The Steelers were on the verge of not only losing their fourth-straight game against the Colts at Heinz Field on Sunday, but they were also on the brink of clinching the most unsatisfying division title in franchise history.
Seriously, can you even think of one that would have been less thrilling than backing in thanks to a 23-16 Browns’ loss to those suddenly pesky Jets? I mean, they’re used to that kind of stuff in Cleveland, but this Steelers fan wouldn’t have been able to enjoy winning a title in such an impotent fashion.
But much like the middle-aged dudes in those in-game commercials, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suddenly felt like his old self again in the second half and led Pittsburgh to a 28-24 comeback victory and its 24th division crown in franchise history.
I was proud of the Steelers for how they responded to adversity, to everyone—including yours truly—writing them off after falling behind, 24-7. You couldn’t blame folks, of course. After all, the Steelers’ play had slowly been deteriorating with each passing quarter, dating back to that post-Thanksgiving Ravens game many weeks prior.
Fortunately, it doesn’t take much for momentum to shift in professional sports, particularly in the National Football league, where one or two successful plays can change a team’s fortunes.
That happened for the Steelers late in the third quarter on a 39-yard touchdown pass to receiver Diontae Johnson, and they never really looked back.
They can now wear their “Won Not Done” AFC North Champions t-shirts and baseball caps and do so proudly. You can, too. You have a couple of weeks to enjoy this little bit of satisfaction the team gave you on Sunday. As big of a number as 24 might be, it’s still a great accomplishment.
Think about it, the Ravens, the two-time defending AFC North champions, came into the 2020 season as solid favorites to three-peat. And who can forget the way folks were tying themselves into knots to prop up the Browns? As for the Steelers, maybe 7-9. Maybe they would sneak in as a wildcard entrant if everything came together for them and their aging quarterback.
The Steelers not only won the division, but they swept the Ravens, and they blew away the Browns at Heinz Field back in October.
It feels nice to be able to do an audit on those preseason predictions and fine some fools a few irreverent Tweets, doesn’t it?
The Ravens and Browns control their own playoff fates as they head into Week 17, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to make it in. If you’re a Baltimore fan, surely, you still have nightmares about how the Bengals—the team’s final regular-season opponent—knocked the Ravens out of the playoffs in Week 17 three years ago. And if you’re a Browns supporter, well, are you really confident your team will take care of Pittsburgh (big brother) next Sunday afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium?
I wouldn’t be if I were you.
The Steelers aren’t going to get the top seed, and they may not even get the second seed. However, yet another division title is theirs. They can look at their program and take pride in knowing it is currently in much better shape than their closest competitors.
The Steelers came into 2020 looking to prove a lot of doubters wrong. Winning the AFC North is the first step in doing so.
Congratulations to the Steelers and their fans. You run the North yet again.