Humiliating.

From the first play of the game when “Pro Bowler” Maurkice Pouncey snapped the ball five feet over Ben Roethlisberger’s head, and Ben was so afraid he would get hit he watched while the Browns pounced on the loose ball for a touchdown.

It got worse.

Then worse.

Then, well, you can figure it out from there.

The Cleveland Browns have been the Steelers little brother forever.

Not Sunday night. Maybe not for some time.

The Steelers need an overhaul from top to bottom, and yes, that starts with the head coach.

Mike Tomlin has allowed season collapses three years running. They have been embarrassed in his last two playoff appearances. There are playoff failures aplenty. They’ve only played one relevant playoff game in the last ten years.

For the record, I don’t think Tomlin is going anywhere. It is time, but the Rooneys have always been reluctant to fire head coaches. All they should have to look at is the tape of the Jacksonville playoff game of 2017 and this eerily similar game last night.

Randy Fichtner is an atrocity as an offensive coordinator and has to go regardless of anything else that happens. He was Ben Roethlisberger’s pick. He is just not qualified. No other team would have any interest in him. Here is a great example of his ineptitude.

Keith Butler had a ton of talent on defense to start the year. As injuries whittled away that talent they began to look like the defense of two and three years ago. Butler made some adjustments, but remains questionable in my mind. There is no excuse to have a slow footed backup linebacker covering slot receivers. See for yourself.

All night long. Butler probably isn’t going anywhere either, but his leash should be very short.

Then there is the quarterback. They changed the offense for him this year because he is like peanut brittle. He proved more than enough to me that he can still throw the ball. But he can’t move. At all. It is clear he is afraid to get hit. You can’t play quarterback that way. In this particular game Ben tossed four to the Cleveland Browns. He threw it 68 times for 501 yards, but the turnovers made it all a moot point. Roethlisberger is owed 41 million dollars, and said after the game he hoped the Steelers want him back. These picture after the game makes you wonder if he truly believes he has more games in him.


Yes, those are tears. This looks a lot like a guy that thinks it could all be over. I think it should be over. It’s time for the Steelers to look forward, and that vision shouldn’t include Ben Roethlisberger.

The last part(for now) to address is the offensive line. Maurkice Pouncey is finished. His snap started things going down the toilet for the Steelers in this game, but his blocking has been lacking all year. David DeCastro is aging quickly. The rest of the line is either young or questionable, and in some cases both. Rebuilding the line of scrimmage isn’t easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight.

Sunday night’s loss is the most embarrassing playoff loss in Steelers history. They lost in overtime to Tim Tebow and the 8-8 Broncos in 2011, and they lost to a far inferior Jacksonville team in 2017, giving up 45 points in the process.

Last night they fell behind 28-0 before you could get comfy on your couch. The offense kept giving the Browns the ball and the defense provided no resistance. Even after a bit of a comeback, the final tally was 48-37. 48 points. To a team playing without their two best cornerbacks, two offensive linemen, and oh, the Browns head coach was locked in his basement on COVID-19 quarantine.

The Browns offensive line, minus two starters, destroyed the Steelers. TJ Watt didn’t get close to Baker Mayfield. Early on, the Browns running backs were rarely touched. To boot, receivers ran free across the middle regularly.

It was truly embarrassing.

The coaching wasn’t any better. Going for two. Not going for two. Mike Tomlin seemed to have no clue. Finally, with momentum all on the Steelers side, Tomlin chose to punt on fourth and one from midfield. One of his famous Tomlinisms is, “ If you can’t make one yard you don’t deserve to win.” He didn’t even try. The sails went out of the Steelers, and the Browns marched right down the field to put another nail in the coffin.

Will it be Tomlin’s coffin?

What about Roethlisberger’s?

The Steelers have a ton of questions facing them, and the answers may be uncomfortable.

Ben sure seems like he was on his last leg this year. Unless he becomes the bionic man and gets some replacement parts, why should anyone think it will get better? The end arrives for even the best players. Some know it, but few like to admit it. That will easily be the biggest question for this organization to answer this offseason. Who will quarterback this team in 2021? Ben? Sam Darnold? Matthew Stafford? Mason Rudolph?

Who will coach that quarterback?

I’ve been a firm supporter of Mike Tomlin, and sure would miss his quotes if he wasn’t coaching the Steelers. However, it may be time for a new voice. A new message. A different approach. This most humiliating loss to little brother Cleveland firmly placed the exclamation point on the last decade of Steelers playoff failures and collapses under Tomlin.

Dying on the vine, to quote Tomlin, is not the standard in Pittsburgh. The standard is not being met. It is time for change.

