But I wasn’t worried, not with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger poised to lead the offense downfield to either tie the score or, more preferably and perhaps predictably, win the game. Just as Roethlisberger was taking his first shotgun snap of what surely would be a memorable drive, I was about to text this to some relatives: “Ben with two minutes? WFT is screwed.” Unfortunately, just as I was pressing “B” on my new Android, Roethlisberger’s initial pass was tipped high into the air and intercepted by former Steelers’ inside linebacker Jon Bostic at the 1:59 mark of the final period.
As the hoots and hollers of the Washington players echoed quite loudly throughout the mostly empty Heinz Field, I said to myself, “How can this be? Surely, this isn’t over. Surely, something else has to happen. Surely, some immaculate something or another will occur to keep Pittsburgh’s undefeated season alive.”
You know how every soap opera character in the history of soap operas has died before later returning to their show undead? That was the kind of implausible miracle I was hoping for in the waning moments of Monday’s game.
But there would be no miracles. The Steelers would lose for the first time in 2020.
Ouch…kind of. I felt the normal numbness one experiences amid the finality of a season that falls short of the 1972 Miami Dolphins’ perfection. At least I think I did. I’m not sure. Even as a long-time fan of one of the greatest organizations in professional and collegiate sports, prior to Monday, I never once had the privilege of even entertaining the thought of watching the Steelers force the likes of Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris to put a cork in it (their champagne).
To tell you the truth, I was fine after the Steelers first defeat of the season. That numbness only lasted a few minutes. Even the trolling that took place on social media barely made a dent in my psyche. Maybe because it’s rather silly to troll fans of football teams who lose their first game in December.
It’s not like it was a playoff game. Postseason losses after long winning streaks hurt way more than they do in the regular season, obviously. Take four years ago, for example. Pittsburgh rode a nine-game streak into the AFC title game and a date with the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Sadly, New England had its way with the Steelers, and I was so distraught, I couldn’t even watch the Super Bowl two weeks later.
And who can forget that 15-game winning-streak that took place during Roethlisberger’s rookie season of 2004? You remember how that felt, right? The Steelers were a team of destiny…and they stayed one until the AFC Championship Game when they ran into a New England team that was one of questionable video usage.
Heck, even the demise of the Steelers’ eight-game winning-streak at the hands of New England three Decembers ago hurt way more than Monday’s. I guess that’s because that #Jessecaughtit screw-job by the officials ultimately led to the demise of the Steelers’ chances at a seventh Lombardi trophy.
But I’m not worried about how Monday’s loss will derail the 2020 Steelers’ Lombardi prospects. If the critics were so unwilling to give the Steelers any credit during their 11-game winning-streak, they have no business breaking out the shovels after one loss.
If they do, they’re just mean.
There’s only one Steelers’ loss that will leave me despondent in 2020, and that loss can’t happen until 2021.
As much as we’d like to get 2020 over with, it’s not done yet. Neither are the Steelers Super Bowl chances.