I’ve been a bit of a realist regarding the Steelers and their chances of being even moderately okay over the past two seasons.
Why? I have eyes, that’s why.
Therefore, I go into most games expecting mediocre play, anticipating sloppy football, and hoping for the best this young Steelers team can give me.
Lower expectations, that’s the way to go when you’ve watched enough football in your life to spot a good team when you see one and a bad team when you see one.
Of course, it’s easier to not get frustrated during Steelers games when they’re often down by two scores or more, something that’s been a reality for them going back to the latter stages of the 2020 campaign.
That hasn’t been the case since Pittsburgh came back from its bye, however.
The Steelers have actually been playing their best football since their break, which made the second-half meltdown against Cincinnati at Acrisure Stadium on November 20 a little hard to swallow.
That brings me to their temporary meltdown against the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium this past Monday night. If being in a two-scores-or-more deficit has become the norm for the Steelers over the past two-plus seasons, then being up by at least two scores has been the exception.
The Steelers went into halftime of that game with a 16-3 lead. Sure, they could have had a bigger margin, but it wasn’t like they were playing the Chiefs or Bills. They were playing a Colts team that had been struggling almost as badly on offense as Pittsburgh was.
If there was ever a time to have an easy victory, one that didn’t expend much mental and emotional energy from the fans, Monday night seemed to be a perfect spot.
Then, in the third quarter, the Steelers started playing like the team I had been passively experiencing over the past 30 games or so, and something rose up inside of me: Angst.
I was literally mad and aggravated as I watched the game over a friend’s house.
At that moment, I was experiencing the emotions that used to well up inside of me while watching 7-3 Steelers teams that actually had something huge on the line: Relevance.
These 2022 Steelers aren’t relevant, right? They’re playing for draft positioning, no? Every loss from here on out will just lead to a more premium pick, and, hopefully, a more premium prospect.
But while that kind of philosophy is nice to say when the bullets aren’t flying, it’s not so easy to endure once you begin to contemplate the reality of an easy Steelers win slipping away before your very eyes.
My point is this: It’s one thing to talk about tanking and being okay with losses, but it’s just not how most fans are wired when the rubber meets the road...if you will. It’s counterintuitive to place value on losing. It just doesn’t make any sense, especially when you’re essentially positioning yourself to draft an unknown commodity.
Fortunately, the Steelers found a way to defeat the Colts on Monday, thus improving their record to 4-7 and devaluing their 2022 draft positioning in the process.
Even if the Steelers go into the final week on a five-game winless streak and lose a nailbiter to the Browns, I’ll likely still feel aggravated.
I’m guessing most Steelers fans will feel the same way, better draft pick or not.