Aubrey Bruce: Steelers have brilliant minds leading their defense

GET OFF ME!!! STEELERS RECEIVER CHASE CLAYPOOL eludes Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt in Pittsburgh’s 23-20 overtime win in Cincinnati, Sept. 11. (Photo by Courier photographer Mike Patton)

by Aubrey Bruce, For New Pittsburgh Courier

This past Sunday, Sept. 11, the Pittsburgh Steelers had an unlikely and unexpected victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in overtime by the score of 23-20.  This Steelers team had received a death warrant from many pundits, especially the imaginary know-it-all local yokel crew. However, the Ohio media did exhibit some credibility. 

Andrew Gillis wrote the following preview for before the game: “With quarterback Joe Burrow in his third season as a pro, the Steelers will have their hands full in slowing down one of the league’s most talented offenses. The Steelers are going to keep this close. Week 1 weirdness is certainly always expected, but the Steelers have a stout defense that’s going to do their best to get after Burrow and make his life difficult. Cincinnati hasn’t seen what a true No. 1 offense looks like with Trubisky under center, and that’ll take some time to figure out: In the end, Cincinnati’s offense will make one more play than Pittsburgh’s and that’s going to be the difference. The point spread: The Bengals are favored by 7.”


One would expect such flawed insight based upon the Bengals offense vs. a Steelers offense and defense that had more than a few questions entering the 2022 season. But alas, haters: the game has to be played on the field, not in the press box or the local sports bar.  Also, some of these scribes act as if they have been drinking a formaldehyde milkshake in a mausoleum press box waiting for Part II of the zombie invasion to begin.

Hey folks, let’s not wait until we get that February Black History Month nip in the air before we honor Coach “T.” In 2003, Mike Tomlin won Super Bowl XXXVII as the defensive backs coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in a game where his defensive backs recorded five interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns. Let’s be real. The thought of the Bucs secondary being coached by a youthful Tomlin in a Super Bowl against the wise and experienced Raiders QB Rich Gannon was quietly considered and prophesied by a few folks to be a probable mismatch. That season, Gannon won the NFL Most Valuable Player award after a record-setting 2002 season.

If Tomlin, in his early 30s, could devise a defensive scheme to bait, switch and thrust an established NFL QB into a dark and irredeemable performance, what makes anyone think Tomlin, at age 50 with far more coaching experience, could not coax and coach his present, albeit young and inexperienced, secondary to cause difficulty and discomfort for Bengals’ third-year QB Joe Burrow? Oh, by the way, Sporting News ranks Rich Gannon’s performance in Super Bowl 37 as the third worst in Super Bowl history.

With the stellar and stout performance of the Steelers defense, the Pittsburgh YBS Network (Yinzers BullS—T Network) continues to spew comments like: “For the most part, the defense should be credited for containing the Bengals’ star skill players. That job became easier when Tee Higgins left with a concussion in the first half.” Well, using that logic, didn’t the Bengals have an easier time of it when Steelers linebacker T.J Watt was injured?

Another gem of prophecy that came forth from the football Gods was echoed by Mark Madden. “They (the Steelers) won the battle in Cincinnati, and they lost the war.” He said that the only reason the Steelers hung in the game and eventually won it was because the defense was brilliant and made up for how bad the offense was, and in particular, how bad the offensive line was.

“And if T.J. Watt — who had a great game (Sunday) — is out for the season, I don’t see how anyone can say the ‘next man up’ b.s. that the Steelers like to promulgate,” Madden said.

It is even alleged that the Steelers’ defense faded. The time of possession for Pittsburgh was 26 minutes. The TOP for Cincinnati was 44 minutes. The Bengals had 32 first downs; the Steelers had only moved the chains 13 times even after the defense handed them 5 turnovers on a Black and Gold platter. Shouldn’t the next man be able to step up? The short answer is, hell yeah, ya big dummy. But where was the next man up on offense? The Bengals ran 94 plays, the Steelers ran 61 plays. Unless you have a defense, whose only weakness is kryptonite, any average or above average defense under those abnormal game conditions would have faded long before the end of the 5th quarter (four quarters plus overtime). 

Let us not have a repetition of “Groundhog Day,” when the same behavior is repeated over and over again, game after game, season after season, and year after year: when Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ offense faltered, the blame for many of the losses was generally heaped upon the shoulders of the defense. It is a new era and please remember this invaluable nugget of info, folks: “when the going gets tough, the tough get coaching” and the Steelers have a few brilliant defensive minds leading their soldiers into battle. They don’t have to worry about “the next coach up” because the next coach is the coach of the present.




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