his college teammate James Washington on the go-ahead scoring drive.

The Steelers defense deserves credit for the team turnaround as well. The defense made two timely sacks on Hoyer in the Colts’ fourth-quarter drive that forced a punt. Bud Dupree recorded a sack, strip, fumble on Hoyer as the Colts were marching down the field for points before halftime. Minkah Fitzpatrick had a timely 96-yard pick six that kept the Steelers in the game and potentially saved their season. The Steelers are playing complementary football and coming together as a true team because they do not have the high-end talent to bail them out like in years past.

This Sunday, Nov. 10, the Steelers will face the defending NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams coming off their bye week. Jared Goff and his deep receiving corps will provide a stiff test to the Steelers’ improved secondary. A win here will provide fans with serious January ambitions.

 

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