As a huge Steelers fan, it's always my number one sports spectator wish to see them win a Super Bowl. However, I'm also a realist, and even though Pittsburgh (7-7) still holds the inside track on a playoff spot, after four losses in five games, I don't necessarily have visions of Lombardi trophies dancing in my head this Christmas season.
Having said that, a trip to the playoffs would still be a nice treat because the postseason always has tremendous possibilities for creating some "Immaculate" moments. Even in years that don't include confetti and parades, a playoff win can give fans memories that last a lifetime.
How much mileage have we gotten out of the Steelers exciting, come-from-behind victory over Cleveland in the wild card game following the 2002 season, or Gary Anderson's game-winning 50 yard field goal in overtime down in the Astrodome on New Year's Eve, 1989?
Neither season ended in a Super Bowl triumph. In fact, they both ended in the divisional round a week later, but oh what memories those victories created.
Heck, we'll be celebrating the 40th year anniversary of the Immaculate Reception this week, and Franco's clutch catch only led to one postseason victory in 1972.
As a great man once said (ESPN's John Clayton), every season that includes a playoff win is a good season. Even though I don't have much confidence that the injury and mistake-prone Steelers have what it takes to go on a Super Bowl run if they do make the postseason, I'd like to think they have at least a puncher's chance of getting out of the first round with a victory.
Below I will rank the top three scenarios I'd like to see unfold for Pittsburgh in the first round of the playoffs. As far as I'm concerned, anything that comes after that would be gravy.
Gravy scenario number three: A victory over the Ravens in front of their fans
Normally, this would rank number one on my gravy list, as any postseason victory over Baltimore would be enough to sustain me all the way through to the next training camp. However, like the Steelers, the Ravens are in a bit of a free-fall with three losses in a row, and at this point, they are on a collision course with the fourth seed in the AFC. Since Pittsburgh is just hoping to squeak in with the sixth seed at the moment, this scenario isn't realistic enough for me to rank number one.
Too bad, because I was hoping to see Mike Tomlin mimic the LeBron James "chalk toss" this time around as he walked across the field to shake John Harbaugh's hand. That might seem a bit out of character for Tomlin, but the Harbaugh brothers just have a way of being embroiled in controversial postgame handshakes.
Gravy scenario number two: Defeating the Broncos in Denver in a rematch of last season's "Ryan Clark-less Wild Card bowl"
There are many reasons why this scenario would bring me tremendous joy all throughout the offseason. For starters, it would avenge last year's overtime loss to Denver in the wild card round, a game that marked the one and only time Tim Tebow lived-up to his tremendous hype. Even though Pittsburgh's injury situation became down-right laughable by about the third quarter, the loss still left me and thousands of other Steelers fans depressed for days and weeks.
Secondly, after watching Tebow put up 316 passing yards on Pittsburgh in the playoff game a year ago, it would be kind of ironic if the Steelers defense frustrated and confused Peyton Manning in a postseason rematch. That might be a bit unrealistic, but maybe Ben Roethlisberger can simply out-duel Manning for a second time in the playoffs.
As of right now, this possible scenario looks iffy, at best, thanks to the Broncos 34-17 pasting of Baltimore this past Sunday afternoon and New England's home loss to the 49ers on Sunday Night Football. Denver is now a game up on the Patriots and has the inside track on the second seed with games against the Browns (5-9) and Chiefs (2-12) to close out the season.
Even though the odds are a bit slim for a rematch, I'm still holding out hope because I think it would be fitting if Ryan Mundy, one of the goats of last year's playoff loss, became the hero this time around by intercepting Manning in overtime and taking it back to the house for the game-winning score. And who would be the first person to greet Mundy in the end zone? That's right, Ryan Clark after a full sprint from the sidelines. All right, that might be a bit too dangerous.
Scratch that last part.
I'd just be happy with the result. So happy, I would probably "Tebow" in my living room. That's right, and I'd record it with my video camera and post it on Youtube as a response to all the Broncos fans who posted videos of themselves "Tebowing" at the end of last year's playoff game.
Gravy scenario number one: A victory over Tom Brady and the Patriots at Gillette Stadium
I'm sure this needs very little explanation, but in case you're wondering, the Steelers lost at home to New England in the AFC Championship game two times in four seasons. What better way to avenge those losses than by beating Tom Brady and the Patriots in their house? Earning a victory in the wild card round wouldn't be quite on par with an AFC Championship, but it would be something.
Don't you just get annoyed and angry when you see Brady chewing out one of his teammates for making a mistake in a game New England is already winning, 48-2? I know, me too, and that's another reason why I put this scenario number one.
Not only would it be the most satisfying, it's actually pretty realistic, considering the Steelers are fighting for the sixth seed, and the Patriots appear to be locked into the third seed.
And dare I say a victory would be quite realistic as well, considering only three of New England's 10 victories have come against teams with winning records.
I can picture the ideal ending, too: Brady leads his offense on one of his clinical late-game touchdown drives to put the Patriots ahead, seemingly for good. The crowd is going nuts, and the announcers are gushing over Brady's pocket awareness, precision passing, and the possibility of a Brady vs. Manning match-up in the divisional round.
However, Roethlisberger then leads the Steelers downfield, and maybe goes all "street ball" and picks up a key third down by completing a pass underhand to Chris Rainey. He then wins the game in the final seconds on a play where he sheds three pass rushers, does a couple of pirouettes and then throws off the wrong foot for a touchdown pass as time expires.
That would be my number one "gravy" playoff scenario for the Steelers.
Actually, any scenario that ends in a first round playoff victory would be fine with me, and I'd walk away happy and content............until the following week.
Gravy always goes well with mashed potatoes.