New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
A simple multiple-choice question to check your football IQ ...
You are Jim Schwartz, head coach of the Detroit Lions, and your team is clinging to a 27-23 lead early in the fourth quarter. It is fourth-and-5 from the Pittsburgh 10.
A. Kick the field goal, requiring the Steelers to get a touchdown and tie the game and, if they do so, still be in position to win the game with another field goal late in the game.
B. Go for it and throw a fade to all-universe receiver Calvin Johnson.
C. Fake it and let rookie punter/holder Sam Martin attempt to run the ball.
D. Let Martin attempt a 9-yard coffin-corner pooch to pin the Steelers back on their own 1.
If you chose A, you have agreed with 100 percent of all participants in this survey. (Thanks for contributing this week, Mom.)
If you chose B, who could blame you, Megatron is far more likely to catch a jump ball for a touchdown than Martin is to run for 5 yards.
If you chose C, congratulations, you are qualified to be head coach of the Detroit Lions.
If you chose D, congratulations, you are qualified to design the Obamacare website.
Schwartz, of course, went with the fake and watched in horror as Martin was stopped short and fumbled it away. Who could have possibly guessed that a rookie punter/fifth-round draft pick out of Appalachian State couldn’t plow his way for 5 yards into the defensive line without losing a handle on the ball in rainy weather?
C’mon, Schwartzie, at least try. Send Martin to the outside, have him get to the edge with the type of blazing 5.04 40-speed that made you think he was a good run option in the first place.
“Hey,” Schwartz didn’t say in his defense, “the kid was a pretty good fullback in junior high. We wanted him to feel like he was actually a part of the team.”
Alas, the football gods had their way with the Detroit braintrust, permitting Ben Roethlisberger to respond by engineering a game-winning touchdown drive in Pittsburgh’s season-saving 37-27 victory at Heinz Field.
That scoring march was a thing of beauty, covering 16 plays and 97 yards while burning 8:03 off a dying clock.
Roethlisberger was masterful on the drive, converting first-down passes on third-and-9 and fourth-and-2 before flipping the winning touchdown toss to Will Johnson.
That drive was made meaningful only because of a surprising shutout pitched by the defense in the second half. After giving up a nauseating 27 points in the second quarter, the Bumblebees managed to transform Megatron into a bust after halftime while hitting their Optimus Prime point of the season. (I have no idea what that means, but most toddlers probably would.)
Somehow the Steelers have fought their way back to a tie for second place in the AFC North. Sure, they are also tied for last place, but who can quibble with 4-6 after an 0-4 start to the season?
The division title is not out of reach, not with Cincinnati facing three losable games (at San Diego, home to Indy, at Pittsburgh) and with two of the Bengals’ losses coming inside the AFC North. Outside of that Cincinnati rematch, the Steelers do not play another team that currently has a winning record the rest of the way.
Steelers-Bengals on a Sunday evening in mid-December might actually turn out to be important.
But what is most interesting is how the Steelers have emerged in the hunt for the second wild card. They are currently only one game behind Miami and the New York Jets for that final postseason berth, host the warm-weather Dolphins in Heinz Field in early December and have already beaten the Jets.
True or False?
An 8-8 record will be good enough for the Steelers to be playing in January this season.
(Steve Treu covers the Steelers for The News.)