It was a dark day in Steeler Nation on Friday. The beloved Steelers had lost the previous night to the win deprived Cleveland Browns. For as bad as the Steelers had been during their four game losing streak prior to Thursday's game, there was at least a small glimmer of hope that they could get back on track with a win against Cleveland. That's what happens when Pittsburgh and Cleveland meet up recently. The Steelers had won the previous 12 games against their longtime divisional rivals. The streak was snapped with the loss, and with it, Pittsburgh's 2009 playoff chances most likely.
"There's nothing fun about losing games, especially five in a row. We're better than that. We should play better than that. With three games left, you're going to see who really wants to go out here and play for the pride of this organization and this city and who doesn't want to be around here."
-- Hines Ward
That's right. These last three games are all about pride for the 2009 Pittsburgh Steelers. In 2007 and 2008, the Steelers had everything to play for leading up to their final game of the season. In '07 that was the playoff loss to Jacksonville in the Wild Card round. In '08, the season ended in Phoenix at the Super Bowl. In '09, the season essentially ended last Thursday night when they fell to 6-7. Of course, there is still a number of scenarios in which they could still very much make the playoffs, but at this point, it's becoming as unlikely that they'd get all the scoreboard help they'd need as it is that they'll win their final three games.
What will we see from the team in those three games? Will they be feeling too sorry for themselves to compete for a full 60 minutes. They better be for their own safety, because the Packers, Ravens and Dolphins are all still alive and kicking for a coveted playoff berth.
Regardless of how this final three weeks plays out, we'll learn something about this collection of players and coaches. Hopefully it's for the better, and we're celebrating their resolve and looking forward to seeing what the 6 time champs have in store for 2010. If not and we see a team not live up to what the organization - the ownership, fans, and winning tradition - stands for, then it will be equally interesting to see what changes might be in store this coming spring and summer.
I'm off the road now and will be back writing regularly tonight and throughout the week.