Losses like this happen.
Fresh off a big win and facing a weaker opponent at home, a sure win was snatched away from the favored Steelers.
The loss stung and it still does two days after the horrific, last-second collapse. Losing to a team that was 0-3 and coming off a 56-14 loss nine days earlier should hurt. But the Steelers have been here before, and if they learn from this setback the same way they have after other setbacks, Sunday's loss will soon be nothing but a distant memory.
A week after stomping the Chargers, 37-0 in Week 1 in 1975, the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers were embarrassed in Week 2 by the Bills and O.J. Simpson's 227 rushing yards. The Steelers admitted to be overconfident heading into that game but refocused after the setback by winning 14 of their final 15 games, including a victory in Super Bowl X.
Three decades later, the 2005 Steelers suffered their own late-game meltdown against visiting Jacksonville in Week 6. After squandering their chance to win the game in regulation, Pittsburgh threw a pick-six in overtime to literally throw away a game they had no business losing. The lesson learned in that game was to give the ball to their closer, Jerome Bettis, with the game on the line. That lesson was learned, as Bettis helped seal many vital games during the Steelers' run to their Super Bowl XL victory.
A year ago at this time, the Steelers were 0-4. That's what I've been telling myself to not let Sunday's loss get to me too much. Besides getting off to a better start this year, the other positive is the hope that the Steelers will learn from both the good and bad that has been the first quarter of their 2014 season as they begin the second quarter of their schedule.
There are several positives to take away from the first four games. Le'Veon Bell has emerged as one of the best (if not the best) running backs in the league. Antonio Brown has solidified his place a a top-flight receiver. The offensive line has improved, especially in run blocking. After two games of horrid rush defense, the Steelers have also improved in that department over the last two weeks. And when this team is firing on all cylinders (see the first half against Cleveland and for most of the game against Carolina), the Steelers are an incredibly fun team to watch.
But as Steelers fans know, this team also is frightfully flawed in certain areas. Injuries to key Steelers on defense weakened the unit Sunday and exposed issues in the secondary, as Tampa Bay continued to thread the needle through the heart of the defense on Sunday. The offensive line is still an inconsistent bunch, as evidenced by their five-sack allowance at the hands of the Buccaneers' defense. Their apparent inability to play with a high level of intensity for each quarter of every game is an alarming issue.
But perhaps the biggest cause of concern for the 2014 Steelers thus far is their lack of discipline. Mounting penalties along with lapses in all three phases of their team at critical moments has dragged the Steelers down to the level of a mediocre team at the quarter-season mark. But only four games have been played and, if the Steelers learn from Sunday's loss (the team's lowest point of the season so far), a successful season still might be in the works.
Sometimes, it just takes reaching your lowest point in order to learn, grow and, ultimately, win.