Regular season accolades are nice and all insofar as they go, but at least for franchises who hold themselves to the highest standard, the understanding is that there is only one single number that matters in the NFL, and that is the number of championship trophies that you have on display.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have as many Lombardi Trophies on display as anybody else in the NFL, the New England Patriots being the only team to have at least as many, and they did not even qualify for the postseason this year. Neither did the Dallas Cowboys or the San Francisco 49ers, the two franchise with only one fewer than they.
This regular season, the Steelers went 11-0 and were the final remaining unbeaten team for a number of weeks. They proceeded to go on a three-game losing streak, and lost four of their final five games, though that includes a finale in which they rested a number of starters in a game in which the Cleveland Browns were fighting for a win-and-in scenario to end an 18-year playoff drought.
Regardless of how they got there, the Steelers are in the postseason and believe that they are very much capable of contending for a championship. The fact that they lost their undefeated season, even went on a slide at the end of the regular season, is not what they’re concerned with now that they are here.
“We never wanted to go undefeated. That was never a goal”, rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool said on SiriusXM radio yesterday. “No one ever talked about going undefeated. We just wanted to win the Super Bowl. We don’t care if we are 11-5 or 10-6, as long as we’re in the playoffs and we’re playing good football and we have a chance to win the Super Bowl, that’s all that matters”.
“You can be 9-7 or whatever Washington’s record is and win the Super Bowl, and then it doesn’t matter”, he continued. “16-0 doesn’t matter if you don’t win the Super Bowl, and 10-6 doesn’t matter if you do win the Super Bowl”.
Does anybody care how the Steelers’ 2005 team got to the playoffs, or the 2008 team? Generally, not really. Their path to the postseason is a footnote, the subject of trivia questions. What matters is that they put their sticky fingerprints all over the trophy in February.
And that’s where their minds are as they head into the 2020 postseason. Nothing that happened over the past month matters, any more than anything that happened in September or October. The only thing that happens is what they do next. Everything is reset.