... and I can't seem to hold all this in me any longer, so I'll just splash my disorganized thoughts and emotions from the AFCCG here.
We're going to the Super Bowl! This thought actually has to settle in. While the Big Trophy is always the only goal of the Steelers each season, you knew it was a long shot even before the start of the training camp. It is difficult enought with your team at full strength, and if you lose your QB for a quarter of the season, your offensive linemen keep getting injured, the league says your D can't play as it does, and if your most underrated defenseman misses 12 of the team's 18 games thus far - well, that's a heck of an accomplishment. I'm not saying that I'm already satisfied with the Steelers' season - I will not be until they hoist the Lombardi - but I know I will not be able to feel bad about it looking back. Or that's what I think now. It was too much against the odds for it to be viewed as a given.
And we know for sure that the 2010 Steelers are not the 2009 team, but in fact close to the 2008 version, and the Jets are not quite the 2005 Pittsburgh team. I gotta tell you, I saw a new Mark Sanchez, the tough one, who played better after he got hurt at the end of the 2nd quarter. That will be a contender team each year from now on. But for now, we're better, and we're going to the Big Game. Let the fortnight of hype begin.
Now, as to the game itself, it was a bizarre one. I tweeted at halftime that the Steelers outscored the Ravens in the 2nd half and the Jets in the 1st half by the same score of 24-3. I felt right there that I shouldn't have done it, because it feels like the good fortune can be jinxed oh so easily. I thought the Ravens felt pretty good in the half time of the previous game too.
I loved the Steelers' play on offense. That first drive was a thing of a beauty. I loved how Rashard Mendenhall ran through the Jets, even as Maurkice Pouncey got knocked out. I loved the playcalling early, and I loved it how the Steelers mixed passing and running in the first half. It seemed that they were moving the ball at ease either way - that 60 yard drive with each inch coming on the ground - for this league it is nothing less than WOW.
Speaking of Poucey, it seems that the injury is bad, and the Super Bowl will be a fitting ending to this O-line's season which will likely feature a 9th different starter (if my math is correct). I think Doug Legursky did a decent job there, and snaps is something the Steelers will have time to work on to avoid the problems they had against the Jets.
I totally loved our defense. 1st half goes without saying. 2nd half is a different story. I do hate the "prevent defense". I thought the Steelers became much much softer after their defenseive TD to make it 24-0, and it allowed the Jets to march down the field in the 2nd half. But now as I think about it again, it starts to look like a meaningful plan. The Steelers gave up few easy yards. A number of times they took the Jets to the fourth down, which mean clock-milking. It was amazing that the Jets came out empty after a long, 17-play drive which consumed about 8 minutes of the 4th quarter. Yeah, the Steelers gave up a safety on their first snap after that, but they put the ball 60 yards away, and again forced the Jets to take a lot of snaps to reach the endzone. And if you think about it, the Steelers never came close to giving up the lead. It is not the game of two dropped game-winning TDs as time expired as it was the case 5 weeks ago.
Also shout outs to Ben Roethlisberger (who didn't have his best game but did enough to win it), Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown (who made big catches again, including the one that iced the game), to LaMarr Woodley (6th consecutive postseason game with a sack) and to the coaching staff.
I will probably have a ton of other thoughts, but I think I'll fit them in comments to other posts here. Let's jsut enjoy this for a while, but not too long. And in any event, I would just like to say - sorry Troy, James, Brett and Maurkise, you're not going to Hawaii just yet. There's some work left for you.