Things are going very well for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
So much so that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger earned an early exit after Thursday night's unstoppable home triumph against the Carolina Panthers with five touchdowns, just three runs and a perfect 158.3 passer-by.
So much so that they scored the most points in their history at Heinz Field and the most points of an NFL team this season in crushing the Panthers, 52-21. So they extended their winning streak to five games and did not even need a fifth consecutive 100 yard rushing performance from backstroke James Conner. So the NFL rule really worked in their favor this time around.
So they do not seem to need Le'Veon Bell these days.
But they should want to get it back.
The Steelers, after a superb week in which they followed Sunday's triumph in Baltimore with a dominant performance Thursday against a NFC playoff contender, are now eligible for a mini-bye before replaying. The focus moves temporarily over the resolution of Bell's drama. He was absent from the team for the entire season, refusing to sign his franchise contract that would have earned him $ 14.544 million this season. He must report to the team and sign his contract by Tuesday to play this season, in accordance with NFL rules.
It's easy to watch this attack and watch Conner, Bell's productive replacement, turn around and say that the Steelers would be better without Bell. His absence disturbed his teammates. Coach Mike Tomlin said the team needed volunteers, not hostages. Working again with Bell would not be transparent. He should not supplant Conner as a centerpiece runner.
"Conner deserved the right to start," quarterback Troy Aikman told the Hall of Fame during the Fox broadcast on Thursday night. "He won the right to play."
But Bell is a talented player, both passer and runner. For the Steelers, it's ultimately about matching the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs, the two best teams in the AFC. It's about reaching the Super Bowl. Having Bell back and inflicting it on Conner would create exciting possibilities. If Bell presents himself rather than staying out of the season, the Steelers should be satisfied and should go to work to find a role for him.
"I think they complement each other very well. … It will be interesting to see how it all goes, "Aikman said.
Conner had his 10th hurried touchdown of the season on Thursday night, one more than Bell has ever had in an NFL season. Conner's 100-yard rushing series ended with a 13-run outing of 65 13-race races. He returned to the game after being taken to the medical tent on the side of the Steelers, but was then taken to the locker room and the Steelers said he was being assessed for possible concussion.
Roethlisberger and the game of the assists were in the honor on Thursday. Roethlisberger sent a 75-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster in the Steelers' first offensive game. That put Roethlisberger on the way to the passing night for a pass of 22 for 25, 328 yards.
"We have a lot of weapons and the guard line is good," Roethlisberger told Fox after the match. "I can not say enough about the quality of these players because it's a very good defense and they've protected my bag tonight."
Roethlisberger faced some risk in the third quarter when he escaped from the pocket and was touched by Eric Reid, Panthers' security guard, on his toboggan at the end of a rally. race. Officials kicked Reid out of Roethlisberger's lead and other Steelers players were irritated by Reid's play. But Roethlisberger only absorbs a glance. He got up immediately and stayed in the game. He seemed to accept Reid's apology on the ground.
It was a night when just about everything was going on like the Steelers. Vance McDonald earned a touchdown touchdown in the third quarter over a game in which reruns showed the ball was moving slightly in his hands as he slid out of bounds at the back of the end zone .
"Wait", former Patriots linebacker, Tedy Bruschi, now NFL analyst for ESPN, wrote on Twitter. "It was a trap? What do we do?"
Kurt Warner, Analyst, NFL Network and Quarter of Fame wrote on Twitter: "Last year, nothing was a catch [and] now everything is a trap ??? "
Well, pretty much.
The NFL has finally reshuffled its controversial catch-and-release rule after a 2017 season in which the Steelers striker Jesse James in a key game against the Patriots became the latest disconcerting decision for fueling the debate "What's a catch?"
When the new rule was formulated, NFL officials said that a slight movement of the ball into the hands of the receiver during a catch would not result in a decision of non-caught via replay, as long as the teammate retains control of the ball. This is exactly what happened at McDonald's on Thursday night, and the call of a touchdown on the field was not canceled during the replay that automatically follows a score game.
One could say that the Steelers owed this touch.
This was only one of the many things that had been favorable to them on Thursday.