Oh, sure, you might put out a negative vibe as a means to insulate yourself from a possible let down, but deep down, you’re an eternal optimist. If you aren’t an eternal optimist with hopes and dreams of a championship finish, what’s the point of following the Steelers or any team in any sport?
Do you know how you can tell that you’re an eternal optimist? It’s that feeling of finality that comes over you the second Pittsburgh’s football season officially comes to an end and you must deal with thoughts of free agency, the draft and an entire offseason of “what ifs” and “what could have beens.”
As a BTSC writer for over a decade, I can tell you that the feeling of finality really hits me hard the second I log onto the editing page to write an end of season article and I see someone already working on a mock draft.
Having said all of that, however, I must say that I simply didn’t have those thoughts and feelings in the days after the Steelers’ 48-37 loss at the hands of the Browns in the wildcard round last Sunday evening at Heinz Field.
I should have been ready for a bridge the second the Steelers fell behind by four touchdowns before the first quarter was even in the books, but I wasn’t. I should have been jumping up and down and waving my Terrible Towel while my heart filled with hope right after Pittsburgh cut the deficit to 35-23 late in the third quarter, but none of that occurred. Don’t get me wrong, I was mildly excited about the possibility of a historic comeback but only mildly excited.
At the end of the game, when it became apparent that a miracle wasn’t about to take place, I searched for the nearest pillow to lay my head and called it a night.
I woke up the next morning and went to work as if the Steelers had just lost a regular-season game to their nearest rivals.
I really can’t explain this feeling. When I look back at just about every other playoff exit since I started following the Steelers, that feeling of disappointment returns. The only one that didn’t hit me that hard, believe it or not, was Pittsburgh’s defeat at the hands of the juggernaut Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX following the 1995 season. However, that had more to do with witnessing my favorite team reach a level of success I grew up thinking I’d never get to see—a trip to the Super Bowl.
Anyway, if I had to list a reason for my blah feeling about the Steelers’ quick playoff exit, I guess I could point to the pandemic and the lack of full stadiums all throughout the NFL during the 2020 regular season. I know I said it felt pretty normal, early on, but as it turns out, watching professional football during a COVID comprised season never quite felt comfortable to me.
This might sound strange coming from someone who thought the NFL did the right thing by limiting fans amid the pandemic, but just because I thought it was the correct move doesn’t mean it didn’t affect my mood and intensity as I witnessed the regular season unfold.
Oh well, I guess there’s a first time for everything. Here’s to a return to normal in 2021, complete with me totally losing my bleep at even the thought of the Steelers exiting the playoffs without winning a Super Bowl.