Saturday, November 05, 2011

Mesofacts: Pittsburgh Steelers

More enduring than Pittsburgh's depressed, sooty image is the smashmouth persona of the professional football Steelers. The Marcellus Shale is helping Southwestern Pennsylvania shed the perception of chronic economic distress. What has to happen for fans to forget the reputation of a stone age team pounding the rock for chronic franchise success? The ironic facts:

The Steelers run the ball down your throat. The Patriots overwhelm you with defensive brilliance. Indianapolis is precise with the ball. Baltimore is impenetrable without it. ...

... For all its success and all its legacy as a pound-the-rock team, the Steelers have adapted as well as anyone to the NFL's current pass-first and pass-often mentality. Never was that more on display than in last Sunday's 25-17 victory over the Patriots, in which Ben Roethlisberger threw 50 times in 78 plays — as many passes as New England's total snaps.

The ideal way to beat the Patriots is to limit how often their prolific, clutch offence is on the field. That used to mean running the ball and eating the clock.

Pittsburgh found another way — a very effective way.

"I think it's great to have a team like this where we can run or pass," speedy wideout Mike Wallace said. "We adjust to the team we play against and hopefully some of these weeks we can come out and do what we want. We have guys around here like chameleons, just adapt to whatever the situation is."

More than ever, that situation is for Pittsburgh to pass. Roethlisberger has become so comfortable with Wallace and even younger receivers Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders — not to mention standbys Hines Ward and tight end Heath Miller — that opening up the attack not only is an option, it's the best option.

Somewhere, Mike Madison (Pittsblog) is smiling. But mesofacts last long after the facts of the matters have changed. "Reputations die hard."

Once established, a brand is resilient. The brand matters more than the reality on the ground. The Pittsburgh Steelers are tough and blue collar, like the city. The team, like the region, is undergoing a mythological transformation. The world is waking up to a new set of mesofacts. Pittsburgh's team is finally catching up to its host city.

No comments: