Fans are used to sensationalizing news. This comes from media sources like ESPN and NBCSports who get you to fall into such a trap. It was no surprise when Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown was ruled out for the upcoming AFC Divisional game against the Denver Broncos, some fans packed it in.
I don't blame them, after all, they are listening to what the media is pumping into their brain. However, what I clearly want to point out is despite Brown being out of the game, regardless of DeAngelo Williams not being able to dress for the second straight week and even with an injured Ben Roethlisberger -- this team has been there, done that.
We all tend to be a bit short-sighted when it comes to sports, especially a season as grueling as the NFL, where once a week games put an overemphasis on each contest. But for the 2015 Steelers, adversity has become all too familiar for them.
For those fans who are ready to throw in the towel and say, "It was a great season, too bad injuries did us in. We will get them next year." I respond with, and why would this team do that? They haven't folded under adverse conditions this year, and they have had plenty.
Remember when the team's All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey was injured against the Green Bay Packers in the preseason, and everyone said how backup Cody Wallace couldn't keep the ship afloat? Well, it has been ugly at times, but he has done an admirable job filling in for arguably the best player at the center position.
Losing Ben Roethlisberger for a four game span forced the team to rely on Mike Vick and Landry Jones -- yes, Mike Vick and Landry Jones -- and the team was able to beat one of the best teams in the NFL in the Arizona Cardinals, and kept themselves afloat until Roethlisberger returned.
When faced with the suspensions of Le'Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant to start the season, it was DeAngelo Williams and Darrius Heyward-Bey who emerged as playmakers for a team desperately needing them, and when Bell was lost for the season after the Week 8 game against the Cincinnati Bengals, it was Williams who cemented himself as "the man" at running back and the offense didn't miss a beat.
To be honest, look no further than last week's AFC Wild Card game in Cincinnati. Without Williams to carry the football, fans lamented the fact of no running game. They pointed to the 2014 Steelers who lost Bell in Week 17 and had a forgettable cast of characters at running back in a Wild Card loss against the Baltimore Ravens. Most saw Roethlisberger as a sitting duck against the Bengals' pass rush without the balance which came from the veteran ball carrier. What did they get? An explosive performance from Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman.
At each stop throughout this season, the Steelers have been faced with adversity, to the point where many fans are ready to call it a day. And at each stop a player has performed Mike Tomlin's "Next Man Up" philosophy to the letter. Whether it was Heyward-Bey, Wallace, Todman, Toussaint, Williams, Jones, Vick, Alejandro Villanueva, Vince Williams, Sean Spence, Robert Golden, Ross Cockrell...the list could go on and on.
This team was built around adversity, and they now face another situation where their backs are seemingly up against the wall. The Denver Broncos defense is the top-ranked unit in the NFL, the team is missing their top receiver and their quarterback has a bum throwing shoulder.
Doesn't look good for the boys in black and gold, but before you go packing away your Terrible Towel for another off season, ask yourself this: "Who is going to step up this week?" I don't know that answer, but one thing I know is this team will not crumble due to adversity. They haven't yet, and they won't now. Going through what they've gone through this season has only made them stronger, and as fans, we should expect nothing less than an inspired performance Sunday in Denver to propel them to the AFC Championship game.