In the End, It’s All About the Journey (or Something)…

Shortly after Sunday’s game ended I made the comment that I was trying to balance the disappointment of the loss and the excitement of getting to see the Steelers play in another championship game.

My dad made the point that winning or losing the Super Bowl is just one game. One game. That’s it.

What makes that one game worth it (or not worth it) is everything the team had to do to get to that one game. If you win that one game? It validates everything. It makes it all worth it. Minicamp, training camp, preseason, regular season, playoffs. All of it.

When you lose? It makes you realize just how much had to be done, how far the team had to go, everything it had to overcome … and the realization that now you have to start over and go through it all over again just to get another opportunity like that.

And in the end, that, I think, is what makes you realize, “shit … now it’s over and it’s back to square one.” The only issue now, of course, is we don’t know when the journey starts over (thanks, Roger and DeMaurice!)

Ryan is correct when he says there are no moral victories, and the Steelers let one slip away that was certainly there for the taking. To sit here and break down every single thing that went wrong and how it could have been different will drive you insane. But, hey, that’s what we do, and to keep doing it over and over again we have to be a little nuts.

Still, even though there are no moral victories it’s important to keep in mind that over the past seven years Pittsburgh fans have been as lucky — if not luckier — than any other group of sports fans in the country. Over that time we’ve had the opportunity to see four AFC Championship Games, three Super Bowls, Two Stanley Cup Finals, and come out of that stretch with three championships (so far). That’s nothing to take for granted. Most cities have to wait decades for that sort of success, assuming they ever get that much. And it’s something that can never be taken away.

The Steelers reached a point this year few felt possible before the season, and did so by overcoming just about everything that could go wrong. Starting third and fourth string quarterbacks at the beginning of the season, a revolving door of offensive linemen due to a never-ending string of injuries, no Aaron Smith for most of the season, no Brett Keisel for five games, no Troy Polamalu for a stretch.

And there they were, still with a shot to win it all in the final two minutes. That’s all you can ask for. It just didn’t work out this time.

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  • Anonymous

    Of course, in the NFL it’s more accurate to say “Wait a few years” than “Wait till next year.”

    That leads to the inevitable age questions for Hines, Farrior, Casey, Aaron and others.

  • Anonymous

    There is no question what went wrong. We just need to find out who was responsible. One of you guys wore the wrong jersey or sat in the wrong chair or otherwise varied from the regular good-luck ritual. Someone want to own up?

    • countertorque

      My wife didn’t wear the jersey that I laid out for her. Worse, my 2 year old took off her Roethlisberger jersey right at the beginning of the final drive. I’m sorry guys.

    • DC in ATL

      I’ll take the blame. Every time I’ve watched a Steeler playoff game at a party with strangers, we’ve had painful losses (1994 AFC Championship versus the Chargers and Super Bowl XXX against the Cowboys). I fully intended to watch the game at home with immediate family, but let my wife talk me into attending a party with her co-workers (which included a very nice cousin of Heath Miller) with the plan to leave at halftime so our youngest would be in bed at a decent hour.

      Score while we were at the party: Packers 21 Steelers 10

      Score while we were back in same location and seating arrangements as the Raven and Jets game: Steelers 15 Packers 10

      My bad….sorry about that. Won’t happen again.

  • Bob Costas

    Steelers and Packer friends alike wanted to know how I felt. What I kept saying is that even though the loss sucked, I can’t complain when my teams have won 3 titles in 5 years. Green Bay is a good team that overcame a lot this season. Hats off to them. Hopefully Steeler fans everywhere take the loss with class and dignity. Let’s all remember, we’re not Seahawks fans.

  • Jason F

    Some of these guys will not see another Superbowl. If we make it back soon, I think it is without Farrior and Ward. After a quiet postseason, Ward came to play in the big one. It was fun to see him in the mix again, but Ward, El, Wallace, and Brown are just too slow to exploit matchups. El did way better than expected when we put him in, but they just sealed up Wallace with help over the top because they knew that Brown was the only other deep threat.

  • David

    Guys, what bothers me, aside from the loss, is that our O-line played great, our RBs got yards, but…

    our D played piss poor. If we want to return to the SB, we have to improve our secondary.

    • GlennW

      I disagree that the defense was quite that bad. The offensive turnovers had the D defending a short field too often, but even then the defense made enough stops in the second half to keep us in the game. Also, observationally it seemed to me that Aaron Rodgers was making some terrific throws into tight coverage, including on two of his three TD passes. I’m giving the other team most of the credit here.

      Between the 3 turnovers, Ben’s overthrow of an open Wallace in the 3rd quarter (which would have given us the lead– maybe the forgotten play of the game) and the confusion on the last series of downs, I’d rate the offense as the bigger “problem” in this game. Like I suggested before, neither unit was great and neither was awful so I’m not tearing my hair out, but if I had to pick which unit underperformed based on my expectations going into the game, it’d be the offense.

      • DC in ATL

        I think the defense could have played better, but including all their postseason games, the Packers averaged 25.5 points per game and our defense only gave up 24.

        On the other side of the ball Packers averaged giving up only 15.8 per game, and after the Patriots scoring 31 against them in Foxboro and the Lions (!) scoring 26 in Green Bay earlier, the Steelers had the third most points against them all year.

  • David

    One more thing: this isn’t like XXX where we were out-matched at every position and O’Donnell threw two picks and end of story.

    Ben threw two picks and we still had a chance to win 32-31.

    BTW, Fox and Mundy are history now, IMO.

    • Anonymous

      Keenan Lewis, too, I hope. He seems to screw up whatever he does.

  • GlennW

    Nice piece Adam. Likewise I found myself in an unusual state of calm after a postseason loss, with nothing to complain about on the season as a whole, or even little with the Super Bowl itself (if I do have to gripe about any one thing it’d be those damned special teams penalties which have driven us nuts all season– compared to the rest of our forced errors these penalties just seem stupid and preventable). We made too many mistakes or the Packers made more defensive plays than we did (depending on how you look at it), and that’s that. The better team won. I’m still proud of the fact that the Steelers didn’t unravel when they easily could have, and fought to the end.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Nice recap, Adam.

    The thing that is sticking with me about this game is how off it seemed. Many of the things we did poorly were things we rarely saw this year: a pick six, Ben seeming to be off on almost every throw, a fumble from Mendy, the D getting no turnovers and few sacks, going for a 52 yard field goal… The things we did well were things we also rarely saw this year: Suisham having drunk a Cundiff Shake, Randle El playing a significant role, strong pass protection from the OL… It was like watching our team play in Bizarro Universe. Can the Great Simulator please replay the game with the regular rules of our universe?

    Anyway, congrats to the Pack… a great, old franchise with a likable team with a likable QB and lots of Pittsburgh connections. If we had to lose, I’m glad it was to them.