By Christina Rivers
There is no disputing the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers are in a free fall. With four losses in their last five games and players tottering in and out of the lineup due to injuries, the Steelers are in a proverbial hurt locker. If Aristotle were to describe the situation, he might say that Pittsburgh has the big picture before them, they have yet to find the target or perfect their aim. While golden parachutes are given to big executives at times of crisis, there is no ultimate escape for the Steelers as they enter their final two games of the 2012 NFL regular season. They play through it or they just hit the ground with a thud. It seems a bit harsh, but it is the bitter reality of professional football.
Ed Bouchette recently quoted Larry Foote as having said, “We’re going to see what we’re made of. We’re going to fold to the pressure or make love to it.” Any doubts as to the linebacker’s sincerity should be taken back to him for answers, as this writer is not responsible for the reaction the reader might receive. It is interesting that Foote put the truth out there so eloquently. He didn’t use excuses. He didn’t play the blame game. He made a statement that is glaringly and beautifully poignant. The Steelers will either use the stress they are currently under or they won’t. Pressure isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Without it, there wouldn’t be any diamonds in those Super Bowl rings.
While fans bicker on social media sites about nearly every aspect of the team, including players and coaching staff, the entire Steelers organization should just calmly shut the door and let the silence fill in. They have two games. Both will be played at Heinz Field, the cradle of comfort for a team that has been battered all year and is looking for a healthier atmosphere. Both games are against teams in their division; one that has yet to crown a champion and has left the door open for the dragon slayer to take his seat. It seems fantastic, when you think about the entire season, to imagine how good it would feel to finally just have a seat at the table this year, let alone the feast. The Steelers have that opportunity, they just have to go out there and make it happen.
Cincinnati has turned their season around after being beaten, 24-17, by the Steelers on October 21. The Bengals will be well-rested after purring along for five wins out of their last six games and a thrumming of the Philadelphia Eagles last Thursday. After Week 10, nearly everyone expected that the road to the AFC North might mean taming the Bengals at the tail-end of the season, and it will come to pass. There will be no red carpet treatment.
Cleveland has lost all hopes at a playoff showing, so the Browns would love to pull the upset once again and trip the Steelers just as they’re on the threshold. Cleveland’s defense has actually been one of its best units, and Pittsburgh has struggled to get a cohesive offensive unit on the field as of late. It may not matter that the Steelers have beaten them 16 times in the last 18 meetings. Cleveland will play the spoiler if they get the opportunity.
This comes back to Foote’s statement. Embracing the load rather than running from it is exactly what Pittsburgh needs right now. That means that every player will have to come to terms with their own demons and create an individual purpose that fits into the overall team stratagem. After all, that is what a team is all about. Executing that plan will require dedication, direction and vision. The Steelers can see the target. They’ve been looking at that objective all year, just as every team in the NFL does every season. A wise teacher once told me that what holds my attention ultimately controls my vision, and his statement applies to NFL teams as well as they do to my own life. It will be the mechanism that Pittsburgh chooses to focus their aim that will determine how close they come or how far they fall short. I’m hoping to see some love in the next couple of weeks, right on target.
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Christina Rivers is freelance journalist and photographer with a life-long love of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Credentialed with the organization, Christina provides a unique perspective gained through her knowledge and understanding of Steelers history, the Rooney family and relationships with past and present players. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.