Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Teams that have had to start their postseason journey on Wild Card Weekend have had great Super Bowl success in recent years, including the defending champion New York Giants, who finished the regular season at 9-7 a year ago and would be a good team for Pittsburgh to imitate down the stretch. However, the Steelers continue to do their 2009 impression after yet another heartbreaking loss, this time to the Cowboys in overtime.
It was another frustrating game for Steeler Nation to witness on Sunday. After battling back from early deficits of 10-0 and 17-10, Pittsburgh had the Cowboys on the ropes and ready to put the finishing touches on another crazy road victory. However, just like most games in 2012--win or lose--the Steelers simply could not stand prosperity.
After Pittsburgh seized momentum of the game when Ben Roethlisberger connected with Antonio Brown for a seven yard score to take the first lead of the evening at 24-17 with 12:43 remaining, all that was needed at that point was maybe another stop or two from the defense to preserve a hard-fought victory.
And the Steelers defense came through with a stop and forced a punt that Brown fielded at his own 14 yard line. Soon, No. 84 was off to the races with what looked to be at the very least a huge return. But it only took a pretty weak attempt by a Cowboys special teams player to pry the football from Brown's left arm, and Dallas recovered at Pittsburgh's 44 and soon tied the game at 24 with 6:58 remaining.
So much like the night Keenan Lewis dropped a game-sealing interception against the Titans, Emmanuel Sanders was forced out of bounds by the punter on what could have been a game-winning punt return against the Giants, and Sanders fumbled when he had nothing but green in front of him and a potential 70 yard touchdown in his sights against the Ravens, the 2012 edition of the Pittsburgh Steelers again fell flat on their faces in a key moment.
And unlike the games against New York and Baltimore, this time it wound up costing the Steelers dearly as Dallas eventually won thanks to a Roethlisberger interception on the second play of overtime that set up a Dan Bailey 21 yard field goal for the win.
The bad news is the Steelers simply show no signs of being able to put two solid games together in-order to capture the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC.
Your most optimistic Black and Gold faithful will tell you the 2011 New York Giants woke up on Christmas Eve with a 7-7 record and needing two victories in-order to win the NFC East title and make the playoffs as the fourth seed. New York got those two victories to close out the season, and as they say, the rest is history. The Giants are the defending Super Bowl Champions.
I suppose there is some value at looking back to 2011 as a good reference point. Much like the 2012 Steelers, who head into Week 16 with four losses in their last five games, last season's champs entered Week 16 on a five of six skid before going on their historic run.
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but one has to wonder just what previous football incarnation Pittsburgh is imitating this season.
Every time the Steelers open their mouths, it's not the 2011 New York Giants that I hear, it's the 2009 Pittsburgh Steelers.
Sunday's loss to the Cowboys marked the third time this season in-which Pittsburgh lost on a game-winning field goal on the final play of regulation or in overtime. The '09 Steelers lost three times in the same fashion and two more games to the Bengals and Raiders on touchdown passes in the waning seconds.
If you listen closely, the resemblance is almost uncanny.
The Steelers have a week to perfect their New York accent. Otherwise, they won't be headlining places like Denver or New England in January. Instead, they'll be performing their 2009 material at country clubs, ski resorts and other vacation spots all around the world.