The Pittsburgh Steelers lost TJ Watt on Sunday. The offense doesn’t look great. And the media is working against them.
Now, to be clear, the Steelers won their first game against the Bengals, 23-20.
But, c’mon! Who am I kidding? You didn’t come here for pesky details like that. You came here for “U mad, bro?”
Let’s start with Mike. He is angry that I didn’t pick the Steelers to beat the Bengals before their game.
Does @TimBenzPGH ever pick the Steelers to win a game???….Nope.
— Mike (@Clapper81) September 11, 2022
Mike, I picked the Steelers to go 8-8-1 last year. They went 9-7-1. Not bad.
I’ll stick with telling you what I think will happen, instead of telling you what you want to hear.
John is upset with the media coverage of the Steelers after the club’s standout defensive performance, despite losing TJ Watt.
“Tim I get the concern about Watt, but I’m sitting here dumbfounded that, on a Tuesday, I’ve yet to see a Pittsburgh sports writer write an article about how legendary of a defensive performance we witnessed Sunday.
What the Steelers defense just did was the greatest defensive performance of all time. Why haven’t I read an article by a Pittsburgh sportswriter about it?
My father grew up in Avalon, is 77 and has been watching football his whole life and agrees that that’s the greatest defensive performance he’s ever seen.
The stakes are high here from a historical standpoint. That performance will live on in our memories, but if no Pittsburgh sportswriter writes an article about it, it may be forgotten once we’re dead.”
That’s a lot of hyperbole to pack into one email. Let me comb through it for a moment. “The stakes are high” and “greatest defensive performance of all time”?
John, I get that it was a divisional game against the defending AFC champs. But this was Week 1. This franchise has played in eight Super Bowls. You are setting the bar awfully high, don’t you think?
Maybe you should ask Dear Old Dad if he remembers either Super Bowl IX or X? The Steel Curtain forced five Vikings turnovers, held them to six points and 119 total yards and collected a safety in Super Bowl IX. In Super Bowl X, the Steelers defense registered seven sacks and three turnovers en route to beating the Cowboys 21-17.
That was a great defensive outing in Cincinnati. But you make it sound like we just watched the 2008 AFC Championship Game again.
Also “no one” has written about it? Are you kidding me? All I’ve read or heard or seen since Sunday are Pittsburgh media members gushing over the defense. Even me!
And like Mike just told you, apparently I’ve never once in my 21 years covering the team ever thought the Steelers were good enough to win.
So that must mean something.
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Joseph wasn’t a fan of my TJ Watt column. I suggested Steelers fans are working awfully hard to tamp down the obvious negative impact of losing TJ Watt — whether that’s for one, four, six, eight or 16 weeks.
“I don’t think fans are living in denial. Maybe they are just genuinely happy the guy won’t have to miss a whole season of doing something he loves. I find it weird how you can label a whole fan base for living in denial. How dare fans be optimistic? Remember when Rod Woodson got hurt for the year and the season was over?”
Joseph, I literally wrote in the column: “I don’t blame Pittsburghers for living in hope. Watt is such an exciting player, I want to see him back as soon as possible too. And I’m not telling anyone to give up on the season just a week into it.“
Did you skip that part? Or did I need to put it in boldface and italics?
I already mentioned the Woodson analogy on WPXI’s “Final Word” and on the “Madden Monday” podcast with Mark Madden. The difference is that the Steelers team of 1995 was coming off 12 wins and an AFC title game appearance. It still had a Super Bowl-worthy roster in 1995.
This one doesn’t. Woodson was replaced by Carnell Lake getting moved to the corner. Is Malik Reed as good as Carnell Lake? Is he as good as Chad Brown when he took over for Greg Lloyd in Week 2 in 1996?
It’s not about the fan base “living in denial.” I’m just suggesting a lot of his attempts to downplay Watt’s injury are totally hypocritical after they built him up to be Superman after winning Defensive Player of the Year in 2021. Now it’s just “next man up” with Malik Reed.
So you aren’t in denial. You are just total hypocrites. Is that nicer?
Mark also tweeted about Watt’s injury. He’s not mad, bro. He just has a question.
@TimBenzPGH Hey Tim, is it fair to discuss JJ Watt’s injury history in TJ conversations? TJ may actually be the better athlete but does the way he plays make him more susceptible to injury? Have we seen the ceiling on Mitch?
— Mark (@Markieburgh) September 13, 2022
Mark, I’d say that “fair” is up to your own interpretation. All I’m saying is, if we do that, do it consistently. Don’t apply selectively when we do it.
I actually raised that discussion in the column. For instance, a lot of fans dismissed concerns of JJ’s injury history after TJ signed his massive extension with the Steelers. They said it was unfair to draw that connection between the brothers.
But when everyone was reminded that JJ Watt came back from a pectoral muscle injury in 2019 within eight weeks, all I heard was, “If his brother can do it, why can’t he?”
So do genetics matter here or not? I’m confused.
As far as how TJ Watt plays, you can’t ask a linebacker to play less hard in an effort to avoid injury. If he did that, he wouldn’t be TJ Watt.
Now, in terms of the ceiling on Mitch Trubisky, if what we saw on Sunday in Cincinnati is his ceiling, then the room is so small, not even I can stand up in it.
Finally, Walter is mad that I mentioned fantasy football on Twitter recently.
I’ve already unfollowed two hickey writers today for talking about fantasy football. Just a suggestion….
— Walter (@walterwonky) September 11, 2022
Walter, is that a promise or a threat?
Let’s be clear on one thing, my actual fantasy has nothing to do with football. My actual fantasy is that someday you will unfollow me on Twitter. Don’t let me get in the way of your good time.
By the way, I assume you meant “hockey writers,” am I right? We don’t have any “hickey writers” on staff. That’s an entirely different kind of website.
If you need the address, it’s https://…
Uh, never mind.
Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at email@example.com or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.