Some of the greatest teams in sports history have a trio of players that they can rely on to win championships. Known as the ‘Big Three,’ they are usually the three best players on their respective teams and usually get the job done. Here are a few examples: The Dallas Cowboys had QB Troy Aikman, RB Emmitt Smith, and WR Michael Irvin. The result in they would win 3 Super Bowls in 4 years. All three players also ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
For a brief period, it was the Chicago Bulls tandem of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman, who led the Bulls to 3 championships and all 3 of those players are in the Basketball Hall of Fame. The Boston Celtics had Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce and they won a championship, and all three will eventually end up in the Hall of Fame and finally, the well-known Miami Heat Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who finished with two championships. They will also end up in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Since 2014, the Pittsburgh Steelers have formed their own Big Three of QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown who have produced 2 Pro Bowls and led the Steelers to 2 AFC North Division titles in 3 seasons. Although they haven’t won any championships yet, it’s safe to say that the possibilities there as they produced stellar 2016 seasons and did their part in the Steelers 30-12 victory over the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Wild Card Game.
I think it still gets me that this was the first time that all three players have played a postseason game together, because of the absence of Bell in the past two seasons due to injury. I go back to last postseason and wonder how the Steelers would’ve fared if they at least had Bell. Ironically, in that 2015 postseason, the Steelers would be without Bell and Brown and a partially injured Big Ben and was still 2 minutes away from the AFC Championship Game. Now that they have all three together, it’s a question of how limited the sky is for the team as they are trying win their first Super Bowl (7th overall) since 2008.
In this game vs. the Dolphins, we all got a taste of what the Big Three can do in the postseason as they sent the Dolphins home for their 8th consecutive win (Of course counting the seven straight to close out the regular season) Each player played a critical part in the Steelers victory. Big Ben passed for 197 yards, 2 TDs, and 2 INTs. Now you may not think that was an impressive game for him until you realize that those 2 TDs came in the first quarter and were long passes to Brown, who finished with five catches for 124 yards and those 2 TDs. Brown would destroy the Dolphins Secondary with a 50-yard TD pass on the first drive and them after the Dolphins were forced to punt, the two would connect again on a 62-yard TD pass to give the Steelers the early 14-0 lead. Big Ben also set an NFL playoff record by being the first player in NFL history with 2 TD passes of at least 50 yards in the first quarter and Brown is the first to have 2 TD passes of at least 50 yards in a playoff game since Randy Moss did so in 2000. Not bad company.
And then there’s Bell, who ran around, over and through the Dolphins defense for a team-record 167 yards in the victory. That total passed surpassed HOF Franco Harris’ total of 158 that he had in Super Bowl 9 in 1975. For those who’s counting at home, that was 42 years ago, and this was Bell’s first game. Wow.
Bell also scored 2 TDs in the game as he ran it in from the 1-yard line (after the Steelers challenged the play) in the first quarter, and an 8-yard 3rd Quarter one for their final points of the game. Former Steeler and HOF Coach Tony Dungy has often compared Bell to Harris, because of his ability to be patient and find the ‘holes’ to run through, and I think that Dungy may have a good point. Bell’s style of running is like Harris, but unlike HOF Jerome Bettis, who spent his career trampling defenses on a regular basis. But Bell did what both Harris and Bell has done: Got the job done. Especially in the postseason.
As a team, the Steelers were not only looking forward to winning their opening playoff game but also get vengeance vs. a Dolphins team that embarrassed the Steeles 30-15 in Week 4. The Steelers looked flat and overconfident in my opinion. It was as if they expected the then 1-4 Dolphins just to fall over and succumb to the Steelers, but instead, it was the Dolphins who made the Steelers look rather foolish as rookie RB Jay Ajai ran for over 200 yards and 2 TDs. Also in that game, Big Ben tore his meniscus and would try to finish the game, but to no avail. Brown only had four catches for 39 yards, and Bell who had just returned from serving a 3-game suspension had only 53 yards on ten carries. In fact, he led in receiving with 55 yards on six catches and WR Darius Heyward-Bey led the team in rushing with one carry for 60 yards. What a weird and awful day for the Steelers.
Glad we’re able to forget about it now.
In this game, the Steelers punched the Dolphins in the mouth for 20 first-quarter points, while the defense also hit the Dolphins in the mouth as they prevented them from scoring a TD, until late in the 4th quarter. Facing 9-year vet Matt Moore, the Steelers were able to limit the Dolphins offense to 2 first half field goals. The Dolphins had their opportunities to score, but then the defense forced 3-straight turnovers on two sacks by 39-year-old LB James Harrison, S Mike Mitchell and LB Ryan Shazier who intercepted Moore. As a unit, the Steelers D sacked Moore 5 times with LB Lawrence Timmons getting two late ones, and LB Bud Dupree (who demolished Moore on a penalty in the first half) and Ajai was limited to only 33 yards on 16 carries.
Not a bad day at the office.
But there is also cause for concern as Big Ben was injured late in the game and was seen in a walking boot during the postgame news conference. He was injured on his second interception after he was hit by Dolphins DE Cameron Wake late in the 4th quarter. Although he said that they don’t know the extent of the injury, he said he would play in next Sunday’s game vs. the KC Chiefs, which is the AFC Divisional Round. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Big Ben will play without an arm in the playoffs as he’s played with a broken toe and nose in past Super Bowls. As impressive as backup Landry Jones was in their OT victory vs. Cleveland, you don’t want a backup going under center vs. the Chiefs, who look totally better than the team who was destroyed 43-14 by the Steelers October 3rd. KC finished with a 13-3 record, won the AFC West and earned the #2 seed. Plus, they will be at home in Arrowhead Stadium, where the home field advantage is pretty huge.
Do you remember the last time the Steelers played KC at Arrowhead? It was 1993 when Big Cowher’s Steelers went up against Marty Schottenheimer’s Chiefs led by HOF QB Joe Montana. The Steelers had the lead going into the 4th quarter, but then Montana worked his magic, leading the Chiefs to a 27-24 victory. Come to think of it; that game was so old that they had astroturf at Arrowhead for that game. Wow.
Well, I like the Steelers chances vs. the Chiefs a second time as well, but they have to be ready to play and punch them in the mouth as well. And of course, as long as they have the Big Three, they always have a chance to win. Let’s just hope that Big Ben is ok.
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