Remember way back when, in, say, the late winter of 2011, when the Pittsburgh Steelers were about to take on Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in Dallas, with the Steelers hoping to claim their seventh Lombardi Trophy in eight appearances?
Remember all of the talk leading up to that game, specifically surrounding quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his pristine playoff record?
At the time, Roethlisberger was a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback and veteran of 12 playoff games, winning 10 of them, including the postseason games leading up to that third Super Bowl appearance.
The Steelers went on to lose that game. The next season, they finished the year 12-4, but lost the division title to the Baltimore Ravens via the tiebreaker. Instead, they drew a road game against Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos.
I’m sure we all remember what happened in that game. Tebow threw for a career-high 316 yards, including an 80-yard pass on the first play of overtime that ended the season.
Now, after last night’s bitter loss to the Ravens by a final score of 30-17, we are looking at a Roethlisberger-lead Steelers team that has lost its last three playoff games, including two years of being one and done.
And that’s ignoring the fact that in between those two recent losses are sandwiched two years of mediocre football that did not even garner a playoff berth.
After the Super Bowl loss, Roethlisberger was very hard on himself, and after the second consecutive playoff loss, many began to wonder if he still had ‘it’, the clutch gene, I suppose, that helped the Steelers win those fifth and sixth trophies early in Roethlisberger’s career.
Of course, since then, Roethlisberger has improved overall as a quarterback, posting arguably his best season statistically in 2014 and earning a Pro Bowl nomination. He led the Steelers’ highest-scoring team in franchise history to an 11-5 record, a division title, and their first home playoff game since that 2010 season.
That proved not to do much good against a strong Ravens pass rush, despite their depleted secondary. While he may have completed one pass better than two-thirds, connecting on 31 of 45 attempts, and threw for 334 yards, he was picked off twice and only made up for it with one touchdown pass.
The Steelers are now 0-4 in the postseason when Roethlisberger attempts at least 40 passes. It didn’t help that Pittsburgh only got 15 carries out of its running backs with Le’Veon Bell sitting out, of course, but a loss is a loss regardless of who is on the field.
And the loss certainly isn’t just on Roethlisberger’s shoulders. But the quarterback is always singled out for everything, both in victory and defeat. The broader point is the fact that the Steelers are 0-3 in the postseason in their last three games, dating back to the 2010 season. That’s not something this organization and its fan base is accustomed to. It shouldn’t feel comfortable.