The city was just getting back to normal after a bitter and long election season. The yard signs are down and my neighbors seemed once more willing to smile and nod at one another as they met on the street walking the dog because, politics aside, one thing draws us together in common bond: we love the Steelers around here. And life was pretty good. The defense, even without Troy Polamalu, was improving and looking like the dominant force we’ve come to know and love. Ben Roethlisberger was having a Pro Bowl season, protected by an offensive line that was getting better as the season wore on, and we had found ourselves a mini-Bus in Jonathan Dwyer to compliment the Young Money Family core of receivers. Then the Kansas City game happened.
Now, the city seems divided once more, only instead of down blue and red lines, it’s black and gold ones. Are you pro-Leftwich or pro-Batch? Are you wanting the team to begin to groom a Big Ben replacement, or do you think that’s ridiculous because he’s only 30 and at the top of his game? Do you think Tomlin knew more than he’s letting on about Leftwich’s health after that early touchdown Sunday night and therefore think the loss is his fault? Or do you think he should have started Charlie Batch in the first place and the loss is his fault? Or, are you in the small minority, sort of like an Independent, and think that the game against the Ravens actually shows reason for optimism (the team kept it close and the defense made sure they were giving the offense an opportunity to win it, which they just weren’t quite able to capitalize on, but give them a little more time to gel with a back-up quarterback and the next match-up will be a different story)?
I am in the pro-Batch camp. I have always liked him. He’s a good fit for the team and has always done what was needed when it was needed. But I recognize that he’s 37. Therefore, I’m also in the draft-to-get-an-understudy-for-Ben -Roethlisberger-camp. Not because I don’t have faith in our starting quarterback, but because his manner of play – extending plays by squirming outside the pocket – exposes him to the very things that make us have these kinds of discussions. The AFC North could arguably be called the most physical division in football. And when division rivals clash, it is always a rough, hard fought confrontation. It is inevitable that injuries will be sustained. Know it, accept it and plan for it. The team that does that the best will win the division (doth quoth the Raven – at the moment anyway).
So, what can we agree on? Perhaps it is that Jonathan Dwyer looks to be the future star of the running back corp. Maybe it’s that we are very glad Dick LeBeau is our defensive coordinator. Perhaps it is the acceptance that, like in hockey, the goal is just to make the playoffs and then anything can happen. Maybe it is the acceptance that, no matter what camp you fall into, Charlie Batch will be under center come Sunday, so we might as well rally behind him.
Like I said a number of times during the election, Democrat or Republican, we’re all one nation, so can’t we all just get along? Steeler Nation: we’re all one fan base, let’s all get along.