I talk with Neal Coolong (@NealCoolong) about the game on Sunday night. Below are my questions and his answers.
1. I have to ask about Mike Tomlin and his stepping on the field incident. From a Steelers fan perspective, what was the deal. I find it hard to believe he would do something like that on purpose, but the fine was hefty. What was the take on your site?
I think the fine was in the ballpark of what people thought (or even the same amount some might have offered to pay Tomlin to not have coached that game). A team was talked about, and even a suspension. Most didn't think a draft pick should be a consideration...and most still feel that way. There's no precedent for it, but the commissioner's office has no problem legislating from the bench.
If the league does dock the Steelers a draft pick I wouldn't be at all surprised if we start hearing talk about lawsuits.
As a writer, I'm not exactly looking forward to that...
2. What part of the offense is the Steelers strength? When the Bengals prepare for the game, what phase do you think has more success against the Bengals defense?
Strengths? You kiddin' me?!?
Actually, the Steelers' offense has come on as of late, and it's created some thought of keeping it intact moving forward. Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery are both free agents but it looks like they may be able to get Maurkice Pouncey back with four guys who started the previous year.
A lot of it is running through QB Ben Roethlisberger, which shouldn't be a surprise. They're getting high level play from Antonio Brown, improving play from Heath Miller and great all around production from Le'Veon Bell. They're throwing well, and while their running numbers aren't good, they're utilizing something of a run-by-throwing approach. Roethlisberger is throwing short, keeping his team in manageable situations and we're starting to see better overall production.
3. Is there any truth to the Ben Roethlisberger against Todd Haley stories?
Have Todd Haley and Ben Roethlisberger disagreed in the 29 games and nearly two seasons they've worked together? Probably. I disagree with my boss on nearly a minute-to-minute basis.
It's a polarizing issue, but at the same time, I think if you kick over rocks, you're gonna find worms and players and coaches disagreeing here and there, and maybe that gets heated here and there.
My basic response is "Yeah, maybe, so what?"
4. In your heart of hearts, what do you put the Steelers playoff chances at?
In my heart of hearts, as well as my kidney of hearts, the Steelers are not making the playoffs this year. Last week really hurt, as did early season losses to poor teams like Minnesota, Oakland and Tennessee.
The defense just gave up too many big plays and the offense wasn't consistent enough when it counted earlier in the year.
5. If the Bengals make the post season, and the Steelers do not, can fans of the Black and Gold root for division teams or no? In the past Bengals fans have had to ponder this question often.
As Lawrence would say...".........No. ...... No. ...... Shit no, man! I believe you'd get your ass kicked sayin' sumpin like 'at, man."
No offense to anyone, the Bengals have a nice team and all, I don't wish them any specific harm, but I don't have any interest in rooting for them. I've never understood the notion of division pride or loyalty, but any situation in which I'm rooting in favor of a team in the AFC North that doesn't provide the Steelers anything feels as natural as Kirkendall listening to rap music while drinking non alcoholic beer and praising the virtues of Joe Flacco.
Bonus Question: Is there any truth to the rumor of Mike Tomlin to Texas? Does this worry the fan base?
I highly doubt it. Its a ploy by either the Texas program or alumni to show people the level of coach they think they could get if Mack Brown was fired or resigned.
I think there's a contingent of Steelers fans that like the idea establishing residence outside the greater Pittsburgh area, and while I'm not one of them, I can see where the frustration is. But Tomlin will be this team's coach in 2014.