The Three Spirits of Yancey Thigpen worked a Christmas miracle at Heinz Field this week in the Steelers win over Green Bay.
For those of you who may not remember (and even for those of you who do), in the last game of the 1995 season, the Steelers went to Green Bay with an NFC playoff spot on the line for the Packers, while the Steelers had already clinched an AFC playoff spot.
With the Packers leading 24-19 in the late stages of the fourth quarter, the Steelers took possession of the ball and drove to inside the Packers 10-yard line. With one last shot to win the game, Steelers quarterback Neil O'Donnell lofted a soft pass to Yancey Thigpen, who was all alone in the corner of the end zone. If Yancey catches the pass, the Steelers enter the playoffs on a nine-game winning streak and the Packers are eliminated from the playoffs.
Yancey dropped the ball.
And Packer nation was forever grateful to Yancey and the Steelers for giving them a chance to compete in the playoffs.
Well, what goes around comes around, and the debt has been repaid. The spirit of Yancey roamed Heinz Field this week as the Steelers ended the game as they started it, with a touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Mike Wallace with literally no time left on the clock.
Although this win doesn't ensure a playoff spot for the Steelers, it keeps their very slim hopes alive.
Steeler Nation might be wise not to get too excited just yet, however, because although the game was as exciting as could be and the outcome was favorable, both the offense and defense continued the idiotic tendencies that put them in their predicament in the first place.
Once again, Mike Tomlin and Bruce Arians tried their best to prevent the Steelers from winning, but the players would have none of it.
Once again, Bruce Arians demonstrated his absolute cluelessness as a play caller by completely ignoring the running game and calling only passing plays on the Steelers' first two possessions inside the Packers' red zone. Instead of scoring one or two touchdowns, the Steelers came away with two field goals, reminiscent of the pitiful red zone performance that resulted in losses to Cincinnati and Oakland.
And as I'm writing this, I'm watching Minnesota call running plays—and scoring—with Adrian Peterson inside the red zone, even though Brett Favre seems to be able to pass at will against Carolina. Yet Bruce Arians doesn't think enough of Rashard Mendenhall even to attempt a single running play with 1st-and-10 at the Packers 12-yard line?
Once again, Mike Tomlin demonstrated his irresponsibility as a "game manager" and ultimate decision-maker by refusing to overrule Bruce Arians and his moronic play-calling in the red zone, and by showing for the whole world to see his absolute lack of confidence in his special teams and defense by continually calling for short kickoffs and an idiotic-beyond-belief call for an onside kick with a two point lead and three minutes left in the game.
Once again, as much as I like Dick Lebeau as a defensive coach, he demonstrated an increasing cluelessness about the ability of his defensive backs to play soft coverage to prevent the big play. The defense hasn't been able to stop the big play using soft coverage all season, so instead of continuing the soft coverage with moderate pass-rushing pressure, why not play tighter coverage and increase the pass-rushing pressure?
As exhilarating as this win was, I cannot see how it is possible that the Steelers can even begin to compete in the playoffs, if they should even make the playoffs, with the kind of strategy, tactics and coaching that they demonstrated against the Packers. The Steelers still need a lot of work, as well as a lot of help from other teams.
But if you're going to dream, dream big.
So, yes, Virginia, there is still a chance to make the playoffs.
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