We should be a little excited, right? After all, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be in the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
Unfortunately, I haven’t noticed much excitement since Sunday evening. I guess that’s because Pittsburgh dropped its second straight to the Bills in a game that really didn’t seem as close as the 26-15 score indicated.
What once was an 11-0 record and a bunch of angst with the fans because the Steelers weren’t getting the respect they deserved, has turned into an 11-2 mark and resignation. People are now expecting the worst. The offense will never get fixed. The defense is too injured. For that matter, the offense is too injured, as well, with left guard Matt Feiler being the latest casualty of his once-dominant unit.
“They will be one and done,” many are now saying, just weeks after a Super Bowl seemed all but certain.
“They need to trade for Sam Darnold and/or Matthew Stafford for 2021,” some are now insisting, just weeks after it appeared quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was a top candidate for NFL MVP and/or Comeback Player of the Year.
“He should be fired,” many are now screaming, just weeks after head coach Mike Tomlin seemed like a wise choice for NFL Coach of the Year.
Two games, that’s all it takes for people to cut bait and bail on the season, on those Super Bowl dreams, on those playoff-viewing plans?
An 11-game winning-streak was some nice evidence and all, but a two-game slide is enough to convince you that it’s over for the black and gold?
“What’s the point of going to the playoffs if they’re just going to lose?” you have been asking since Sunday. You don’t know they’re going to lose, Einstein (sorry for comparing you to a genius). I don’t know that, either. That is what makes the postseason so awesome, so thrilling.
The only thing we know is that the Steelers are currently in a slump, something that is putting a wet blanket on your hopes for the future. Remember, no team is as good as it looks when it’s on a roll, and no team is as bad as it looks when it’s in a slide.
If my math is correct, the Steelers' first postseason game—whatever round it happens to occur in—will be their 44th since I started following them some 40 years ago. That’s almost one playoff game for every year that I’ve been alive. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but I’m not. I’m pretty darn happy. In fact, when I learned that the Chiefs defeated Miami on Sunday afternoon, thus clinching Pittsburgh’s first postseason berth since 2017, I relaxed a lot. Suddenly, that game against the Bills didn’t seem so daunting. Maybe that’s because I knew I wouldn’t have to worry as much about tiebreaking scenarios down the stretch as I did the previous two Decembers, when the Steelers slowly went from the inside track to a playoff spot, to the outside looking in.
What’s left to worry about now? Fixing the offense, sure. Healing the defense, true. But isn’t it nice to know they have a postseason berth in their back pocket while they do both?
Will the Steelers get the top seed and a bye? If you would have asked me a few weeks ago, I may have said, “They better!” But now, as Kansas City’s grip on that sucker seems about as firm as a dad’s handshake on prom night, I don’t think it matters. I mean, it does, but what’s the point of going after something that seems fairly unattainable?
The Steelers had their shot at the bye, but it looks like that ship has sailed. Now, it’s time to get their own boat sailing in the right direction before those always much-appreciated playoffs start in a few weeks.
An NFL season is a long one. The Steelers may just be in the dog days of theirs.
Three cheers for the playoff-bound Steelers!