It is really hard to put into words what it feels like to lose a big game. Not only lose the big game, but come out flat and turn the ball over and get down 21-3 before you can even blink your eyes. It hurts worse when you battle back and are on a drive to win the football game and the floor falls out from under you. Just a sickening feeling that comes over you.
When you sit back and really think about what happened this season could have been much worse. With the franchise quarterback on the shelf for the first four games, almost every offensive lineman missing significant portions of the season, the fines and penalties, this team could have easily packed it in and called it a season. They were picked for finish third in the AFC North by most pundits and were not thought to have been good enough to make the playoffs. They were, and they did.
When you turn the ball over three times and the opposing team turns those into 21 points you aren’t going to have a great chance to win. Couple that with the fact that your defense didn’t secure a single turnover and the odds are really against you. Despite all of that the Steelers were still in the ballgame. They had the ball with two minutes left down by six points and could win another Super Bowl with an unbelievable comeback. It wasn’t meant to be. When a fourth and five pass from Ben Roethlisberger fell incomplete it was finally over.
This was really a tale of two halves for the Steelers. In the first half the Steelers really got behind the eight ball early. Ben threw two interceptions, the second of which went back for six by Nick Collins and then the Packers offense just went to work on the next drive to give most people the impression that this game was going to be a route. Even as the game went to 21-3 I remember sitting on the couch and telling the people I was with that as long as we got some points we were going to be ok. This team has too much fight to get blown out in the Super Bowl, and that is exactly what happened.
With a little over two minutes left in the half the Steelers started going to work. Ben Roethlisberger led the charge with a seven play, 77 yard drive that ended with a Hines Ward touchdown grab to cut the lead to only 11 with a full half to play. As bad as the Steelers were in the first half you had to feel great only being down 11 in the half.
The second half started out just as hot for the Steelers as they forced the Packers to punt on their first possession, a three and out, and the offense went to work again. They went five plays and 50 yards where Rashard Mendenhall took it home. New ballgame. The Steelers defense was on point the third quarter, frustrating Aaron Rodgers and forcing the Packers to punt on all four of their possessions.
The Steelers had their chance but a few things did not go their way. Following the touchdown to open the half the Steelers were in a good spot to put there more points on the board. They were set up with roughly a 43 yard field goal but Ben got sacked on third down and Mike Tomlin opted for the 52 yard field goal which was missed, badly. Then after a Green Bay punt Rashard Mendenhall put the ball on the turf after it looked as if the Steelers were going to be able to take the lead. Game changer.
The Packers bounced back and scored again. Tough blow after the Mendenhall fumble. The Steelers bounce back and scored on a four minute plus drive with a pass to Mike Wallace and the subsequent two-point conversion (which was beautiful) by Antwann Randle El the Steelers had a chance.
7:30 left in the game and the Steelers were down three. All they needed was to make a few big plays on defense and it would be all gravy. The Packers stepped up when they needed to. After the Steelers defense was huge the entire second half Aaron Rodgers stepped up and converted big third down plays and set up the Packers with a 23 yard field goal.
Down by six, a little over two minutes left in the game and Ben Roethlisberger under center. I will take that every day of the week. Ben hit Heath then Hines and things looked good. Then, for some reason, the Steelers try to hit the homerun a few times. No dice. Mike Wallace on the fourth and five is no go. Ballgame.
-There really isn’t much to say. I guess I can start by saying that there really isn’t a reason we should be disappointed. Like I said earlier this team had little to no expectation coming into the season. Winning the AFC North and the AFC Championship game really was a ton more than anyone could have predicted this season. This team faced a ton of injuries to an already depleted offensive line but as the season went on they used no excuses and kept pushing and kept winning. There is nothing to be ashamed about in the Steelers season, but when you lose the Super Bowl you feel that there is an empty slot and that the season was a failure. In some respect the season was a failure. Not because the Steelers didn’t play well or exceed the expectations, but unless your team wins the Super Bowl it isn’t a success. I must say that I am proud as hell to be a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. I can’t imagine rooting for everyone else.
