The big news of the game: Ben Roethlisberger will not play, despite the fact that the Steelers’ playoff positioning could still swing dramatically in the season’s last two weeks. Analysis: don’t worry, they’re playing the Rams.
Kellen Clemens and the Rams will be leaving the comfort of the dome for punishing 34 degree temperatures and even more punishing hits from Jerome Harrison, Troy Polamalu and company. And while downtrodden teams like the Colts, Chiefs and Cardinals have staged mini-uprisings against superior opposition, the “Any Given Sunday” effects seem to pass right by our offensively crippled Rams. And it will take some offense to beat the Steelers in their park.
You have to go back to 2001 against the Ravens in their prime to find a team that beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh while scoring fewer than seventeen points. The Rams, under Josh McDaniels, have scored seventeen points only twice.
We expect the team to play hard, to give maximum effort, and even to get a few good licks in on Batch. But beyond that, this game is nothing more than a coal-black lump in the stomachs of Rams fans, while we wait for the inevitable sweeping changes to come.
The Steelers organization provides an instructive model for St Louis, however: build a blueprint and stick to it, regardless of coaching changes. Assemble players both smart and mean on defense, and stockpile receiving weapons on offense (Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace are more than enough to make up for the decline of Hines Ward and the loss of Santonio Holmes). Invest in your young coaches, and surround them with elder mentors capable of sustaining the team’s culture and knowledge from year to year, generation to generation.
Then just line up and beat the other guy. Something the Steelers know well how to do, and something the Rams have yet to learn. Today will be a painful lesson.