“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he doesn’t exist”. These words were spoken by Kevin Spacey’s character in the 1995 cult hit The Usual Suspects.
“So how does this pertain to the Steelers” is a question that one may be asking. Well allow me to explain by taking you back to September 9th, 2009.
Less than 24 hours before the Steelers were set to kick off the 2009-10 NFL season just about every analyst – both professional and amateur – had to set their predictions for the season in stone and the biggest amongst all of those predictions were the two teams that would represent their respective conferences in Super Bowl XLIV. When one ignores the bias of writers I would wager that maybe 5% of the national scene picked the Steelers to even repeat as AFC Champions. The Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Baltimore Ravens, New York Giants, Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers were all teams that received a tremendous amount of pre-season hype and were the common favorites amongst these analyst to reach the Super Bowl.
When I got the opportunity to ask some of these analyst what the Steelers did to become inferior to all of these teams – only two of which were arguably better last season – the response was the same every single time; “They have a target on their back and teams will be gunning for them.” This was completely understandable I mean there have only been three teams to repeat since 1990. However, as the season wore on it became apparent that many people were ready to denounce the Steelers with relative ease.
After the loss to the Bears in week two on the road many power rankings and analyst were willing to give the benefit of the doubt. However, after a week three loss – on the road – to the Bengals by surrendering a last second drive the flood gates opened up. The media quickly forgot that benefit of the doubt by not remembering a Limas Sweed drop in the endzone or a missed Jeff Reed field goal. However, my sentiments to that quickly became “who cares because where a team is viewed by the media doesn’t really mean anything.” However I have recently came to a realization in regards to this stance. One that was at the opposite end of the spectrum.
While the Steelers could care less about where the media view them, this new media view on the Steelers is actually beneficial. Remember earlier how most of the media’s viewpoint was that the Steelers would have trouble repeating because they were other team’s “Super Bowl”? Well that no longer seems to be the case since – according to the media – the Steelers seem to be just another team now.
How have I arrived at this conclusion that the Steelers are “just another team now” according to the media?
Well it’s quite simple actually. Having a habit of watching both ESPN and the NFL Network’s recap coverage until I fall asleep – usually well into the hours of the morning – I’ve noticed that the Steelers have failed to get relatively any attention paid to them for the past two weeks. Hell when they beat the Titans there was barely any coverage. Only when the Steelers have lost has there been any extensive coverage. Sure all four of their games were on NFL Replay this year but that’s beside the point.
The media has gone off on a tizzy and has started to compare Eli Manning to Peyton Manning over the past two weeks. That is fine and dandy – not really – given that he is putting up big numbers… but so is Ben Roethlisberger. In fact, Roethlisberger is arguably playing better and yet the media has done nothing but talk about Manning and Rivers’ production this season. The Steelers offensive line has played well – if not great – since week two and yet no credit has been given by the media. Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, and Santonio Holmes are all top five – by means of production – at their respective positions (flanker, split end and slot receiver) this season and no coverage, but Mario Manningham and Steve Smith have gotten this coverage. As have DeSean Jackson, Miles Austin, and Austin Collie.
Now this may seem like a big cry for respect but that has nothing to do with it. In fact, I am overly happy that the Steelers aren’t getting respect because they can use this. No I’m not talking in the stereotypical “bulletin board material” way. Rather, I am talking about in the sense that – for some reason – the Steelers aren’t a very good team in the eyes of many and as a result that pre-season stigma of “reigning Super Bowl champions” seems almost non-existent at this point. I need not mention the five undefeated teams. But the Jets, Patriots, Ravens, Chargers, Eagles, Cowboys, Bears, 49ers and Falcons – all teams that have the same amount of wins (or less) as the Steelers are all considered easily better with the exception of the Cowboys and maybe the Chargers. In fact, the Steelers are considered by many to be sitting outside the top six in the AFC.
With this I think that it is safe to say that – as of right now – the stigma is off the Steelers and few remember what they did last year. They are now just another team. A “middle of the pack” team if you will despite the fact that they lost by a combined six points to two teams that are a combined 7-2 and did so on the road after late game mistakes.
This lethargic 3-2 start is a blessing in disguise because the Steelers are not getting the respect due and flying under the radar without the bullseye on their backs might be exactly what they needed.