It's funny being a sports fan.
One week, you have doubts about your favorite team, and the next week you’ve got nothing but confidence that it can and will go all the way.
I don't know if I'm totally onboard with the latter portion of that last paragraph but, after the Steelers marched into Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday and dominated the previously undefeated Chiefs for all but a few of the 60 minutes in a 19-13 victory, things sure do seem a lot more pleasant right now.
Honestly, based on matchups and recent results between the two clubs, I was pretty confident Pittsburgh would do fairly well in this semi-critical Week-6 contest. But given how pitiful the Steelers looked in two of the previous three weeks, during which their offense scored a grand total of two touchdowns and their defense was gashed for a combined 551 rushing yards, let's just say I felt a little foolish making any bold predictions.
But another thing about being a diehard sports fan is you never think of your favorite team in the same way you think of every other team—objectively.
Of course, the Steelers—a team brimming with offensive talent plus a young, fast defense and a franchise widely picked as one of the favorites to compete for the Super Bowl LII Lombardi trophy this season—were capable of walking away from their Week 6 battle with a “W” and not an “L.”
These things happen all the time in the NFL.
I guess that's why it really wasn't shocking when, during the course of those previously-referenced 60 minutes of near-total dominance, Pittsburgh showed the rest of the football world that it truly can be a player in the 2017 championship sweepstakes.
The Steelers’ stars rose up on offense and made the plays when they had to make them.
As that pertained to star running back Le'Veon Bell, who carried 32 times for 179 yards, no single splash play stood out in particular because he didn't have any of note. What he did display, though, was a methodical dominance that had to leave the Chiefs’ defenders shaking their heads in frustration at how this man was able to put yet another exceptional performance on them.
Speaking of methodical dominance, what about that offensive line that was missing two of its starters for the majority of the game after right tackle Marcus Gilbert re-aggravated his hamstring injury early on and joined the already injured and deactivated left guard Ramon Foster on the sidelines?
And then there's super-superstar receiver Antonio Brown who, quite frankly, had maybe his worst day of the season in terms of blunders, as he misplayed a free-kick early in the first quarter that was recovered by Kansas City; cut his route short on an interception in the second quarter; and muffed a punt in the second half that thankfully didn't lead to a turnover.
But like he’s done so many times throughout his career, Brown came up with the big play just when his team needed it the most.
Clinging to a two-point lead late in the game, a pass on 3rd-and-2 from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger bounced off the hands and helmet of cornerback Phillip Gaines and into the waiting arms (well, left arm) of Brown, who warded off another Chiefs defender and outraced everyone else for a 51-yard touchdown and a 19-10 Steelers’ lead with 3:24 to go.
And if you're not going to give props to this young, speedy defense after its performance on Sunday, when will you?
You said the Steelers hadn't faced any top offensive competition through five weeks, but you couldn't say they didn't on Sunday.
Sure, quarterback Alex Smith has mostly been known as a game manager throughout his career, but that game manager was having the best year of his career, coming into Sunday's matchup with 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Smith was a clear-cut MVP candidate and someone who would absolutely test the Steelers’ young defense.
And when Smith wasn't testing the defense, Kareem Hunt, the rookie sensation running back who came into Week 6 with 609 rushing yards, was going to tear it apart.
Throw in wickedly fast receiver Tyreek Hill and Gronk-like tight end Travis Kelce, and surely, Keith Butler's defense would have its hands full.
But it was the Chiefs’ offense that had its hands full, as it finished the first half with minus-5 yards and could only attribute the meager three points it took into the locker room to Brown's previously-mentioned special teams gaffe.
Smith looked mostly like the game manager he was prior to 2017, Hill didn't seem so fast, and Kelce continued his previous trend of not being able to do to the Steelers defense what Rob Gronkowski always does.
As for Hunt, all he could muster was 21 yards on nine carries, a very Super Bowl IX-esque performance by a defense that didn't even have the decency to give up an alarming large run or two.
Before Week 6, the only thing we knew about the 2017 Steelers was that they could lose to anyone (boy did their overtime loss to the Bears prove that), but we didn't know if they could defeat anyone.
After Sunday's performance, we certainly ought to know that now, shouldn't we?
And in addition to providing evidence that Pittsburgh really belongs in the championship discussions, from purely a mathematical standpoint, the victory over the Chiefs was astronomical.
A loss would have dropped the Steelers to 3-3 and three games behind Kansas City in the AFC. With the first head-to-head tiebreaker in the Chiefs back pocket, now you're talking about trying to make up four games on a team over the final 10 weeks.
But now that the Steelers have that head-to-head tiebreaker in their own back pocket, at 4-2, they just have to find a way to keep winning and gain another game on the 5-1 Chiefs between now and Week 17 to capture that all-important No. 1 seed.
As for some of the other teams in the championship sweepstakes, the Broncos lost at home to the previously winless Giants on Sunday Night Football; the Falcons blew a 17-point second-half lead and lost at home to the mostly mediocre Dolphins; the Patriots looked mortal, yet again, in their controversial 24-17 victory over the Jets; and the Packers lost superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers for the foreseeable future, after he suffered a broken collarbone in Green Bay's 23-10 loss to the Vikings.
And the cherry on top of the Steelers’ Week-6 cake was the Ravens overtime home loss to the Bears.
Again, it's funny how the narrative changes for a team from week-to-week, and who knows how we'll be feeling about the Steelers next week following their matchup with the Bengals at Heinz Field.
But as for today, those Black-and-gold-colored glasses fit much better than they have at any point this season.