The New England Patriots had the Pittsburgh Steelers’ number…again. With a trip to The Super Bowl at stake, this defeat may have been the worst of them all in the Mike Tomlin Era. You may be upset, frustrated, and typing many regrettable tweets but for one second, or as long as it takes you to read this post, I challenge you to remain optimistic. The Steelers’ AFC Championship defeat may have been a failure today, but in the long-term picture it was another step in the Steelers’ growth.
In reality, the Steelers have had one of the fastest and most successful turnarounds in recent memory. The process was forced to begin in late 2011 to early 2012 when the Steelers were faced with the oldest roster in the NFL and due for a younger turnover. A move like this would take many NFL franchises years and some may never even have the chance to grab the limelight again. It took the Steelers only two years.
The turnaround speaks for itself, as the Steelers have begun climbing the ladder back into the post season spotlight. Just looking at the ending of the Steelers’ last four seasons, you can see the progress for yourself.
2013 : In Le’Veon Bell’s rookie season, The Steelers slug their way back into post season contention after an 0-4 start but miss the post season after an infamous failed field goal by Ryan Succop.
2014: The Steelers first full season together with The Killer Bs, and the introduction of Ryan Shazier and Stephon Tuitt to the re-created defense. The young, new Steelers finish 11-5 but lose Wild Card weekend to the Baltimore Ravens.
2015: Another year together for the lethal offense and another young piece is added to the defense in Bud Dupree. After finishing 10-6, the Steelers win a post season game for the first time in five years but are eliminated in the divisional round at the hands of the Denver Broncos.
2016: Finally, a full season together with The Killer Bs and the immediate success of rookies Javon Hargrave, Artie Burns and Sean Davis on defense. Both sides of the ball are younger, more athletic and more dynamic than ever. The team strikes gold on riding a 9-game winning streak all the way to the AFC Championship game.
So Steeler Nation, you can be upset for tonight because yes, a loss in the AFC Championship game is very crushing. The investment in this team hit deep in the heart after riding the highs and lows of a 4-game losing streak and a 9-game winning streak. But remember to hold your head high because the four-year progression of missing the post season to losing in the championship game is a step by step success.
Not many teams or fan bases can enjoy the success and consistency of a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers. While this may be goodbye for now, it is not a farewell. With another year under their belt and one last step to climb, the Steelers are in their best position coming out of a season since their Super Bowl 43 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.