The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2016 season has drawn to a premature end with their loss to the New England Patriots. In the end there can only be one winner and, of course, most of us in Steeler Nation have suddenly felt the urge to go buy an Atlanta Falcons jersey. And just about all of us are somewhere in the middle of the five stages of grief. So, to help the mourning process along, here is a look back at this fun, maddening, exciting, miserable, thrilling and confusing season of almost-there.
Week 1: @ Redskins
If the season opener against the Redskins had truly been a sign of what the Steelers’ offense would be, rather than just what it could be, I’d be writing this article two weeks from now.
Week 2: Bengals
Remember when Fitzgerald Toussaint got carries, Arthur Moats got a sack and Sammie Coates actually caught a pass? Ahhh, memories. Good times.
Week 3: @ Eagles
Thank God the defining moment in Artie Burns’ career won’t be the time Darren Sproles — the human representation of Mighty Mouse and the guy who had the friggin’ ball — chased Burns 73 yards down the field for a touchdown.
Week 4: Chiefs
Markus Wheaton and Darrius Heyward-Bey scored touchdowns in the same game? It’s like they were filming an episode of Oprah on the Steelers’ sideline: “You get a touchdown! YOU get a touchdown! EVERYBODY gets a touchdown!”
Week 5: Jets
Thanks to the Jets, who apparently think NFL games end at halftime, week five of the 2016 NFL season will go down in history as “the last time a Steelers fan smiled in October.”
Week 6: @ Dolphins
FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF[ CENSORED ].
Week 7: Patriots
Gronk /gräNGk/ - v. past tense gronked; To watch as the Jolly Green Giant runs effortlessly downfield and catches pass after pass over top of your helplessly outclassed secondary, knowing all you can do is gape in awe and disgust. “Dude, you got Gronked.”
Week 8: Bye
It took the Steelers three weeks to not lose on a Sunday. Okay, so it was their bye week. It feels slightly more impressive when you find out the Cleveland Browns gave up 36 points and two quarterbacks on their bye week.
Week 9: @ Ravens
We all know quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is bionic, but we also know how terribly he plays in his first game back after any missed time. We should have known this season was eventually going to end painfully, considering that the Dreaded Week of Return happened to come during a road game against the Ravens. Clearly, we should have seen this as a harbinger.
Week 10: Cowboys
There are worse things than losing to the Cowboys despite leading with less than a minute to go. The first things that come to mind are Chinese water torture, Skip Bayless television marathons, paper cuts on the webbing between your fingers and being suckered in by a story about the Steelers that originated with one of Ian Rapoport’s “reliable sources”.
Week 11: @ Browns
There’s nothing like a game against the Cleveland Browns to cure what ails ya.
Week 12: @ Colts
All you need to know about the Steelers’ week-12 matchup against the Colts is this: running back Le’Veon Bell’s yards-per-run (5.2) almost exceeded Colts quarterback Scott Tolzien’s yards-per-pass (5.7).
Week 13: Giants
Oft-injured tight end Ladarius Green finally emerged against the Giants, picking up 110 yards and a touchdown on six catches. Then he saw his shadow, and went back into his hole.
Week 14: @ Bills
In week fourteen, the Steelers took a trip to Bizzaro World, where the losing quarterback had a rating north of 100 and the winner threw three picks for a rating of 37.8. If Roethlisberger had thrown nothing but incomplete passes all day long, his rating of 39.6 would have been an improvement. The final outcome might have been even better, too; as it was, the Steelers rode Le’Veon Bell for 236 yards and three touchdowns, which proved to be all the points they would need. Clearly, Ben just wanted to give the Bills a sporting chance on a day when Bell’s longest run (33 yards) exceeded what stud runner LeSean McCoy managed for the entire game (27 yards).
Week 15: @ Bengals
When looking back on the 2016 season, let’s not forget that kicker Chris Boswell’s heroic six-field-goal game against the Chiefs in the AFC Divisonal Round Playoffs was the second time in a five-game stretch that he accomplished that feat, as he did the same thing in a slow, grinding, come-from-behind win over the Bengals. Let the record also show that this was the moment when offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s Ferrari-like offense began its slow, magical transformation into a stunningly beautiful Ford Pinto.
Week 16: Ravens
As it turns out, the Steelers can defeat the Baltimore Ravens. Will wonders never cease?
Week 17: Browns
Half of the Steelers’ starters didn’t even dress. Half of them dressed, but didn’t play. And half of them spent the entire game just trying to not get hurt. In the end, the Browns still lost, to what amounts to the Steelers’ practice squad, proving the Browns are worse at football than I am with math.
Wildcard Round: Dolphins
The Steelers opened the playoffs by defeating the Miami Dolphins, 30-12, proving that revenge truly is a dish best served cold. In this case, two degrees Fahrenheit. Frozen porpoise, anyone?
Divisional Round: @ Chiefs
I hate to break it to Chiefs head coach Andy Reid (actually, I love it), but if that wasn’t holding, then my mom is the queen of England. Guess what, Andy: Momma ain’t got no crown.
AFC Championship: @ Patriots
Boston police arrested some Patriots fan for pulling the fire alarm in the Steelers’ hotel the night before the AFC Championship Game. First of all, the dude has the worst defense ever: he basically admitted doing it and pleaded not guilty at the same time, claiming he was “drunk and stupid.” I’m thrilled to know that’s now an acceptable mechanism for escaping culpability for pretty much anything. “I didn’t do my homework because I was drunk and stupid. I should get an A.” “Officer, I rear-ended you because I was drunk and stupid. You need to pay for the damages.” But his excuse is fine with me, because I don’t believe him anyway. I don’t think he did it. I believe the culprit was a little closer to the Patriots’ organization: receiver Chris Hogan, who was apparently a ninja in a past life. Why? Because even in front of 70,000 people, apparently the only one who can even locate the guy is Tom Brady.