OK, Steelers fans, we’ve come to the point in the season which we all longed for ever since the CBA was signed back in August, but which we all are dreading – the playoffs, the time when football can end for 8 long months on any given Sunday. But this is where the Steelers strive, with their backs to the wall, stakes high and pressure mounting!
What I know for sure is that not a single person in the Steelers locker room said “Mission accomplished” after Week 17 of the season. No. Getting into the playoffs might be a dream for about three quarters of the NFL teams, but for the Steelers it is most definitely a routine goal, just as getting a W every week. The dream for this team is the seventh Lombardi. They came painfully close to snatching one last year, and I am sure the members of the 2010 Steelers would love to replace that memory with a new, better and shinier one.
So we are now the 5th seed, going on the road likely for the entire playoffs. I personally don’t see a big problem with that. We’ve done this before (2005), we’ve done this the other way (2008, 2010), I really don’t think it matters where to play the likes of Baltimore and New England. And I think the experience of this team pays off in the next few weeks.
I wanted to write a few words about the Cleveland game, but will not – in part because the game proved to be meaningless, in part because Week 17 almost always fades in the buildup to the first postseason weekend. I will just mention the defense (points in final 6 games of the season: 9, 7, 3, 20, 0, 9, and Polamalu is a beast, in case you did not know), Antonio Brown (Helmet catches: AB, 2, David Tyree, 1) and the running game (I personally don’t think we are in trouble with Mendenhall’s injury (for now) – we wouldn’t be able to run on Denver anyway).
Instead, I decided to take a look into this year’s playoff field as a testament to what an unusual, unpredictable and weird season it was. You may or may not explain this by the lockout or anything else, but the fact remains that this year’s 12 playoff teams include:
- A team with the worst passing defense (in fact, the worst passing D in the history of the NFL) and the worst overall defense in the league in terms of yards – the #1 AFC seed New England Patriots;
- A team with the second-worst passing defense and overall defense in the NFL in terms of yards – the #1 NFC seed Green Bay Packers (Note: Green Bay is also tied for 27th in the league in sacks)
- A team with the third-worst passing defense in the NFL in terms of yards – the #3 NFC seed New Orleans Saints;
- A team with league-worst rushing offense – the #4 NFC seen New York Giants (Note: also a 4th-worst and 6th-worst rushing offenses – Detroit and Green Bay);
- A team boasting the only QB in the league who completed less than half of his passes – the #4 AFC seed Denver Broncos;
- A team whose QB has not had a 300-yard game this season, andaveraged less that 200 yards per game – the #2 NFC seed San Francisco 49ers;
- A team that is tied for the fewest takeaways in the league – the #5 AFC seed Pittsburgh Steelers (Note: a team that Steelers are tied with – New Orleans Saints);
- A team that is last in turnover differential in the AFC – the #4 AFC seed Denver Broncos;
- A team that is tied for second worst in field goal percentage in the league (Pittsburgh Steelers);
- A team that does not have a winning record – the #4 AFC seed Denver Broncos (Note: Broncos also wend 6-6 against the AFC, 3-3 in AFC South, and 2-2 against the NFC teams).
- A team that had all four of its losses to non-playoff teams – the #2 AFC seed Baltimore Ravens;
- A team that went 2-4 in divisional play – the #6 AFC seed Cincinnati Bengals;
- Two teams that finished the regular season with 3-game losing streaks – the #3 and #4 AFC seeds, Houston Texans and Denver Broncos;
- A team that had 4 quarterbacks play significant amount of time during the season, the same team that lost its starting QB, running back, wide receiver and a star pass-rusher (as well as a defensive coordinator) for big chunks of the season – the #3 AFC seed Houston Texans;
- A team that has a negative points differential (-6) – the #4 NFC seed New York Giants;
I’m sure a more thorough stats research would result in more tidbits like these.
This may all sound like a compilation of some meaningless stats. Of course, you also have to consider that this playoff field features three historically good passing attacks. But what it really tells us is that any team is beatable in any given game. History has shown at least three times in the past 7 years that every single team in the postseason has a legitimate shot at winning the Super Bowl, be it ACF or NFC, #1 seed or #6 seed.
So let’s brace for a fun ride with our Steelers, and let’s hope it has only one destination – the Super Bowl!