The devastation was real Sunday evening. I know I wasn't alone in how I felt, all of Steelers Nation was angered. If I had wrote this immediately after the conclusion of the game, this would be full of colorful language and I'd likely be banned from all Pittsburgh Steelers based forums.
But I slept on it.
I knew the rage was in the moment, and deep down we all know that the Pittsburgh Steelers season can easily be turned around. It wasn't their prettiest efforts, but it surely wasn't their worst.
Look at it this way: If the Dallas Cowboys really are the best team in the NFC, then the Pittsburgh Steelers were just 42 seconds away from beating the NFC's best.
This isn't to say that things don't need to change, though. This four game skid has not only impacted the players and coaches, but the fan base as well. Confidence in this Pittsburgh Steelers team is at an all-time low right now, and truthfully you never know which team is going to show up on game days. A "complete game" hasn't been seen since Week 5 against the New York Jets. Since then, the offense and defense can't seem to have a good day at the same time.
I believe it goes without saying that yesterday's loss was not on the offense. Bell had a great game, Roethlisberger re-found his arm, AB was AB, Rogers stepped up to the plate, and Jesse James had some big catches when they needed them. The offense put up 30 points on one of the most underrated defenses in the National Football League.
On the other side of the ball, the defense could not get stops at the most critical times. Costly penalties and lack of a run defense proved to be fatal. Ezekiel Elliott averaged 5.4 yards per carry. Even though through three quarters his longest run was only 8 yards, he was still continuously churning out 4-6 yards with each carry. The defense was unable to stop him for only a short gain all game long.
This Pittsburgh Steelers defense seems to have a lose-lose situation on their hands. They bring the rush, the secondary tends to get hung out to dry. They drop back in coverage, they give the quarterback all day to find an open receiver.
It's time for fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers to accept something. As black and gold faithful, we have been spoiled with some of the most prolific and tough defenses seen in NFL history for a long time. This young Steelers team is not what we have become so accustomed to. Only three players remain from the Steelers defense's golden era of the 2000's: William Gay, James Harrison and Lawrence Timmons.
This is a new team. A new defensive coordinator. This is a very young team. An inexperienced team. Take away the three veterans mentioned above, and the average age of all defensive players that get regular playing time is 24.9. That's barely two years of post-college experience.
The defense will come around-- and as for what you saw yesterday? It can only get better. They're working out the kinks, they're growing their confidence. It is just unfortunate that it's been nine games and not a whole lot of progress has been seen. The good news is Pittsburgh won't see another running back as tough as Ezekiel Elliott for the rest of the regular season.
The even better news? The remaining schedule is extremely friendly. Seven games remaining, and two of them are against the winless Cleveland Browns. Battles with the beatable New York Giants, and the 4-5 Buffalo Bills & Indianapolis Colts await, and then one more face off each against our rivals, the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals. The Steelers remaining opponents have a collective 22-32-1 record.
The Pittsburgh Steelers most definitely control their own fate. Going 7-0 to finish out the season is very possible, and would likely still give them a high seed. Even going 6-1 would likely get them into the playoffs. 5-2 would make their chances a little questionable, but could still keep them in the hunt.
Relax, Steelers Nation, the hopes remain very much alive.