Can you believe that every last scenario that we needed to have happen, did in fact happen?!? Crazy day of football on Sunday. As steelerinchicago noted in a recent diary, there is lots of room for 'what ifs?' with this year's Pittsburgh Steelers. As poorly as we played at times, we still almost managed to backdoor our way in to the playoffs. We held a tiebreaker over just one of the contending Wild Card contenders: the Kansas City Chiefs.
A lot of people might have thought we were crazy for so rigorously analyzing our playoff possibilities. And although there many things that needed to happen, I didn't feel that any one event was that unlikely in itself (fine, maybe the SF victory over the Broncos was a stretch, but you know how I feel about Jay Cutler).
We'll come back and talk about the season as a whole, but let's enjoy our victory over the the Bengals first.
Boy am I glad that we found a way to win that game. Obviously, I always want us to win, but Sunday's game seemed to be dominated by the Steelers for nearly the entire 60 minutes. Give credit to the Bengals for making a game of it in the 4th quarter, but we were in control I thought for most of the contest. Had we lost, it would have been a microcosm of the entire season, and most certainly would have left a bad taste in our mouths heading into the offseason.
Instead, we got it done, and got an added bonus for finding a way to pull out the victory: we knocked the Bengals out of the playoffs! On the defensive end, we were harassing Carson Palmer, punishing their receivers when they tried to make plays (does anyone else remember Anthony Smith's bruising hit on Housh?), and effectively limiting their running attack. On offense, we were running the ball at will. It wasn't like the Cleveland game when Willie Parker went bananas, but we were controlling the line of scrimmage, limiting the number of possesions and opportunities for Carson Palmer and the dangerous offense he operates, and not forcing Big Ben to win on his own.
Hines Ward, Cedrick Wilson, and of course, Santonio Holmes all had solid games, especially late in the game when we finally went to the air more frequently. The offensive line kept Big Ben off his back, and controlled the tempo of the game. Jeff Reed hit a clutch FG to send the game into overtime and there were no miscues on special teams. It was a solid performance on many fronts.
That's why I was so disheartened when Parker fumbled at the one inch line. At the time, I thought to myself: "Is this really happening again?" At the one inch line! That would be twice that's happened this year, the other being when Hines Ward lost the ball trying to go over the top against the Denver Broncos? Unbelievably unbelievable at the time.
But we prevailed, and that's all that matters. Coach Cowher seemed extremely engaged on Sunday, fist-pumping, spewing spittle, congratulating and scolding players in the same confrontation. It was vintage Cowher, and if it was the man's last game coaching the Steelers, I salute him for a job well done...not just for this game, but for the entire body of work he's put together coaching our beloved Steelers.
I'm back from vacation and am looking forward to the playoffs. I'll be previewing the games, making predictions, and recapping the Steelers tumultous 2006 season, so join me as we head into the final month of football.