-I know the fumble by Rashard Mendenhall was wildly terrible because of the timing, but I find it really hard to bash Rashard. He was a monster all season and especially in the AFC Championship game and the Super Bowl. He only got 14 carries, but churned that out for a 4.5 yard per carry average and a touchdown. He took over and gave the Steelers a running game when most people said that was their weakness. The fumble sucks. Real bad, but that is actually something Rashard has cleaned up this season. No complaints for me about Rashard’s game.
-The decision to go for the 52-yard field goal was really a bad decision. Mike Tomlin noted as much in the post game presser, but with the way the Steelers offense was going and the way the defense was finally turning it around you had to try and pin the Packers inside the 20. I realize that Kapinos wasn’t the best punter in the world, but tell him to kick it high and try to get it on the 10 yard line. The limit I would give Suisham was probably 45 yards. Can’t do 50+, just can’t.
-Ben had a rough first half, but as was true in the regular season, no matter how bad he can be for stretched he always keeps this team in the game. He showed up at the end of the second quarter and tossed two touchdown passes after throwing the two early picks. The first pick was on Ben, but the second one was really tough to blame Ben. His arm was hit as he threw and he was going deep for Mike Wallace. Easy pick for Collins. Actually if his arm wasn’t hit he had Mike Wallace, in my opinion. It happens. He picked his play up in the second half but just came up short. It was an average game by Ben. You know what, everyone plays average games. It just shows up more because it was in the Super Bowl.
-The defense wasn’t bad, but it could have been better. They did get to Rodgers and make him feel uncomfortable and forced him into some really bad throws. They sacked him three times and hit him eight more times. I will take that. You can’t really put all the blame secondary because Aaron Rodgers was throwing dimes when he needed to. Rodgers wasn’t amazing, but when he needed to make the big throw he did. On a late third down conversion Ike Taylor had blanket coverage on Greg Jennings and Rogers found the only spot that he could to put it in. Nothing you can do if you are the defense. Bryant McFadden was out of the game for some forcing Anthony Madison into more playing time, which is never ideal. The Packers attacked Will Gay and Madison and they made them play. The skill of the receivers for the Packers was great and it showed.
-I gotta give big ups to the Packers though. They were the better team on Sunday night. Sure the Steelers played pretty bad, but a lot of that was because of the Packers too. Although the Green Bay defense gave up big chunks of yards to the Steelers, and didn’t get to Ben Roethlisberger much at all (1 sack, 5 hits), they made the clutch plays when they had to down the stretch. That is what you need to do if you want to win Super Bowls. Aaron Rodgers was very deserving on the MVP. He didn’t always look great but like I said in the prior paragraph he was good when he had to be. Can’t complain about that.
-All this being said it has to be put in perspective. I remember watching Super Bowl XXX at my parents house. I remember the feeling when the Cowboys walked off the field with the trophy and I wondered if I would ever get to see the Steelers win a Super Bowl. Now we are in the midst of the Steelers playing in their third Super Bowl in the last six seasons. For those of you that didn’t pass second grade math that is getting to the Super Bowl every other season. It always sucks losing but getting to see two Super Bowl Championships for your team is something that not every fan base can talk about. We in Pittsburgh are truly spoiled by the Steelers success. We really are one of the top franchises in the NFL and with that success breeds the expectation of winning it all every year. Of course winning it every year is not realistic, but that is what we all want. Being a Steelers fan is so different from being a fan of most organizations because we have a great ownership and a proven track record of success. It still hurts, but it is reassuring to know that we will be in the thick of contention next year for the seventh trophy.
-I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who came here during the Steelers season. This was my second full season bloggin for the Steelers and I loved every second of it. Sometimes I have no idea why people even come by and read the stuff I put up here but I have been fortunate this football season to get to know a lot of people through both this site and twitter and even met some of you in person. Everyone has been really awesome and I always appreciate all the comments and compliments you have given me. I do this for pure enjoyment and to know that yinz enjoy it too makes it that much better. I hope all of you that come here for Steelers stuff will stick around because I will be doing this for the Penguins and Pirates so feel free to stop by for all that. I have no idea what I will be doing for the Steelers during the offseason. Even writing this post was really tough to do. Losses hurt. I might take a step back from football and maybe do a wrap up but who knows. If you see anything you want leave it in the comments.
-Again, thank you every for everything. As always leave it in the comments section for what I missed here and anything you want to see in the future.
Here We Go.