It’s Monday, January 10, as I’m writing this article, one day after the Steelers clinched an improbable playoff berth thanks to their victory against the Ravens, the Jaguars win over the Colts and the non-tie by the Raiders and Chargers to close out the 2021 regular season on Sunday Night Football.
If January 10 brings back painful memories to you as a Steelers fan, it may be because, on that date one year earlier, Pittsburgh was trounced by the Browns in a Wild Card Game at Heinz Field.
The Steelers were undefeated for the vast majority of the 2020 campaign and were obviously looking to clinch the number one seed in the AFC. Unfortunately, they couldn’t lock that seed up, but they did head into the playoffs as the third seed and were favored to defeat a Cleveland team that was just happy to be in the playoffs for the first time in nearly two decades—regardless of the seed.
Speaking of seeds, I remember how angry I was four years ago when the #JesseCaughtIt fiasco not only led to a depressing home loss to those dastardly Patriots, but it also cost Pittsburgh the number one seed in the AFC (not to mention a plastic cup I had been drinking out of for years).
If only the Steelers hadn’t been screwed by the NFL officials, they would have had a much clearer path to the Super Bowl and certainly would have avoided their nightmare matchup of 2017: the Jaguars.
One of the great things about being a sports fan is that it can often offer one great perspective.
For as angry as I was four years ago when the Steelers were denied a top seed because of some stupid catch rule, for as in disbelief as I was one year ago thanks to that home loss to those Brownies, that’s how happy and in disbelief I am right now that the Steelers somehow managed to sneak into the postseason as the seventh and final seed.
Yeah, Pittsburgh will have to once again travel to Arrowhead Stadium to face the same Chiefs team that treated it like a hated relative visiting for Christmas just a few weeks earlier, but beggars cannot be choosers.
Those top seeds, the ones with the Super Bowl aspirations, are the teams that need to worry about obtaining advantageous playoff positioning in December and early January. The squads that are just fighting to get into the dance could give a darn who or where they play. They don’t care about byes. They don’t care about playing three postseason games just to make it to the Super Bowl—and all on the road. They just want to go to the dance.
Those squads that are desperate to make the postseason don’t care about facing the team that blew its doors off not long ago. They don’t care about nightmare matchups.
The Steelers are where Cleveland was a year ago. They’re where the Bills were four seasons ago—the same year Pittsburgh was worried about getting that top seed—just happy to be going anywhere for the postseason.
Heck, the Steelers are where they’ve been a few times over the past 15 years or so.
There will be another time—hopefully, in the not-so-distant future—when the Steelers are happy or upset about premium playoff positioning, but that time is not now.
The Steelers have been looking for that Stairway to Seven for 13 years. Being the seventh seed in the AFC might not seem like a great way to get there, but after so many improbable things happened on the final Sunday of the 2021 regular season to make it a reality, it sure feels like heaven, doesn’t it?