If Murphy’s Law were a football game, it would have been the one that we just witnessed on Heinz Field a short time ago. Everything that the Pittsburgh Steelers had go wrong at some point this year seemed to show up once again in their first postseason game since 2017, and it ensured that they won’t have another one until at least the 2021 season.
From bad snaps to batted passes to turnovers and bad run defense, it was all there as the Cleveland Browns recorded their first postseason victory since 1994—and won their first game in Pittsburgh in their last 18 attempts.
It was an embarrassing but seemingly fitting way to end the season for the Steelers, a season that began with their greatest opening-season run in team history by going 11-0. They had never gone better than 7-0 before. But they only won one more game after that.
The game, of course, began with Maurkice Pouncey, who was rested in the regular season finale as Mike Tomlin decided to ‘air mail’ him to the postseason, air mailed the first snap of the game over Ben Roethlisberger’s head, ultimately spilling to the one-yard line and recovered for a defensive touchdown.
Roethlisberger would throw three interceptions in the first half to put the pressure on the defense, and they certainly didn’t hold up, but they had problems of their own even when the offense wasn’t turning the ball over.
The offense would eventually find something of a rhythm and threatened to make the game interesting a couple of times, but when you dig yourself a 28-0 hole, it’s almost impossible to do anything that matters after that.
This is a result—at least the losing part—that many Steelers fans were anticipating, having witnessed all of the Steelers’ shortcomings in spite of the fact that, for most of the season, they had continued to somehow find ways to win.
During that win streak, they found ways to overcome their flaws. Since then, for the most part, not so much. And that was especially evident in tonight’s awful display from all phases of the game, including the coaching and decision-making.
The statistics might look fine in the end outside of the turnover margin, but everyone who watched it knows how much of it was virtually empty. A four-score lead is virtually insurmountable even under the best of circumstances, and the Steelers repeatedly alleviated themselves from putting themselves in the best of circumstances.
In the end, it felt very much like the Jacksonville Jaguars loss in the 2017 postseason, with a similar margin, ending 48-37. And they’re three years older now.