After the Steelers manhandled the Bengals on Sunday Night, many were left wondering what could have been. What if the Steelers had played this well all year? What if Pouncey and Foote and others hadn’t been hurt? What if they didn’t start 0-4?
Well, those are all the wrong questions to ponder, there are no if’s and re do’s in the world. The reality of the situation is this, none of those things occurred this year and the team is in the situation they’re in because they didn’t have a backup plan for the “if’s”.
The black and gold looked great on Sunday Night, they looked like the team trying to clinch a playoff spot and not a team desperately clinging to their lives. The exposition that Big Ben and Antonio Brown put on was one that proves those two are the best players this team has, without them they’d be vying for the number one pick.
On the defensive side of the ball, players like Jason Worilds and Lawrence Timmons stepped up to the plate and were impactful in determining the outcome of the football game. They showed they can be the two centerpieces of the defense moving into 2014 and beyond (if the team can re up Worilds).
This game was about pride, it was about seeing who has the competitive fires burning inside them to win a largely meaningless game. This was an audition for the guys wearing the black and gold to see who was worth keeping next year and who the team should part ways with.
It was all of those things but the one thing it was not was the display of a team that should be looked at as a contender who had things go wrong because this or that happened or a team that should be looked at in the ‘what if’ mode.
They are what they are; a 6-8 ball club after that win. They’re a team in the middle of the pack. Middle of the pack teams can on occasion beat good teams but will also lose to the bad ones (see the Oakland, Minnesota and Tennessee games). Middle of the pack teams play inconsistently, see the Dolphins game just last week and the turnaround the team had this week. Or just look at the 0-4 start, to winning five of seven to now being 6-8.
This team has its flaws this season and that’s ok. All teams go through a rebuild, the failure often comes when a team can’t form an identity and recognize who they really are. That’s what struck this team this year.
While they thought they were still a contender this year, they decided to move forward with some aging, overpriced veterans. They should have cut ties with more of the older guys and implemented playing time for the younger generation to gain experience. The front office refused to accept or believe this team needed a rebuild but classified it as a transition. In essence they put everything back a year. What should have happened this year will need to happen next.
The game last night should be looked upon fondly as it was a great win for the black and gold and very well could have been the final big game several of the old school veterans have together in a Steeler uniform. Just don’t look at it as ‘what if’, look at it as ‘what is’.
Mike Pelaia hosts the website Steel Nation Association www.steelnationassociation.com- Covering the Steelers and helping Children’s Hospital All Day Everyday. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.