Stillers Reassert Confidence
The Stillers have reasserted confidence in themselves and hopefully in the fans just in time to return to Three Rivers Stadium. In the recent past, the team has faced a home field disadvantage due to the frustration and vocal displeasure expressed by the home crowd. I think the case will be much different this Sunday against the Cinci Bungles after beating two of the leagues better teams (at least at the time the teams played -- the Jags are now 2-4).
The nice thing the Stillers have done this year is build off the positives. Entering the 2000 season, both local and national press had pinned the team as largely uncompetitive. But, five games into the season, they could just as easily be 4-1 as 2-3. A miracle in the least.....or maybe not. Rather than dwelling on the negatives after gut-wrenching losses to the Cleve Brownies and Tennessee Tuxedos, the team focused on the positives that allowed them to be in position to win both games -- something that is not easy to do after such emotional losses.
Then, after beating the Jags for the first time in Alltel Stadium, the team seemed to regain the sense of "team". That showed Sunday, especially on defense. Rather than playing like a bunch of individuals, we are seeing better collective performances. When Shar the Nasty went down, for example, Larry Tharpe stepped in and the offensive line hardly missed a beat. Larry Tharpe? That's a sign of a team that's actually playing as a single unit and running on positive vibes.
Despite catching a bit of recent luck with Jagsonville coming off a short week, the Jets coming off a bye week, Vinny going down, etc....the point is that the Stillers won. Period. If the team can continue to be opportunistic and avoid injuries then they may actually finish with a respectable record. The hinge on the door of success lies in the next two games with Cinci and Cleveland. By beating two AFC divisional foes that the Black 'n Gold should beat, the team will have a winning 4-3 record, attitude, fan support and momentum. This is key in the NFL since all it takes is a few lucky bounces and a bit of confidence to make a run at the playoffs. The season is only 16 games long so a hot streak goes a long way.
Can or will the Stillers make a playoff run? Realistically they may not, but if they do win their next two games, they will put themselves right in the mix....and from there, Stillers fans can always hold out hope.