Labriola On

Labriola on Bengals becoming Ravens

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Ready or not, here it comes:

  • Floyd Mayweather would know exactly what to do, how to take advantage of an opportunity like this.
  • Pay-per-view.
  • What better way to showcase an event where the participants hate each other and have shown themselves to be willing to talk about it publicly? It has worked for boxing, for professional wrestling. Come up with a catchy name – even people too young to have seen them live remember The Rumble in the Jungle, and The Thrilla in Manila – re-package all of the past trash talk and then just sit back and make sure there are enough batteries in the recorders to capture every new and delicious sound bite.
  • Steelers at Bengals, The Rematch, will be staged on Dec. 13 at Paul Brown Stadium, and provided both teams remain relevant in the standings and/or in the fight for a playoff spot or seeding, that game could prove to be what Steelers-Ravens was during a couple of different times in the history of that series.
  • The Cowher-Billick era was the Golden Age, with the coaches sniping at each other, with Ravens cornerback James Trapp ejected from a game for stepping on Plaxico Burress' forehead, with Joey Porter going out to the Ravens' buses after a game to "discuss some things" with Ray Lewis. Then came the first years of the Tomlin-Harbaugh era, the "two trains, one track" time that ran from 2008-11.
  • Could Steelers-Bengals ever reach that level of vitriol? After last Sunday at Heinz Field, maybe. There figures to be plenty of lingering bitterness, on the Steelers' side from the hit by Vontaze Burfict on Le'Veon Bell that ended his season, and on the Bengals' side for Mike Mitchell's reaction after blowing up Marvin Jones to break up a pass.
  • The way the Steelers see it, there's no way Burfict wasn't celebrating Bell's injury, because why else would a defensive player gets so excited after making a tackle after an 8-yard gain on a first-and-10? "He's that type of guy," said Ramon Foster of Burfict. "That type of guy will get his sooner or later. If you've played against him, you know what I mean by it. He'll play it off, act dumb about it, but you don't run across the field acting hyped, celebrating, running up and down when a guy goes down like that."
  • The way the Bengals see it, Mitchell's celebration as Jones was stretched out on the grass was an example of "fake tough," according to the recipient of the hit. "When you turn on the film, you don't see him hitting anybody when they're going head up. That's fake tough," Jones said to ESPN. "It's whatever. He hit me. I just got the wind knocked out of me, and it's OK. It's whatever. When guys get all hyped off minor stuff like that, hitting somebody that's not even looking, that's fake tough to me."
  • Thirty-seven days until they meet again.
  • If the rematch in fact has meaning beyond revenge, the Steelers cannot allow themselves to get bogged down in muck of back-and-forth stupid penalties. Yes, they lost another key player in Bell to an injury against the Bengals, but they lost the game because of the 10 penalties. A taunting penalty on an unsuccessful third down gave the Bengals another offensive possession; an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty put the Steelers offense in a hole after the emotional lift of a blocked field goal; and there were two other times when they committed a penalty to off-set an advantage they would have gained because of a Bengals penalty.
  • Maybe there are teams good enough to overcome 10 penalties, but the Steelers aren't one of them.
  • After the loss to the Bengals, Cam Heyward stood at his locker and said the Steelers defense should have done more – one more takeaway, one more stop – to help the team win. It was admirable for one of the young team leaders, a defensive player, to accept responsibility for a bitter defeat rather than point fingers, but I have to disagree respectfully. If I told you the Bengals were going to come to Heinz Field, and that Andy Dalton would be held to 218 net yards passing and be intercepted twice, that the Bengals offense would score just one touchdown and convert 27 percent on third down and be held under 100 yards rushing, you would've felt confident the Steelers would have won the game.
  • Part of blocking a field goal is studying the opponent down to being able to tell guys where their upraised arm should be to get a piece of the football. Over the guard's right shoulder, for example. When to jump, where to direct your push. Look at the photo of Cam Heyward's block of a Mike Nugent field goal taken from behind the kicker, and you'll see that had Heyward's hand been six inches to the right or left the ball likely clears the line of scrimmage.
  • It had caused an uproar in early September, that being the decision by the Steelers to waive two rookie draft picks – outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo and cornerback Doran Grant – with the idea of getting them onto the practice squad to continue their development since neither were ready to play. Many fans assumed they were lost to other teams, for sure, while others simply used those moves as evidence that the 2015 draft class was a bust. But both players made it onto the practice squad. Chickillo moved up to the 53-man roster on Sept. 30, and on Nov. 5 Grant did the same.
  • Both Chickillo and Grant are more a part of the future than the present, and so getting them on the roster won't mean much when it comes to beating Oakland, but I'm sure pockets of Steelers Nation have been sleeping better.
  • Don't be surprised if Grant's long-term future with the Steelers is at safety instead of cornerback. And that would be OK, because they need help there, too.
  • The NFL should have done to the on-field officials during their strike some years ago what President Ronald Reagan did to the air-traffic controllers back in the 1980s, but they blew the chance and now are left with this: a situation where they were left to suspend the side judge who didn't notice 18 seconds run off the clock during a touchback during the Monday night game between the Steelers and Chargers and then had to reassign the back judge who didn't know the rule about purposely batting a ball out of the back of the end zone.
  • With momentum building for continuing the policy of disciplining on-field officials for incompetency, former referee and current CBS commentator Mike Carey said, "If the NFL continues to suspend officials, we will be left with their replacement, and we all saw how using replacement officials worked out."
  • Or maybe it might come to pass that once guys start realizing there are consequences for incompetence, they will be motivated to be better. Like it is in every other field. Except for politics, I mean.
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