Remember when the Pittsburgh Steelers were rattling off wins left and right through the first two and a half months or so of the 2020 season? That was cool. They started off 11-0, by far the best start to a season that they ever had in franchise history by a good margin. They were on the top of a lot of power rankings.
Granted, not all of their wins were pretty, but they did have their blowouts, and they showed grit in coming back to win a few, or to close out a few. Full team efforts that are often the difference between good teams and bad teams, winning the games that are up for grabs.
A lot of people felt—they would argue knew—that the Steelers were obviously not as good as it seemed. These are often, however, the same people who know that they are, in fact, as bad as the team that finished 1-5, including the postseason. This is the real team, not one that is somewhere in the middle. But I digress. I’m speaking about a minority.
Even as the Steelers were sitting there watching their win total rise, they weren’t exactly tooting their own horns. They knew how little it meant for them as an organization in the grand scheme of things. General manager Kevin Colbert made that clear last week when he spoke to Missi Matthews.
“The season was a different one. We got off to a great start the 11-0 mark”, he said. “I really didn’t even feel good at that point, because I knew that ultimately we would judge ourselves by how we were able to do in the playoffs. And unfortunately, we didn’t fare very well, obviously. A disappointing first-round loss that sticks with us as we move into the offseason”.
The Steelers lost to some good teams in the Washington Football Team, who had a great defense, and the Buffalo Bills. While they certainly should have been able to beat Washington, there was no shame in a Bills loss on the road. But then losing to Ryan Finlay and the Cincinnati Bengals a week later, that’s the one that stung.
Obviously, they overcame a 17-point second-half deficit a week later against the Indianapolis Colts to record their 12th and final victory of the season before resting starters against the Cleveland Browns in a finale loss that must be measured against the fact that they didn’t need to win, and Cleveland very, very, very much did.
What I can’t help but wonder is how things might have gone differently—and how the season would have been viewed differently—if things didn’t just get so screwed up so quickly in the postseason. An avalanche of outlier issues that began with a botched snap that went for a defensive touchdown on the opening play of the game led to a 28-0 first quarter. They outscored Cleveland 37-20 for the rest of the game.