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-by Bo Marchionte, Contributing Writer; Image: Pittsburgh’s offense was down to third-string quarterback Devlin Hodges. (Image Source: Frank Hyatt/College2Pro)
Pittsburgh, PA— Remember seeing Christie Brinkley driving that cherry red Ferrari 308 GTS in the hilarious comedy National Lampoon’s Vacation.
Let’s allow a pause for a moment to savor that iconic cinematic moment.
Wind blowing through her long blonde hair as the car purred down the interstate.
Stunning and sexy. That vision is embedded in anyone’s cranium who saw the 1980’s classic. Brinkley and that Ferrari represent an offense like that of the Kansas City Chiefs.
It is well-oiled machine. The envy of the entire league.
The Pittsburgh Steelers offense is more like the car Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) drove across the country, destination Wally World. The Steelers are in transition trying to regroup without Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown.
The team dropped to 1-4 on the season after a heart-breaking loss to division rival Baltimore on Sunday.
In overtime, Ravens defensive back Marlon Humphrey punched the football out of the forearm of JuJu Smith-Schuster inside Steelers territory, leading to the game winning field goal by Justin Tucker.
“He made a great play,” Smith-Schuster said after the demoralizing loss 26-23.
Smith-Schuster was filled with emotion after Mason Rudolph suffered a horrific injury that forced him to leave the game. The fumble only made the loss hurt even more for the Pro Bowl receiver.
Rudolph laid unconscious as teammates gathered and kneeled around the second-year quarterback. Smith-Schuster anguished on the field as his teammate lay motionless.
“You hate to see anyone go down like that,” Nick Vannett said. “From what I’m hearing everything sounds good (health wise on Rudolph). So, that’s the biggest positive that came out of today.”
Roethlisberger is on IR with elbow injury. Bell is playing in New York for the Jets and Brown is currently a free agent. There are new faces amongst almost all the skill positions. The only thing that remains relatively unscathed is the offensive line.
Their offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner came up with a fabulous game plan last week against the Cincinnati Bengals. It had every formation available in his playbook. It fails to compare to the beautifully designed Ferrari, Brinkley drove, but at the end of the day the Steelers tasted victory.
The Wagon Queen Family Truckster is the best way describe the Steelers offense.
It isn’t a Ferrari, and no one is going to confuse Rudolph or Devlin Hodges for Mahomes, but damn they are moving the football consistently.
That was one hell of a car Griswold owned.
It was ugly. It was tough. It was durable. Got the job done.
It is not pleasant to the eyes, but it did make the cross-country voyage. It was launched over a road in Arizona, carried Aunt Edna (RIP) on the roof in a rainstorm, and got the family safely to Wally World.
Fichtner is basically dealing with those situations now.
He was dealt another blow to his offense when Rudolph left the game but the Family Truckster mentality kept it moving. Being down 10-0, in the first quarter, the offense kept battling, with the help of the Steelers defense holding in check the league’s No. 1 rushing attack in Baltimore. The Ravens averaged 205.8 yards rushing per game but managed only 138 against the Steelers defense.
“Awesome knowing these guys have my back,” Hodges stated after taking over when Rudolph left the game.
The offense did not miss a beat under his leadership at quarterback. He led the Steelers offense to their first lead of the game on a James Connor one-yard touchdown run.
Another drive helped put Pittsburgh up 23-20 with only 2:37 left in the game. The offensive game plan was still filled with all the new wrinkles implemented by Fichtner and surprisingly enough, the offense was still moving the football and getting first downs.
The rookie quarterback from Samford rushed twice for 20 yards and completed seven of his nine passing attempts for 68 yards.
The word ‘Family’ cannot be underestimated as well. Last week when Rudolph found rookie Diontae Johnson open on a 43-yard touchdown strike, the sidelines erupted in joy.
There wasn’t a sulking No. 84 miserable his statistics were not being fulfilled for his ego.
Smith-Schuster expressed genuine satisfaction seeing his teammate score, I watched intently from the press box to observe his demeanor. Smith-Schuster displayed total class, something that lacked from the 15-touchdown recipient from a year ago.
Or how about newly acquired Vannett, leaving his locker to walk a few feet over to offer encouragement to Smith-Schuster, who was visually shaken by the entire afternoon of events versus the Ravens.
People are going to look at the 1-4 record and presume the worst, but Pittsburgh played a damn good game with the hand they were dealt.
Pittsburgh was 1-4, in 2013 and finished 8-8, with an outside chance of the playoffs when the final week of the season was unfolding. The daunting task of repeating that finish will be tough, but not impossible.
The Steelers locker room has the attitude of nothing is impossible. That is the residue of a winning culture keeping things positive, even with a win-loss record that is out of whack compared to expectations.
Right now, Pittsburgh is making the most of their family station wagon.
To read more from Bo Marchionte at College2Pro.com, click here.
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