Vance McDonald and Chris Conte

USA Today

Steelers Hold Off Bucs

They did what they had to do to grind out that win on the road.

September 25, 2018 - 9:51 am
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I said yesterday that Week 3 was weird and last night continued that theme. You had the Pittsburgh Steelers, who’ve been a complete mess by Steeler standards, rolling into Tampa and suddenly looking like the Steelers again. Antonio Brown was in the building after ditching work Monday, and immediately started doing Antonio Brown things in the first half. Like this: 

Takes a quick pass, shakes a tackle, changes gears in a hurry, blows past another would-be tackler, and is into the end zone in a flash. That’s why he’s Antonio Brown and you’re not. And that’s why the Pittsburgh Steelers put up with him doing Antonio Brown things off the field, because he can do them on the field as well. 

But the real play of the first half, and maybe even the season, came on Pittsburgh’s third drive of the game. The Steelers were trailing 7-0 with the ball on their own 25. Ben Roethlisberger found Vance McDonald and Vance McDonald found Bucs safety Chris Conte.

Duuuude! The stiff arm will always be one of the filthiest, most disrespectful moves in any sports: it’s a thing of beauty; especially when done properly. But I don’t think I have seen a more proper stiff arm than that right there. Never see one more nasty, humiliating and demoralizing than that right there. And when the referees are throwing flags for virtually everything else; how the hell do they not throw one there. Because that’s 15 yards all day long for extreme disrespect.

There’s a “get off me” stiff-arm and then there’s a “get off my planet” stiff-arm. Vance McDonald eviscerated Chris Conte with one arm. And just turned Chris Conte in a million internet memes.  

Please give it up for Vance. And please send your condolences to Chris Conte. Because Vance just stiff-armed him into the center of the earth. I’ve watched it dozens of times and I still don’t understand it. Chris Conte is a grown man who has spent a lifetime playing football and Vance McDonald just treated him like a mosquito. And he was the sledge hammer. 

So what’s the mindset when it comes to making a play like that? Take it away, Vance.

Just punish him. Inflict as much force on him as possible. Mission accomplished, Vance. Oh, and if you can’t get enough of Vance, here’s another gem of a quote: "I love contact. If a DB or safety wants to take me up high, God bless them because I'm going to hit them hard. That's my goal."

And the only thing better than the stiff-arm itself was Steeler Cam Heyward celebrating on the sideline by pointing at Chris Conte. The Bucs safety suffered a knee injury and left the game. The team tweeted: INJURY UPDATE S Chris Conte (knee) is OUT for the remainder of the game.

I wouldn’t have been surprised if it read: INJURY UPDATE S Chris Conte (pride) is OUT for the remainder of life 

But as remarkable as that stiff-arm was and as incredible as Antonio Brown’s touchdown was, it wouldn’t be the 2018 Steelers without a hell of a lot of drama. And you got that in the second half when the defense imploded and Roethlisberger snapped on Brown after a miscommunication on third down. It’s so weird. 

Just when you thought the Steelers were pulling out of it, just when it felt like they were turning their season around in Tampa, they nearly blow it. They were up 30-10 and promptly gave up 17 straight points and nearly handed the game to the Bucs, before finally getting the stop when they needed it. And even then, they still needed Big Ben to make a big play and James Conner to ice it. Because if the Steeler defense came back on the field, it felt like a guaranteed loss. 

Things are so weird with this team that Roethlisberger opened his press conference by apologizing to Brown, but AB said it wasn’t necessary: “He always makes me feel good communicating with me. It’s like when your wife tells you that you look strong getting the groceries. It makes you want to get more groceries.”

I think I see you working, Antonio. I guess. Listen, winning cures just about everything.  And they did what they had to do to grind out that win on the road. But that doesn’t fix all their problems. They’re still a really undisciplined team; Le’Veon Bell still isn’t in and probably isn’t coming back. And they damn near gave away a game that they had already won. So sure, go ahead and look up at the scoreboard; because when you do, you’ll be looking up at everyone else in the division.