…is a big compliment!

From Bob Labriola at Steelers.com this morning:

121614_1The Steelers have made the mistake of depending upon an injured RB in the playoffs before.

Saw the playoff runs in both 1996 and 2001 die at least partly as a result of the decision to play an injured franchise running back.

In 1996, the defending AFC Champion Steelers crushed Indianapolis, 42-14, in the Wild Card Round at Three Rivers Stadium, a game in which Jerome Bettis rushed 25 times for 102 yards, scored two touchdowns, and sustained a significant groin injury. Bettis gutted out 13 carries for 43 yards the following weekend, but the Steelers lost to the Patriots, 28-3, in the Foxborough fog.

In 2001, the 13-3 Steelers entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and Jerome Bettis had been the hub of the offense while rushing for 1,072 yards in 11-plus games that season before injuring a groin on Dec. 9. After the bye, the Steelers’ first game in the 2001 playoffs was a rubber match against the Ravens, but the plan to return Bettis to the lineup was sabotaged when his whole leg accidently was numbed during a pregame injection. The Steelers still crushed the Ravens, 27-10. Bettis would play the next weekend, but he was neither healthy nor in sync with what the offense had become, and as a result he was ineffective in a 24-17 loss to the Patriots at Heinz Field.

Le’Veon Bell’s injury and where this Steelers offense is right now in its development creates a completely, completely different situation for this team than was the reality for the 1996 and 2001 Steelers teams. But there is an underlying lesson, and that is this: don’t hang the team’s hopes on an injured player.

Of course the glaring difference between this team and those is that this one has Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback and those didn’t.

For everything he contributed to the Steelers getting to January with an 11-5 record and a division championship in the hopper, Le’Veon Bell isn’t the Steelers best offensive player. Back then, Jerome Bettis WAS the Steelers. This leads to one final point about the election of Le’Veon Bell as the Steelers MVP this year. What should be reiterated is that this was the outcome of a vote by the players in the locker room, and what should be accepted is the possibility that those guys’ interpretation of M-V-P is different than what the fans/media believe it should be.

In other words, what Bell did this season was a revelation to his teammates, while there is nothing Roethlisberger can do that would cause even a raised eyebrow.

Coach Mike Tomlin admitted as much toward the end of his news conference last Tuesday. When asked whether Ben Roethlisberger is at the point where it’s expected for him to throw for 300 yards a game, Tomlin answered, “He’s been (at that point).” The follow-up question was whether Tomlin takes that for granted. “Yes.”

His teammates probably do, as well.

Being taken for granted in such a manner is a compliment, really. Whether they would admit it or not, John Fox takes Peyton Manning for granted in that way, as does Bill Belichick with Tom Brady, and Mike McCarthy with Aaron Rodgers. And Manning’s teammates, Brady’s teammates, and Rodgers’ teammates, too.

For an NFL coach, taking the quarterback for granted is an acknowledgement of his value.

You can read more here.


If you didn’t get to listen to/read the interview with Brian Billick this week on 93.7 The Fan:

ravens-steelers-football-joe-flacco-ben-roethlisberger_pg_600Billick was asked about J.J. Watt’s MVP candidacy. After addressing that subject, Billick threw out another candidate unsolicited, one that he thinks isn’t getting enough attention.

“Frankly, I don’t know that I wouldn’t have thrown Ben Roethlisberger in that discussion when you really see what he’s done on the year, with 32 touchdowns and nine interceptions,” Billick said.

Billick thinks Roethlisberger is as perfect fit as any quarterback for MVP.

“I mean, his numbers – and you look at the success of the team as well – [it] matches anything that the guys that eventually might get it [have done],” Billick said. “So, as much as you’d like to have the romantic notion of a defensive lineman getting the MVP, it’s likely going to go to a quarterback. But, I’m not quite sure why we don’t talk about Ben Roethlisberger in that regard more.”

You can read/listen to the rest here.