As if the Steelers didn't have enough to be neurotic about in a city where they could easily fall to 0-for-September, there are all manner of British social customs that could undermine them tonight against the Minnesota Vikings.
Fortunately, I found at least one such custom that, if adhered to by Mike Tomlin's team, could lead directly to the season's first victory.
It's the gifting thing.
"In general, gift-giving is simply not done in Britain for business purposes; it is best not to send a gift ... unless you receive one first."
This is from "The Global Etiquette Guide to Europe," which I never leave home without, even in Pittsburgh, as it's been very useful in places like North Versailles and sometimes DuBois.
For a Steelers team that has made gift-giving a chronic compulsion -- nine giveaways in their opening three games -- a bow to British professional manners would be in their best interests, most demonstrably. Should they receive a gift, well, it would be the first since the Cleveland Browns came bearing (four) gifts during Christmas week, also the previous time the Steelers won a real NFL game.
If I were Tomlin, I'd mention the no-gift-giving policy right before the club leaves its Wembley Stadium locker room for kickoff. The Steelers' own adventures in policy-making, like the famous no-ping-pong-for-non-veterans initiative, appear to be proving ineffective.
As it happens, some other customs on this island probably will work against the team Ben Roethlisberger will try to coax to only its third win in the past 11 games, such as the no-pointing agreement.
Pointing with fingers is considered unseemly in this country and is more acceptably done with the head or chin. This is a looming problem for No. 7, who often points with both hands toward the coverage, and just as often points with one finger to a particular opponent, which his teammates have come to understand means, "That crazy SOB right there, he's gonna kill me if somebody doesn't block him!"
Another possible impediment for the Black and Gold arising from British culture would be a serious Steelers concern were it not just about impossible to enforce. I'll refer you to the text from the aforementioned guide:
"Avoid back-slapping, shouting or calling attention to oneself, especially in public."
Were the authorities hoping to enforce that one, they'd have stopped Antonio Brown at the airport. Seriously, do these etiquette-setters know what league this is? Calling attention to oneself is a premeditated obsession in the NFL. Winning is paramount, but preening is a close second.
"You have to stay singularly focused on what is important," said Brown, paragon of comportment, at the Steelers news conference Friday at the Four Seasons Hotel here. "And what's important is [today], and giving the team the best chance to win. You want to make sure you're hydrated, feeling fresh and make sure you get accustomed to the environment."
As it happens, Brown probably is the Steelers' best chance to head home with a victory, as he has more touchdowns than anyone else (two). He very nearly dragged this reluctant offense back into the game against Chicago last Sunday night, but the turnover machine kept grinding until the Bears were sated.
No one figured the Steelers would have to cross the nearest ocean before finding an opponent as miserable as they, but even the winless Vikings probably could have an edge in this one because, as you know, the Vikings have been here before.
The first wave of them invaded London late in the eighth century, meaning their quarterback was probably Fran Tarkenton.
The 21st-century invasion began early, with the Vikes landing Tuesday morning at Gatwick Airport, three full days before the Steelers, but with an identical amount of raw desperation in the luggage hold.
It's a shame, really, that what is at stake inside Wembley today is that someone can avoid being 0-4, which has made for a strictly football, context-free approach to a venue so drenched in social history. Surely a few of the former history majors on both rosters had hoped to discuss whether or not, as the social historians like to say, American values emerged from reformist, democratic, egalitarian Puritan traditions rather than Britain's aristocratic, hierarchical, monarchic Anglican traditions.
But it's not about that, clearly.
For the moment, it's only about the basic business-of-football necessities, I mean right down to what Tomlin might call hydration opportunities.
You might want to take a few of those yourself if the club comes home 0-4.Steelers - genecollier
First Published September 29, 2013 4:00 AM