If the Steelers were going to lose a game in the post-bye week stretch run, this was the one it needed to be. And it may be a very good thing.
Sure, it would be better had they not lost. But the reality is that seven wins in a row -- and as many as eleven, if you expect them to go all the way -- is just not a realistic expectation. Especially not with the teams left on their schedule. Three of their remaining five, not even including the one they just lost, are against teams that could be good on any given Sunday.
So, if a loss was inevitable -- most teams will lose one out of six, if not more -- then this was the best time for it to happen. Why? For one very simple reason: this was their last remaining game against an NFC team. When we strip away everything else, it really is that simple: if you're going to lose, it's best to lose to the other conference. When tie-breakers come into play -- and they almost certainly will this year -- conference record could be huge.
It was likely, anyway. The Steelers were 1-6 in Seattle, all-time, going into this game. The Steelers were stellar in the western half of the country this year, to be sure, but for any east-coast team to win four games west of the Central time zone is asking an awful lot. Most teams won't even play that many games on the opposite side of the country in a single season, let alone win them all.
And it's typically been the offense that has struggled in these cross-country games. That the Steelers put 30 on the board, and left quite a lot on the field due to mistakes and several officiating non-calls, should give us all hope. The defense, we knew, would be a work in progress this year. Some games have been spectacular, and some have been spectacularly bad, on the defensive side. That there have been any games where the defense has carried the team this year is a feat in and of itself, with so many unknowns, right up to defensive coordinator Keith Butler. Everyone has, at one time or another, acquitted themselves well.
So, before we collectively commit Seppuku over Sunday's game, let's remember that this may have been the best timing possible for a loss. On top of it all, the team is still mostly healthy, assuming Ben Roethlisberger and Ryan Shazier check out okay from the league's mandated concussion protocol. And let's remember that there are still five games to play, and this is still a team capable of winning any game.