Sometimes, I wish I was born in Detroit. Lion fans don’t realize how good they have it. If they win a few games, you shrug your shoulders and move on. If you have a winning season, they’ve exceeded your wildest dreams. If they somehow make the playoffs, the season is a tremendous success. Hooray for diminished expectations!
Unfortunately, I was born in Pittsburgh. Our outlook is a little bit different than in the Detroits or Clevelands of the world. A winning season is a given. Making the playoffs is no big deal. Anything less than a Super Bowl title is considered total failure. Being a member of Steeler Nation is a lot like being a fan of the New York Yankees, except without the whole obnoxious prick aspect.
Which brings us to the Jacksonville Jaguars and their 31-29 victory over the Steelers on Saturday night. Yeah, I know this is two days late but I needed a good 48 hours of mourning to get my thoughts together, okay? The Steelers are the John McClanes of the NFL. Whether it’s a 1989 conference playoff game where Bubby Freakin’ Brister led us to within an inch of upsetting the heavily-favored Denver Broncos to Super Bowl XXX where Bam Morris ignited a furious comeback against the Dallas Cowboys which only fell short because Neil O’Donnell
was paid off by Jerry Jones threw two poorly timed interceptions, the Steelers never go away quietly. We always Die Hard.
Anyway, what’s to say about the game? The scary part is if you read my preview a few entries down, literally EVERYTHING I said needed to be done for the Steelers to win did indeed happen. Yet, we still lost. Boomer Esiason said when we review the game tape, we’re all going to be sick over this loss. I’m with you there, Boom.
In the first meeting, we allowed Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor 225 yards rushing combined. This time we held them to a measly 50. We did indeed force QB David Garrard into throwing the ball to win the game. And, despite the media constantly pimping the guy as some underappreciated gem, we all saw what kind of stunningly mediocre quarterback he really is.
Not to get on a rant here but if you’re quoting quarterback rating or passer rating or pass/interceptions ratios as “proof” of how good a quarterback is, you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. All those stats are totally misleading because you have to take in to account the context in which they’re put up. Garrard’s numbers look good because he’s only asked to throw in certain favorable spots, such as when the running game has already piled up big yardage and the defense must crowd the line to stop them.
We pretty much stymied their offense the whole game. 14 of their 31 points came on a kickoff return and an interception return. That’s half their score, given away by areas other than the defense. The kickoff one is particularly unacceptable as we’ve had 4-6 weeks of training camp, 17 weeks of regular season play, and now a week into the playoffs and we STILL can’t cover kicks? Are you kidding me?
If Ben Roethlisberger hadn’t chosen the first half to play his worst football of the season, the game would’ve been closer much sooner. He did rebound nicely in the second half as Jacksonville couldn’t stop our passing attack. Again, as I noted in my preview, their defense couldn’t handle our wide outs the first time we met, which nobody seemed to notice when I heard them handicapping the game. I don’t mean this to sound like sour grapes but the New England Patriots are really going to blow them out something fierce because if they can’t handle our aerial attack, what are they going to do against the best air show in the league?
But this game will always be a big case of the “What ifs?” What if we had Willie Parker? What if head coach Mike Tomlin had kept kicking extra points instead of chasing 2 point conversions? What if the refs hadn’t hosed us on some really questionable penalty calls (or non-calls, as the case may be)? What if we hadn’t run that stupid quarterback draw play not once but TWICE in crucial situations, which failed both times. Big Ben is tough to drag down, but he’s nursing a sprained ankle and he’s not exactly Kordell Stewart to begin with.
Well, if it’s and buts were candy and nuts, then every day would be Christmas. And Christmas is over, just like the Steelers’ season. For the past week, I felt smug and vaguely superior reading many of our other fine Fan-Sided Blogs because the vast majority of them are already looking to next year while we still had plans for this one. Unfortunately, now we can join them in off-season misery. As that wise prophet Porky Pig once said, “Th-th-that’s all folks.”
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