Labriola On

Labriola on Le'Veon, AB, Colbert

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Ready or not, here it comes:*

  • And so, it's Le'Veon Bell. The winner of the 2014 Steelers MVP Award is worthy, but it also says something about him that he received so many of his teammates' votes in a year when there were several worthy candidates. Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown are obvious, but don't forget Maurkice Pouncey and Cam Heyward and Lawrence Timmons, either. All five of them also have made significant contributions to what the Steelers have accomplished this year. But over the course of this season, Bell has matured as a professional. He is dependable, accountable. His message to the media is team-first.
  • This vote for Bell by his teammates, and a veritable landslide it was, can be viewed as an acknowledgement of all of those things as well as his statistics.
  • The NFL kept indicating that for the final Sunday Night Football telecast of the regular season it wanted a compelling game, a game where the involved teams were in a do-or-die situation with respect to a spot in the playoffs, as opposed to having a game where the involved teams were vying for nothing but seeding.
  • And so when presented with Atlanta-Carolina, a game in which the winner will earn a spot in the playoffs while the loser will go home, the NFL opted to flex Steelers-Bengals to the Sunday night slot, even though that's a game pitting teams already in the playoffs and vying for a division championship, which essentially comes down to playing for seeding

The Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

  • What a charade. Why not admit the goal all along was to move the needle on the night's Nielsen ratings? Again, the applicable word is charade.
  • It was a part of every practice every single day at training camp. As each play would unfold, especially during the non-tackling portions, you always could hear defensive assistant Jerry Olsavsky yelling, "Run to the ball." And so all of the defensive players would turn and run toward wherever the ball carrier was going. It seemed pointless. Just something to make players do extra running.
  • With that in mind, go back and watch the play late in the third quarter of the win over the Chiefs when Jamaal Charles caught a short pass just beyond the line of scrimmage, turned upfield, and then fumbled after getting blasted by a pursuing Stephon Tuitt, a defensive end.
  • If you listen closely, you almost can hear the yelling. "Run to the ball."
  • It was an extremely minor item in the big scheme of things, that change to the Steelers depth chart this week, with Martavis Bryant moving up to the No. 2 spot behind Antonio Brown at the one wide receiver spot and Darrius Heyward-Bey being dropped to No. 3 at the other wide receiver spot behind Markus Wheaton and Lance Moore.
  • What's not minor, however, are Heyward-Bey's contributions this season, and Coach Mike Tomlin's opinion of them. One of note was the play he made on that attempted fake punt by the Bengals in the first quarter of the Dec. 7 game in Cincinnati. Heyward-Bey made the tackle and forced a fumble that turned the ball over to the Steelers. Another was the second half kickoff vs. the Chiefs when Heyward-Bey came off a block and tackled Knile Davis at the Pittsburgh 24-yard line when it was starting to look like the returner had an alley up the sideline. On two separate occasions during news conferences, Tomlin has thrown some unsolicited praise at Heyward-Bey for his work in the defensive aspects of special teams.
  • That means a lot more to job security around here than a demotion on the weekly depth chart.
  • With two catches vs. the Bengals, Antonio Brown will get to 124 and take over the No. 2 spot on the NFL's all-time single-season receptions list. Currently at 123 catches in a season are Herman Moore of the 1995 Detroit Lions and Wes Welker of the 2009 New England Patriots. Out of reach at No. 1 is Marvin Harrison, who caught 143 for the 2002 Indianapolis Colts. What's most interesting about this development isn't that Brown would be capable of such production, but in how far the Steelers offense has evolved to have a receiver put up such numbers.
  • Just as a refresher, the Steelers traded Santonio Holmes to the New York Jets after the 2009 season for a fifth-round pick in the 2010 draft. When it came to the fifth round of the draft, Colbert sent that pick to the Arizona Cardinals for veteran cornerback Bryant McFadden and the Cardinals' pick in the sixth round. The Steelers used that pick on Antonio Brown.
  • Holmes for McFadden and Antonio Brown. Not a bad couple of trades engineered by Kevin Colbert, huh?
  • Speaking of Colbert, the general manager whose head so many fans wanted on a pike earlier this season evidently isn't as inept as the Twittersphere might have led one to believe. The Steelers have turned over an aging roster and are back in the playoffs after a two-year absence, and they have a chance to win the 21st division title in franchise history on Sunday when the Cincinnati Bengals visit Heinz Field.
  • Just a little refresher on the specifics of Colbert's resume with the Steelers: 15 seasons, two Super Bowl championships, three AFC Championships, nine playoff appearances, five division titles with a chance for a sixth on Sunday. And no losing seasons since 2003.
  • The only other team in the NFL that hasn't had a losing season since 2003 is New England. Again, not a single losing season since 2003.
  • I wish my 401(k) performed that well.
  • So do you.
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