Super WildCard Weekend

Saturday

  • The first game of the weekend was as competitive as I thought it would be. The Indianapolis Colts matched up well with Buffalo. The Bills had some fans, so a bit more of home field advantage. The Colts, however, simply made too many mistakes to win the game. A missed field goal and a turnover on downs inside the five yard line sealed the Colts fate. The Colts will need a quarterback next season, and they should be a contender. Phillip Rivers gave it all he had, but couldn’t even get the final Hail Mary pass to the end zone from midfield. He’s done. The Bills are not. Baltimore comes calling next weekend.
  • The second game on Saturday was a real dud. The Los Angeles Rams went to Seattle with a backup quarterback who got hurt and was replaced by their regular quarterback, Jared Goff. Goff played with a busted thumb, and really couldn’t throw very well, though it was tough to distinguish from his usual throws. The good news for the Rams was Seattle and quarterback Russell Wilson were even worse. The offensive line in Seattle was a sieve. Somewhere in the middle of the season the Seahawks flew south, and Pete Carroll ran out of magic tricks. The Rams slogged to a victory and better get their hand warmers ready, as they head to Green Bay next weekend.
  • The last game Saturday night contained the most drama. Tampa Bay and *ahem* veteran Tom Brady were heavy favorites in Washington and some guy named Taylor Heineke. Heineke was forced into action due to an injury to starter Alex Smith. This turned out to be a really good thing. Heineke was tremendous. He ran and passed the WFT to within two points of Tampa in the second half.  He flew to the end zone in the fourth quarter to keep his team within range. Unfortunately for Washington, Tom Brady was spectacular, too. Washington’s last drive ended way short of the end zone, and the Buccaneers are off to face New Orleans for the third time this year. I grudgingly admit that Brady looks as good as I’ve seen him look. He is throwing downfield with a lot of success. They suddenly look like a tough out.

Sunday 

  • Sunday kicked off in Nashville with the Lamar Jackson show. Tennessee scored the first ten points of the game and had the Ravens offense on lockdown. Then Jackson got loose, over and over again. I will never understand why people rush up field on Jackson. That gives him the lanes to run in. He can’t throw the football well enough to beat good teams. It is his legs that beat teams. Tennessee just couldn’t contain him, and the Titans bell cow, Derek He ray, was stuck in neutral all day. Much like Seattle, somewhere along the line Tennessee dropped off the cliff.
  • The middle game Sunday was a total mismatch on paper and on the field. New Orleans hosted the Chicago Bears and stud QB Mitchell Trubisky. The NFL seemed to know this one could be a flop and agreed to simulcast the game on Nickelodeon(more on that in Takes). If you managed to stay awake through this snooze fest, you saw New Orleans eventually wear down the Bears defense, who spends most of their day on the field. That is because the Bears offense is putrid. If Trubisky is your quarterback going forward, expect more 8-8 seasons. The Saints will host Brady and the Bucs. They beat them twice this season. It is really hard—like super duper hard— to beat a team similar to you three times in a season.

Two Cent Takes

NHL

~The newly configured Eastern division will be brutal.

~The Flyers have a goaltender who will not require them to score a ton to win. They will contend for division title.

The Penguins are a mystery, but I never doubt Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. With a full(well, 56 games worth) season of Jake Guentzel they should be in the playoff mix.

~The problem with the above take is Washington, Boston, Philly, New York Islanders, and potentially the New York Rangers will all be in the playoff mix.

~This could be a thrill ride 56 games. Let’s hope COVID-19 doesn’t mess it up.

MLB

~Tis the season for Cleveland to do their yearly trading of high priced players. Time will tell if they managed to continue their streak of acquiring good players.

~Suddenly the Mets look really good. Adding Francisco Lindor to the lineup and Carlos Carrasco to an already stacked pitching rotation makes them instant contenders.

~If the Mets are contenders and the Braves are contenders and the Nationals are contenders, what does that make the Phillies?

~My weekly pitch for a salary cap: teams clearly are not willing to spend willie-nillie as indicated by the slowest offseason in recent memory.

~The Pirates will be nearly unrecognizable. 110 losses is well within reach.

NBA

~The 76ers are off to a great start. They lead the East despite losing Saturday with only 7 healthy players. Think Doc Rivers has made a difference?

~It is early, but COVID-19 is already wreaking havoc in the NBA.

College Hoops

~Covid-19 is like trying to avoid land mines. College basketball is finding that out unfortunately. So many canceled games.

~It is too bad the above take is true. A lot of good basketball is being played.

~March Madness will happen. Indianapolis will play host to the entire tournament. The NCAA has put some pretty stringent and specific protocol in place. They don’t get much right, but are on point here.

~Here are my weekly risers, fallers, and keep an eye on(ers).

  • Slam Dunkin’: Baylor, Iowa, Creighton

Baylor is curb stomping every opponent right now. Iowa had a stumble at Minnesota, but are back to rolling. Creighton is taking advantage of a down year in the Big East.

  • Brick Layin’: North Carolina, Maryland, Georgia

North Carolina beat bottom feeders Notre Dame and Miami by a combined three points, and that has been their high point. Maryland beat Wisconsin and looked primed for a run. Three straight losses later, not so much. Tom Crean’s Bulldogs started 7-0, but now find themselves 7-3.

  • Going to the Hoop: Louisville, Clemson, Stanford

Louisville is starting to round into form and will get two key players back from injury soon. Clemson is a notorious “under the radar” team. Stanford has a veteran team led by Oscar Da Silva, oh, and one of the best freshman in the country Ziaire Williams.

