In fairness, hope is the last thing to die for a fan of any team, but since this is a Steelers site, I had to customize my title for clicks, baby!
Now that that’s out of the way, I thought it was fitting that the Steelers last bit of playoff hope was tied to, well, a tie between the Colts and Titans on Sunday Night Football in the final game of the regular season. It was fitting because a tie is how Pittsburgh began the 2018 campaign. It was a 21-21 come-from-ahead tie with the Browns in Cleveland on September 9, and I’ll be damned if that Week 1 mistake by the lake didn’t come home to roost on December 30.
There were the Steelers and their fans standing around at Heinz Field following an ugly 16-13 victory over the vacation-bound Bengals, hoping and praying for Cleveland to knock off the Ravens in-order to make the AFC North title, something that seemed like an inevitability just six weeks earlier, the ultimate fantasy brought to life.
This was Pittsburgh’s last realistic chance at the postseason, and after Baker Mayfield and Co. failed to come through in the final seconds at M&T Bank Stadium, everyone who either loved the Steelers and/or worked for them, walked away dejected, the stark reality of another year without a seventh Super Bowl parade at the end of the rainbow quickly sinking in.
But I’ll just bet there were at least a few folks (perhaps more than just a few), some Steelers employees, many more just plain old Steelers fan, who hadn’t quite given up on that one last possibility.
I’m talking about a tie between Indianapolis and Tennessee, a result that, thanks to, well, tiebreakers, would have allowed the Steelers to sneak into the dance as the AFC’s sixth seed.
I don’t know about you, but I certainly hadn’t quite given up hope. Even as I co-hosted my final regular season edition of the Hangover with Bryan Anthony Davis, I was keeping tabs on the score of the game. Even though I was sick as a dog and really couldn’t wait to go to bed after the show was over, I was keeping tabs on the score in Tennessee.
But how crazy was that to even think a tie was even possible? Yeah, sure, ties are more possible now than they’ve been since overtime became a reality in the mid-70’s (thank you, 10-minute overtime periods), but in a do-or-die situation, where the winner cashes in the final postseason ticket, how would either team even allow it to come down to that?
If I’m either team in that situation, and I know there’s only one avenue to the Promised Land, what do I care about taking risks? True, I don’t want to lose, but I also don’t want to walk away without winning. If the game is tied in the final seconds, I’m pulling out all the stops. Even if it leads to a loss, oh well, a tie wasn’t going to get me anywhere but home on my couch, anyway.
OK, now that I’ve cleared up just how unrealistic a tie truly was, I want to take you back to the morning of December 31, 2018. Was I thinking about some rockin’ New Year’s Eve party I would attend later that evening? Was I making a list of all of my New Year’s resolutions I would drop by January 15?
I was thinking about the Colts and Titans game, and about how there was no way the Steelers could miss the postseason, especially with 2018 being the 10-year anniversary of the team’s Super Bowl XLIII victory over the Cardinals in Tampa Bay.
Did the game end in a tie? Did the miracle happen?
When I checked my phone to see a final score of 33-17 (it didn’t matter who won or lost), I was even more dejected than when Mayfield’s fourth-down pass was intercepted by C.J. Mosley.
I can’t believe I did that. I can’t believe I held out hope for a tie. I can’t believe I was sad when I found it it wasn’t a tie.
That’s me, I’m a Steelers fan...a Steelers fan all the way to the bitter end.