When the Steelers take the field this Sunday afternoon against the Browns there will be nothing on the line as far as a playoff berth, seeding, or home field advantage. The only thing on the line is pride. For the first time in Coach Tomlin’s tenure as head coach, he’s coaching a meaningless game in the regular season. For the first time as a starting quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger is in danger of having a losing season. We can all get down in the dumps, pick apart all the mistakes that were made and second guess all the coaching decisions that led the Steelers to this point. I’ve heard plenty of people state that this game should be like a preseason game and the starters limited and all the young guys given a chance to play because the game doesn’t mean anything. First of all, the roster isn’t as big as it is in preseason so that’s not exactly practical, and second has anyone stopped to realize that if the Steelers don’t go into this game with the objective to win than that means not only will they have a losing season and miss the playoffs but will also have been swept by the Browns? Really? That’s how you want this season to end? Haven’t we been through enough?
Now I’m going to get all emotional on you for a moment but I was given tickets to this game as a Christmas gift. It will be my first Steelers home game. At the end of last season as I was in the middle of my “We got Tebow’d” temper tantrum, my Dad and I made a pact that this season he’d take me to my first Steelers home game. I’ve seen plenty of Steeler games in my lifetime but never in Heinz Field. Unfortunately, my Dad was diagnosed with Lymphoma this year and we lost him in July. As a Christmas surprise, my Mom decided that she and I would spend our New Year’s Eve in Pittsburgh and we’d go to the Steelers final home game of the season. When I opened the tickets, naturally the Steelers had already lost to the Bengals and their playoff chances were gone and this game became meaningless. Then I realized there’s no way this game is meaningless. Playoffs or not, this game means a lot and I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way.
Several Steelers players have come out this week to say that they will be playing for pride this Sunday. They realize they’ve let the fans and the organization down and they’d rather end the season with a win than fold up the tent early and start planning their offseason vacations. Can you blame them? I realize it’s awful easy for us to say “Why couldn’t they have won more games earlier to put them in a better position? What’s the point of winning the last game if you’re not making the playoffs?” At Tomlin’s weekly press conference he stated that the team will head into this game with the objective to play strong and win.
“We take pride in our work. We take pride in our opportunity to come together and compete again as the 2012 Steelers. To perform for our fans, to perform for them at Heinz Field.”
I’d guarantee I won’t be the only one in the stadium going to see their first Steelers home game this Sunday. Try to convince us this game is meaningless, I dare you. Even the most cynical of Steeler fans would still cheer their heart out in the stands because this is more than just a football team to us. There will be plenty of time to evaluate the players and their performances for the 2012 season, criticize the coaches and their decision making, and hypothesize on what moves the front office will make before the next season kicks off. For now, why not take the time to sit back and enjoy the Steelers playing to win, competing to win even if it doesn’t mean a playoff spot? I’ve gotten some serious perspective over the course of this year and have kept repeating after every Steelers disappointing loss that the Steelers losing is not the worst thing to happen this year.
This hasn’t been a stellar year for Pittsburgh sports. The Penguins were eliminated from the playoffs by the hated Flyers and are now in a lockout and in serious danger of not having a 2013 season, the Pirates reached their 20th consecutive losing season, and now the Steelers have missed the playoffs. Why finish 2012 with a loss on top of it all? I appreciate the fact that players like Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu have come out to say that they intend to play this game as if there was a game following it. I certainly don’t think this is the time to sit Ben on the bench and wrap him in bubble wrap to protect him from injury till the next season starts. These guys are professionals and they appreciate the uniform they put on every Sunday and the obligation it entails to the people of Steeler Nation. This is what being a fan is all about at its core anyway. It’s putting everything you have into something that in the grand scheme of things doesn’t mean anything. Here We Go Steelers!
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