Is it just me, or has the excitement been tempered a bit, following the Steelers 18-16 divisional playoff game victory over the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday night that has them one win away from their ninth Super Bowl?
I’ve experienced a lot of Steelers’ postseason victories in my day as a fan, and I don’t ever remember hearing so many “Yeah buts” afterwards.
Yeah, the Steelers advanced to the AFC title game, but it was kind of ugly.
Yeah, the Steelers are one game away from the Super Bowl, but look at all those potential touchdowns against Kansas City that turned into field goals and even an interception?
Yeah, the Steelers are one of just four teams left vying for the right to be called this year’s NFL champion, but they won’t be able to get away with kicking only field goals against the Patriots this coming Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
All valid points, but the Steelers are in the AFC Championship game. I mean, that’s huge, right?
Why the tempered enthusiasm?
Is it because an Immaculate Reception didn’t launch Pittsburgh out of the divisional round and into the title game? Maybe it’s because Ben Roethlisberger didn’t have a repeat of The Tackle? Or maybe because the Steelers didn’t overcome a two-touchdown deficit in the second half, like they did six divisional playoff rounds ago, when they came back to defeat the Ravens in January 2011?
Yes, each of those games was much sexier than Sunday night’s win that included holding a slim lead for most of the evening, no touchdowns and a record-setting six postseason field goals by the Steelers’ fourth Killer B: Chris Boswell.
I’ll grant you it was kind of frustrating to watch the Steelers march deep into Kansas City territory time after time, only to walk away with three points (or nothing at all). However, the Chiefs did come into Sunday’s game with the fourth-best red zone defense in the NFL, with their opponents scoring touchdowns only 45.61 percent of the time—including just 30 percent in the previous three games.
Also, the Chiefs are a pretty darned good football team, and Arrowhead is a tough, tough place to play.
Getting out of there with a victory at any time—especially in the playoffs—is no small feat.
I’ll agree that the “feel” of the festivities was more akin to one of NBC’s regular season broadcasts, but that’s because it’s just plain weird to watch prime-time postseason football on a Sunday.
The game was moved back about seven hours thanks to some dangerous ice storms that may or may not have actually been a problem, had the game been played at its originally scheduled time of 1:05 pm.
With regard to the time change, which was announced just two days earlier, you have to give the Steelers’ players and coaches credit for dealing with this change in routine (athletes are notorious creatures of habit) and still going out and taking care of business.
It’s true that Pittsburgh will have to score more than field goals if they hope to defeat the Patriots this Sunday, but since when were field goals a trend for this offense?
The Steelers scored 46 touchdowns in 2016 (just under three a game) and averaged 24.9 points per week.
I don’t know about you, but I’m fairly confident that the Steelers’ offensive output this Sunday in New England will be closer to the 30 points they scored against the Dolphins in the wild card round than the 18 they put on Kansas City.
And so what if Boswell was the team’s only source of points at Arrowhead? Isn’t the name of the game this time of year surviving and advancing?
This is what great teams do, they find a way to win, no matter what. The offense is sputtering? The kicker picks up the slack. The kicker’s efforts aren’t quite enough to give you a big lead? Fine, leave it to James Harrison, at age 38, to still have enough in the tank to force a hold by tackle Eric Fisher during the Chiefs’ seemingly successful two-point try that momentarily tied the score with 2:43 remaining. But the holding call pushes the attempt back 10 yards, and Sean Davis, a rookie safety whose helmet-to-helmet hit on receiver Chris Conley just moments earlier paved the way for Spencer Ware’s one-yard score, redeems himself by breaking up Alex Smith’s second attempt at a two-point conversion.
I believe a great man once said, “Style points don’t matter.” That’s still a thing around here, isn’t it?
Again, I know you’re probably going to say that 18 points isn’t going to get it done. I mean, it’s the mighty Patriots, Tony.
Fine, but given the regular and postseason history versus Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the Patriots, would you be feeling much better about things, if Pittsburgh blasted the Chiefs, 49-0?
It’s going to be a tough task no matter what, but this is the AFC title game, after all.
Actually, the fact that the Steelers are even playing in this game is sneaky historic. This is only the second time in franchise history Pittsburgh has advanced to the conference championship game after entering the postseason in the wild card round.
That’s right, of the previous 15 trips, 14 of them required just one victory to get there.
Nothing crazy happened during Sunday’s victory over the Chiefs that one day will earn it a name starting with “The,” yet the Steelers still made it to the AFC Championship game.
That’s reason enough for me to be excited.