College Football

~Penn State fired Kirk Ciarrocca after just one season as OC. He was the proverbial square peg in a round hole. Plus, someone always has to take the fall after a miserable season like the Nittany Lions suffered through. In this case, they picked the right guy. Sean Clifford has to be thrilled.

~The new OC at Penn State is Mike Yurcich, last seen at Texas. Texas had a Trace McSorley-like quarterback in Sam Ehlinger and averaged nearly 500 yards per game. Yurcich will undoubtedly run a more wide open set. He will not be running it against Big 12 defenses.

~USC landed the number one recruit in the land with the signing of defensive end Korey Foreman. Foreman admitted a big factor was the money he can make from his likeness in LA. When the NCAA relents on the NIL situation, that will become a big factor in recruiting the top players.

~Tonight the sham of a season comes to an end. Hopefully schools made enough money to keep the tennis team going(heavy sarcasm intended). For the record: Alabama 42 Ohio State 27.

NFL

~Is someone really going to hire Marvin Lewis again?

~Has anyone told Urban Meyer there is no recruiting in the NFL? Meyers best Florida team would probably beat the Jaguars team he will inherit.

~Bill O’ Brien became a disaster in Houston. He traded DeAndre Hopkins for a run of the mill running back. Now DeShaun Watson wants out. Do you think JJ Watt would like to find a new home? Maybe somewhere with a more professionally run organization?

~Super WildCard Weekend is here to stay. Wall to wall elimination football on Saturday and Sunday was fantastic. Great move by the NFL. Eight teams would work, too, but we already have a couple bad teams making it at seven teams.

~Saints vs Bears on Nickelodeon was great, and Noah Eagle and Nate Burleson were fantastic.  I have just one question. When did Spongebob, Patrick, and Mr. Krabs get new voices? Seriously unsettling.

And how did parents explain this one?

A Penny For My Final Thought…

Remember when some flew off the handle at athletes—specifically NFL and NBA players—who took a knee during the National Anthem?

Those players were using the symbolic gesture to protest inequality in our country. And it became just that, a symbolic gesture, when most players didn’t continue after the initial game of the season.

As I said, many went bonkers over the gesture. Angry tweets, talk shows were overwhelmed with callers complaining about the protest, some actually stopped watching the sports they love because of the kneeling.

The reason for the protest was just.

The protest was peaceful.

That didn’t stop some from losing it. They felt that the players were disrespecting the flag and supporting the rioting that was happening throughout the summer. For the record, I know not one sane person who thinks rioting is a good idea.

But fair enough.

The events we witnessed in Washington, DC, this week made me think back to the outcry about those player protests. Many of the people that were enraged during the social justice protests either stormed the Capitol building this week or supported those who stormed the Capitol building this week. The person who incited this week’s riot—Donald J Trump—said of the NFL protests that owners should “fire those SOB’s”.

Unlike the player’s protest, this protest stemmed from unfounded claims that the election was rigged, and that is the only reason why Trump lost the election. While there was ample evidence of social injustice and inequality, the election claims were shot down by something like 5,397 judges and courts. Some of the judges were Trump appointed judges.

The protesters this week carried around Confederate flags. They ripped the American flag from their poles they were carrying to replace them with Trump flags. They desecrated a building that houses the foundation of our government. A building that hadn’t been breached since The War of 1812. Yet, I guarantee there are still some that think it is the athletes who disrespected the flag and their country.

If you think there isn’t social inequality, you are part of the problem. If you equate the player protests with this nonsense, you are part of the problem. If you don’t see that there is a double standard in this country, you are part of the problem.

If the protesters this past week would have been of a different persuasion, rather than invite them through the barricade as some police did at the Capitol, there would have been night sticks wailing, bullets flying, and handcuffs and shackles in full force. If you don’t realize that, you are part of the problem.

I don’t typically agree with Mike Kryzewski on much.

This time I do agree with Coach K. Although it does seem to track on political lines, he is right that this isn’t about Republican or Democrat. This is about who we want to be. How we want to go forward as a country. As Americans.

I said it back in the summer with the first wave of protests. I don’t judge people by race, ethnicity, or religion. If you are an a**hole then you aren’t for me. If you are not, then let’s be teammates. Folks that break store windows to go in and take stuff are a**holes. People who proudly wave the Confederate flag, tough guys who carry semi-automatic weapons to state capital buildings to threaten government leaders, and certainly clowns like this who mixed up his Leif Erickson and Daniel Boone costumes and brought his two cavemen friends with him to desecrate the nation’s Capitol building also qualify as a**holes.

So when athletes decide to use their platform to participate in a peaceful protest, remember the events of last week. The double standard that stood out like a sore thumb at the Capitol is why the players protested to begin with. It was never about trying to do anything to dishonor the flag or the country. It was about bringing attention to a legitimate problem.

Can you say that about last week’s events?

And if you quit watching the sports you love over some players kneeling yet don’t think much was wrong with last week’s “protest”, then you were never a true fanatic. Nor will we ever be teammates.

Just my two cents…