For many fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s simply remarkable that the team got anywhere close to where they did, finishing the season with a non-losing record after starting 1-4, and without their franchise quarterback. They even at one point won seven out of eight games and began to look like one of the hottest teams in football.
The thing is, the same reason that they were able to reach that turning point, before falling short, is the same reason that the downturn is so painful for this locker room. It all stems from head coach Mike Tomlin and his sincere devotion to the principle that ‘the standard is the standard’, an aphorism that, in time, every player in the locker room ultimately embraces.
At its root, the message is simply that any player asked to play any role will be expected to deliver winning football in whatever capacity is asked of them. This season, they have asked a lot of their ‘starters in waiting’, pushing the aphorism to the limits of reasonability…and nearly pulled it off.
That they didn’t, however, means that they are only left with the disappointment that comes with failed expectations. For Tomlin, for the players, this is just an 8-8 season with no playoff berth. For outside observers, it was a hell of a fun ride that was fueled by the sense that we were watching a team playing with house money. That’s not what you heard after the game, though.
Tomlin described yesterday’s game as “just disappointing. But there’s been a lot of disappointments this season. We’re not painting with a broad brush. We’re focused on where we are today, and what happened today”, he said.
“There’ll be other opportunities to talk more broader things when I visit with you guys next week. Today, just know that we’re disappointed we didn’t play as well as we would like to play, and we take responsibility for that. We congratulate the Ravens. They did what they needed to do”.
The Ravens, in fact, pretty much dominated them, strikingly so on the ground in spite of the fact that they were resting both of their 1000-yard rushers. Baltimore rushed for over 200 yards on the ground, having the best day on the season any team had had against Pittsburgh’s defense in the running game. An awful time to bottom out in that department, and there really was no reason for it, other than perhaps the slick conditions.
But there is no room for excuses here for Tomlin, or for the players. They needed to win this game, and they didn’t. it’s that black and white. It doesn’t matter who was at quarterback, who was healthy, what the weather was. They lost. And now they must stew in it until next year.