"Steeler football is 60 minutes. It's never going to be pretty. Throw style points out the window, but these guys will fight to the end." - Coach Mike Tomlin
We are reminded of it constantly. 60 minutes. Any given Sunday. In the past few seasons, how many games have been decided in the final seconds? How many perennial Playoff teams are upset by bottom - feeders?
It is the dark reality that those divisional heavyweights have to deal with, and at times fear.
Now, it has become our reality. Last season, the Pittsburgh Steelers were one of the best teams in the league at winning in the clutch, or coming up with a big drive at the right moment, no matter what the scenario, or how dismal the performance of the team had been prior to that respective drive.
Welcome to the Flipside.
For every winner, there is a loser. For every Offensive Lineman who makes a great block, there is a Defensive Lineman who failed to get free. For every Defensive back who makes an interception, there was a Wide Receiver or Quarterback who didnt want it more.
Dallas pulled off a brilliant 4th down, Redzone stop on the Steelers which really looked like the momentum grabber in the regular season matchup last year. 13 - 3 up heading into the 4th quarter, the Steelers pulled back to a 13 all tie, before a terrible miscommunication by the Dallas offense provided Deshea Townsend with the chance to win, which he greatly accepted.
The Steelers vs Ravens 2.0, our offense had been shut down all night. Likewise had the Ravens offense. A real defensive stalemate, the Ravens were owning a 9-6 lead with little over 3 and a half minutes remaining, as well as having the Steelers having to start the drive from the 8 yard line. The Steelers were struggling to get first downs, let alone a 92 yard potential game tying/winning drive. But they did it, in controversial fashion, but they did it nonetheless.
Finally, the most recent Superbowl. Arizona pulled an amazing 4th quarter out of god knows where, to put themselves up 23-20 with just 2 minutes 47 seconds left in the game. The Steelers after starting very strong offensively, had seemed to have run out of gas. However, the Steelers overcame a holding penalty which negated a first down on the first play of the drive, to go the distance of 88 yards to win the game with 35 seconds left. Again, pulling it out at the end.
There is no point leading for 59 minutes, if you cannot show up to win it in the 60th. There is no point dominating for 3 quarters, just to roll over in the 4th.
Unfortunately for the Steelers thus far, we have not looked so adept at pulling off such moments. Week One vs Tennessee, we almost fumbled the game away in the dying moments. Luckily, we pulled out the W in Overtime.
Week Two versus the Bears, we had two oppurtunities to put the game seemingly beyond reach, yet both times, the offense sputtered, and we came away with just 7 points from 3 drives in the 4th quarter where we got ourselves deep into opposition territory. The Bears, saw their oppurtunity and second chance, and they took it.
To the game today, first of all give the Bengals their due. Eventually Cincinatti was going to break the chain of defeats. Eventually Big Ben was going to lose a game in Ohio. They came to play and got the W.
Anyways, once again, the Steelers had the chance, after setting the tempo and leading for 3 quarters, the Steelers let up on both sides of the ball, the offense scored no points, and the defense gave up 14 points on long drives by the Bengals. Such long drives were almost non existant last season, particularly in the 4th quarter.
Maybe we have been unlucky this season to be the team in front in the crucial moments of games, yet last season both our offensive and defensive sides of the ball were clutch at the biggest of moments.
The season is not over. It is not time to panic. There were still plenty of chances to turn ourselves around. The team that wins the Superbowl is the team who gets into the postseason with momentum. How many times have we seen number one seeds fail.
Take a trip back to 2005. We dropped to 5-5 after being schooled by the then 10-0 Indianapolis Colts. We won 6 straight afterwards to finish 11-5, and then went 3-0 in the postseason to take the title.
There are positives to take from this game. The running game got a bit more back on track. The Offensive Line surrendered one sack. Mike Wallace looks the real deal.
The Steelers have found themselves on the flipside of where they are used to. Great teams are those that responds to adversity, and still pull it out.
The season is far from over, anyone who panics now, needs some reassurance. The Steelers just need to rediscover their groove and find their 60 minute game.
We will still be there at the end. We will still win many more games. We will still make the postseason. We just proved to be human afterall, but have some faith in the players and in the coaches.
We. Don't. Die.