1) Indianapolis was 0-2 and facing 0-3 on their own turf on a national stage. For the past three weeks, they have listened to the naysayers adamantly state that the Colts are finished without Manning, that their presence in the playoffs will end this year. If it seemed they came out fired up on Sunday night ready to tackle Goliath, you can bet they were. After all they have many talented veterans who have been just as instrumental in their playoff success as has Manning. And any team that has been as successful for as long the Colts have does have some pride in who they are. I'm willing to bet they're not yet ready to rest on their past accomplishments, and I believe they showed that last night.
While I am a bit concerned about the way we played overall Monday night, I'm not yet willing to proclaim doomsday for Steeler Nation. In fact, with the right attitude (though I confess I did not have this last night) we can actually feel pretty good about the outcome, and not just because of the final score. After all, history dictates that the Steelers actually thrive when faced with adversity, and rather than creating divisiveness in the locker room as it does with some teams, the Steelers, whether due to the coaches we have had or the type of player we draft, always seem to pull together as a team and become a stronger entity when under duress. Reasons why we can feel good about the Sunday night victory follow the jump.
2) This actually should be coupled with the first reason: Pittsburgh was in the Super Bowl last year. We're considered a prime candidate to return. We were coming off a shutout victory last week and we were favored this week by a larger margin, despite the fact that we were on the road, facing a proud, desperate 0-2 team that isn't yet ready to concede defeat. You can bet the Colts weren't about to be embarrassed, not on national television, not in their own dome, not by a team they've had success against in the past, both offensively and defensively. And while I won't say the Steelers were overconfident (after all, at least Ben looked skittish), the Colts certainly played with more passion, especially on defense. They played like they believed they weren't finished just yet. They played with pride and passion. And you have to give them this.
3) Despite the fact we once again lost the turnover battle, we never threw in the towel. It would have been easy considering the way things went in the second quarter, the way the dome was rocking with a crowd eager for a victory, the way our offensive line was dropping, the way every bounce and every call seemed to go the Colts way, to simply fold and surrender. And when the Colts marched 80 yards on our defense to score the tying touchdown, we could have easily lost what remaining confidence we had. But we didn't, and Ben marched us down the field and Suisham, whose confidence could have dissipated with his earlier miss from 36 yards, promptly marched on and kicked the game winner.
4) Our offensive line showed grit and character despite getting pounded all night. We lost three linemen (out of seven), and were looking at putting a tight end out on the edge at the end, when the rookie Gilbert came back out, injured shoulder and all, and blocked well enough on the last drive to allow Ben to drive us down the field. I'm certain that when injuries start piling up, teams can throw up their hands and exclaim "what now!" or "why us!", but the standard is the standard and we don't let ourselves get too distracted by injuries. And we don't make excuses or point fingers. We simply insert and trust whoever it is that needs to step in.
5) We have explosive and exciting receivers who can get open and go the distance against any team. And even though Manny Sanders had a relatively bad game, once again no one pointed fingers and Ben actually went back to him on third and 18 for a nice completion and a first down. That's the definition of trust--even when someone is having an off night, you continue to believe in him and let him know it.
6) Our stars have not yet put together a complete game, nor have they played their best. While they may try to tell you the lockout didn't affect them, it did. But, (hopefully) no worries. Teams often gel later in the season, and yet, even though we've played (hopefully) our worst football, we are still 2-1. I believe that as the season progresses, we'll only get stronger and better. Remember, we are playing with a line that has yet to work with each other for a full season, and there are going to be bumps in the road, but the longer they play together and get acclimated to the system, the better they'll be.
So there you have it. While there's certainly reason to allow ominous clouds to hover over Pittsburgh, there are plenty more reasons to believe these clouds will disperse to reveal a glorious, brand new day, a day where the Steelers once again hoist the Super Bowl trophy and silence all the critics who have continued to write us off.