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Watching the Pittsburgh Steelers is a practice in the art of hesitation

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Instant replay has changed how we watch, and enjoy, the Pittsburgh Steelers games.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

I only have myself to blame. I know better. I allowed myself to fall victim to the moment. I invited the sweet wave of unencumbered joy to sweep over me after what appeared to be a Xavier Grimble touchdown reception. All the pressures and problems of the outside world seem to fade away while you are focused on the singular endeavor of rooting for our beloved Pittsburgh Steelers with all of Steelers Nation. For someone like myself who doesn’t drink alcohol or partake in some form of pharmaceutical stress reliever, Steelers games can be a welcome distraction and a euphoric escape.

Yesterday’s game doesn’t fall into that category however.

I have learned the hard way to never celebrate an apparent great Steelers play prematurely. Instead I will attempt to contain my excitement while I scan the screen for any sign of a yellow flag. It may be my imagination, but I would swear I have watched the players in the process of celebrating a big play only to have a flag be thrown incredibly late. Was it stuck in the refs pocket or what? What was he thinking waiting so long to throw the flag? It almost appears sometimes that they are allowing the play to develop and then deciding whether or not to throw the flag. Either it’s a penalty or it isn’t. The resulting inconsistencies are truly maddening. I feel we can all agree, like the strike zone in baseball, we only want the game to be called the same both ways.

The other reason I delay getting too ecstatic after any successful Steelers play is because of instant replay. You simply can’t count your chickens before they hatch. You have to hold in your excitement till you have watched every angle of the replay to confirm if it was a successful play or not. It doesn’t matter what the call was on the field, because a stadium full of people will quickly draw their own conclusion. They will cheer or moan their decision in a concerted effort to help the coach decide whether to challenge the play or not.

I have been doing better this year in delaying my celebrations in an attempt to limit my utter disappointments, but yesterday I received a painful reminder why that is necessary and prudent.

I jumped off the coach celebrating what I thought was a Big Ben TD pass to Grimble, but quickly realized something wasn’t right. I never saw a ref give the touchdown signal, but he had to have scored on that play, right? Wrong! Even though his full speed momentum did allow him to break the pane of the goal line, he forgot the most important objective. The freaking football. Not only did he fail to secure the ball, but to make matters worse he fumbled out of the end zone, which results in a change of possession.

The fact that I had already celebrated the score made the resulting disappointment seem so much worse. That single play summed up Sunday afternoon’s game to a tee. The Steelers were able to pull defeat from the jaws of victory. Maybe fate has a way of evening these things out, because we done the exact opposite the week prior.

Hopefully this game won’t turn out to be a total loss, but rather a learning tool moving forward. The Steelers should realize they are capable of playing with anybody in the league, but that they can be their own worst enemies. The Steelers beat themselves in Denver.

This team is still finding their identity. The upper echelon teams know who they are and are consistently performing as such. The Saints are the class of the league at the moment. The Rams and the Chiefs are offensive juggernauts who are trying to learn to play a little defense, at least enough to compete for a title. Then you have teams like the Steelers, Chargers, Bears, and Texans. These teams in my opinion are still finding themselves and have yet to reveal what they will become.

I wrote a few weeks back that I feel the Steelers have the unique potential to develop into a punishing power offense, and I still believe that to be true. The Steelers have cleaned up some of their penalty problems, and up to yesterday they had improved their third down conversation percentage. But they are still suffering from self inflicted wounds of their own making. Ball security has to be a priority moving forward. Dropped passes, fumbles, and interceptions are keeping them from reaching their potential. This team is close to being something special, but ball security can derail any team.

I also have an opportunity to learn from this game. Like Leon Lett before me, I need to wait till we are in the end zone, and it is confirmed by replay, to celebrate.