“It’s a team game! There were many things that happened during the course of that contest that led to the loss!”
That’s what Steelers fans always say when a player screws up near the end of a game and costs the team a win. LMAO! Just kidding. They hardly ever say that...unless, of course, they really, really like a player.
Take last Sunday, for example, and receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who fumbled in overtime at the Pittsburgh 35-yard line—or, what Justin Tucker calls, “My octagon”—which immediately led to Tucker’s 46-yard field goal to win the game for the Ravens.
Even though it was pretty obvious Smith-Schuster’s blunder cost Pittsburgh the game, most—save for the “He partied over the weekend and didn’t have proper focus!” crowd—were hesitant to throw him under the bus for it. JuJu is lovable. JuJu is a sweet kid. He’s a fan-favorite and likes to jump up in the stands and hug folks immediately after scoring a touchdown. Therefore, people were more willing to forgive JuJu and point to the Jaylen Samuels’ interception early in the game, Pittsburgh’s conservative game-plan on offense and even a questionable call or two by the officals as equally critical reasons for last Sunday’s loss.
And, you know what? You make great points. There were several factors that contributed to that crippling loss to Baltimore. There always are in every game.
Funny thing, though. People didn’t feel that way last December when they insisted two missed penalties by the officials—and not a red zone interception by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, poor accuracy by kicker Chris Boswell and some glaring break downs in coverage by the defense—were the sole reasons for a 33-30 loss to the Chargers.
I even wrote a column about it and said that the Steelers really only had themselves to blame for the loss—a lot of things happened over the course of that game that led to defeat—and people said I was stupid or ugly or whatever folks on social media say when they don’t agree with you.
It was obvious that the officials cost the Steelers the game. Why? Because who likes officials?
Speaking of liking, who liked Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh’s former running back who endeared himself to the home fans by not actually bothering with them?
Nobody, and that’s why it was so easy to point to his fourth-quarter fumble in Super Bowl XLV as the lone mistake that cost Pittsburgh a seventh Lombardi Trophy. It wasn’t Roethlisberger’s pick-six early in the game. It wasn’t the defense’s inability to stop Aaron Rodgers the entire night.
It was Mendenhall’s fumble and only Mendenhall’s fumble.
Is Mendenhall allowed back in Pittsburgh? He shouldn’t be.
Speaking of former Steelers who aren’t welcome in town any longer, Neil O’Donnell (whoops, am I allowed to mention his actual name?) has likely never had anyone buy him a drink in Pittsburgh. Why? Those two interceptions he threw in Super Bowl XXX that led directly to a 27-17 loss to the Cowboys.
Nobody remembers the defense’s failures early in the game or Dermontti Dawson air-mailing a shotgun snap when Pittsburgh had a really nice drive going. Nope. They just remember those two interceptions by the quarterback the fans never really wanted leading the team in the first place.
It’s obvious fan bias plays a part in how critical a player’s mistake was to the outcome of a game.
To review: we hate Mendenhall, so his fumble cost the Steelers Super Bowl XLV. We love JuJu, so his fumble was only one of many things that contributed to the loss to the Ravens last Sunday.
I need to take notes on this stuff. It will make it easier to write post-game articles.
For example, if the Steelers lose a tight game to the Chargers this Sunday night, and Bud Dupree makes a critical mistake by not setting the edge on a huge, fourth-quarter run by Melvin Gordon, I’ll know who to blame. But if Joe Haden gets smoked on a late touchdown pass, I’ll know who not to blame (maybe I’ll go back to like the second quarter and point to that time Dupree didn’t sack Philip Rivers when he had the chance).
And, finally, if JuJu Smith-Schuster pulls the game out with a last-second touchdown catch, my only focus will be on his incredible clutch gene.