PITTSBURGH - NOVEMBER 14: Hines Ward #86 of the Pittsburgh Steelers walks off of the field with help from the training staff after injuring himself during the game against the New England Patriots on November 14 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
There's not a whole lot to feel good about in Steeler Nation at the moment. The Pittsburgh Steelers got spanked by the hated New England Patriots, 39-26, on Sunday night in their first game at Heinz Field in nearly a month. Earlier, I shared a few of my quick post-game reactions. I won't be delving any deeper into the game here. Instead, just a quick conversation-starter to begin the new week.
How many of you would have taken that record at the beginning of the year? Just about every last one, I'd imagine. Folks were thrilled we started 3-1 in the four games that Ben Roethlisberger was suspended. Then following Big Ben's first game back against the Browns - a game most thought the Steelers would win - Pittsburgh entered a brutal four-game gauntlet of games. The first three were on the road, with the first two coming against quality opponents (Miami, New Orleans), and the third coming against a desperate divisional rival (Cincinnati). To conclude the quartet of games, the Steelers returned home to play an angry Patriots team that had just gotten humiliated by the Browns. And the Steelers were coming off a short week of rest and preparation after having played on Monday Night Football the week before.
So, as I look back at the past four games, I'm not at all surprised that the Steelers went 2-2. In fact, I'm fairly pleased and impressed. And the fact that the Steelers got whooped by New England may just be what the doctor ordered for Mike Tomlin's team as they enter a new mini-section of their season. The next four for Pittsburgh? Oakland, @ Buffalo @ Baltimore, Cincinnati. These next two in particular are a nice opportunity to get back on track with important conference wins.
So, as bad as last night was, the Steelers are still right where they need to be, and ahead of where most people realistically thought they'd be positioned after nine games. Whether or not they replicate their mid-season collapse from a year ago remains to be seen. But up until this point, the Steelers' 2010 season seems to have taken a fairly common trajectory - some highs, some lows, and a whole lot of questions still to be answered.
Next, we'll get into the specifics of what went wrong on Sunday night, as well as the challenges that lie ahead for the 6-3, injury-depleted Steelers.