Ready or not, here it comes:
- Versus Cleveland on a Thursday night, vs. Houston on a Monday night, at Arizona, vs. St. Louis, at Cleveland, vs. Pittsburgh, at San Francisco, at Denver, and vs. Baltimore. That is the Bengals' schedule following their visit to Heinz Field.
- Which means Sunday's game represents a veritable do-or-die situation for the Steelers this Sunday when it comes to their prospects for defending their AFC North Division championship. A Steelers loss on Sunday would put them at 4-4, while the Bengals would be 7-0 and three-and-a-half games in front with them having nine games to play.
- A look at the Steelers final nine weeks of 2015 has them vs. Oakland, vs. Cleveland, bye, at Seattle, vs. Indianapolis, at Cincinnati, vs. Denver, at Baltimore, and at Cleveland, which is not really conducive to making up four games in the loss column in the standings, which is why Sunday is a veritable do-or-die for the home team.
- Lose on Sunday, and Steelers fans should start paying more attention to the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, and Oakland Raiders, because the most realistic path to the playoffs will be via the wild card route. And by the way, a loss to the Bengals would leave the Steelers with a 1-4 conference record, which is tiebreaker No. 2 for a wild card berth in the playoffs. Head-to-head is No. 1, but of the three teams listed that only could apply to the Raiders.
- With Ben Roethlisberger coming back after 35 days sidelined with a knee injury, there is a sense he should flip the switch on the eyes in the back of his head because Kelvin Beachum is on the injured reserve list. That means it's going to be Alejandro Villanueva playing left tackle, and Sunday's game at Heinz Field will be his second NFL start, and his second start at left tackle anywhere since he played the position at West Point in 2008.
- To put that time frame in some perspective, the only Steelers still on the 53-man roster who suited up in Super Bowl XLIII, which capped the 2008 NFL season, are Ben Roethlisberger, Heath Miller, Will Gay, and Lawrence Timmons.
- But of more concern to Roethlisberger's well-being come Sunday very well could be what's happening over the right side of the Steelers offensive line, where David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert occasionally will be looking across the line at Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap.
- Atkins looks to be back to his pre-ACL-tear form of 2012-13, and that's not good news for anybody on the Bengals schedule. In eight-plus games in 2013 – Atkins tore his ACL in the ninth game that season – he had six sacks, and in 2012 he had 12.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. In six games this season, Atkins has four sacks and a forced fumble, and he has been showing the explosive power that made him a first-team All-Pro defensive tackle in 2012.
- Dunlap is a defensive end, but first and foremost he's a pass rusher. Since coming to the Bengals in 2010 as a No. 2 draft pick from Florida, Dunlap has played in 76 games, and in those he has 42 sacks, including a team-best 6.5 this season. Some teams flop their pass-rushers from one side of the line of scrimmage to the other, but the Bengals typically don't, which means there should be a lot of Dunlap vs. Gilbert happening on Sunday at Heinz Field.
- In the wake of the Cam Heyward eye-black resolution with the NFL, it's also come to light that both DeAngelo Williams and Will Gay have been fined by the league for separate violations of the uniform policy.
- Williams was fined $5,787 – the amount for a first-time offense – for wearing eye-black inscribed with "Find the Cure" on it, with the reference being to breast cancer. Williams' mother died of breast cancer, and October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month throughout the NFL. Gay's fine also was for the first-offense amount of $5,787, and his crime was wearing purple shoes. Purple is the color showing support for domestic violence awareness, and Gay's mother was murdered by his stepfather when he was a 7-year-old boy. Gay also has been featured in a recent public service announcement produced by the NFL that was shown in prime time, and the NFL also has mandated that all of its employees attend mandatory domestic violence/sexual assault sessions.
- Acknowledging that there has to be a uniform policy in the NFL, but still this isn't a good look for the league. Fining players who lost loved ones to breast cancer and domestic violence when the league dedicates a month to breast cancer awareness and requires all employees to attend domestic violence sessions doesn't pass the stink test. Not when a guy like Greg Hardy continues to be an almost-daily embarrassment down in Dallas.
- The Oct. 23-29 edition of Pittsburgh Business Times conducted a study covering a 10-season period from 2005-14, and it used the data it gathered to rank all of the 122 teams in the four major professional sports – Major League Baseball, the NFL, the NBA, and the NHL. There were three performance metrics considered in the study: winning percentage, playoff appearances, and championships won. The numbers were adjusted to take into account variances in how the respective leagues operate, and in the end the Steelers were No. 8 overall, and No. 3 in the NFL – behind New England and Indianapolis, even though during the period of the study the Steelers won the most Super Bowls, 2-1-1.
Here are some photos of legendary Steelers broadcaster and creator of the Terrible Towel, Myron Cope.
- On Sunday, the Steelers will celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Terrible Towel, and here is the creator's version of how it was created. It was December 1975, wrote Myron Cope in his book, "Double Yoi!" and the Steelers were about to face the Baltimore Colts when Cope was summoned into the office of WTAE-Radio General Manager Ted Atkins.
- '"Atkins got quickly to the point," writes Cope. 'As the Steelers flagship radio station, we think we should come up with some sort of gimmick for the playoffs – something that will involve the people.' 'I'm not a gimmick guy,' I replied. 'Never have been a gimmick guy.' (Larry) Garrett, the sales exec, spoke up. He explained that were I to successfully promote some kind of object the fans could wave or wear at the playoffs, advertisers would be so impressed by my hold on the public that they would clamor to sponsor my daily commentaries and talk show. 'Besides,' said Garrett, 'your contract with us expires in three months.' 'I'm a gimmick guy,' I conceded."
- At some point, Cope assigned exclusive rights to the Towel to the Steelers, who agreed to pay all royalties to the Allegheny Valley School, which cares for severely mentally and physically handicapped people of all ages. Cope's son, Danny, still is a resident at the school. After Super Bowl XL, the Steelers presented Allegheny Valley School with a check for $1 million for the royalties from sales of the Towel for just that 2005 season.
- Nice number for a gimmick.