Steelers: AFC Championship Lost

Jan 22, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) shake hands after the game in the 2017 AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 22, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) shake hands after the game in the 2017 AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

The Steelers lost. What happened you ask? Well have you ever seen the Steelers and Patriots play eachother? That happened. The same thing that happens every time.

The Steelers started their day bright and early at 3 am when the fire alarm in their hotel went off. As everyone knows, Foxboro is haunted. The Patriots are to the NFL now what steroids were to MLB in the 90s. Everyone expects and experiences a lot of odd coincidences but they pay the bills so let’s just keep referring to them as odd coincidences, not that other word that starts with the same letter.

But that’s so common and inevitable that it’s frankly on opponents to not be caught off guard by the ghosts of Foxboro. This one is on the Steelers. It’s the same game over and over forever.

Pittsburgh blowing opportunities? Check. Questionable play calling? Check. About a million 2nd and 1s? Check. Falling behind early? Check. Taking away deep passes (which Brady wasn’t good at in his 20s) and giving him the short ones (which is about 100% of what he does well)? Check. And keeping just enough in the game to keep you from turning it off but messing up enough to never truly have a chance? Check.

Look, if you didn’t see where this was going when the Steelers failed to score on a 1st and goal from 8 inches then you aren’t really a Steelers fan. The teams are equals in talent and ability. The Pats adjust and the Steelers don’t. They execute and the Steelers don’t.

The Pats aren’t as hard to beat as it may seem, you just can’t screw it up, and the Steelers always screw up. It’s hard to notice because they’re so good, they just make up for it with say, 6 field goals. But the Steelers odd proclivity to squander opportunities and inability to find motivation before falling behind or needing to hit the panic button (losing 4 games straight and then winning 9) just doesn’t work against the Pats.

Against the Patriots, you can’t just be good football players, you have to play good football, and the Steelers just never do against the Pats. They often don’t, they’re just good enough that it doesn’t matter usually. Anyway…

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1st Quarter

The Pats won the coin toss and uncharacteristically decided to receive. That is where the surprises stopped. Bennett caught a 12 yard pass. Edelman caught a 41 yard pass. Stalled a bit, field goal. Pats up 0-3.

Bell got Pittsburgh to a 3rd and 1 and then Ben threw up a deep pass directly into Sammie Coates hands. This culminated in what was the first of a few key dropped passes. I wonder if Martavis Bryant was watching this game.

The Steelers forced a nice 3 and out when Hargrave sacked Brady. The Steelers got a first down with a Bell run and James pass but punted shortly after. Then the short passes. Brady just throwing those short passes because the Steelers let him frankly. Then the next 40 yards pretty much entirely went to Hogan passes, ending when he caught a touchdown pass (somehow) completely uncovered. Pats up 0-10.

2nd Quarter

So Bell got injured on the next drive. But Eli Rogers converted a 3rd down with a 16 yard catch. Then he and DeAngelo Williams combined for another first down. Then Williams ran 15 yards for another first down. Brown caught one for 11 yards. Then Williams and Rogers again combined for enough yards for a first down. Williams ended up punching it in for the touchdown. The extra point was missed. Pats up 6-10.

This was peak-hope for Steelers fans, at least until the extra point miss. Then deja vu, a dozen uncontested short passes later the Pats are on the 34 yard line. They ran a flea flicker and scored a touchdown. Pats up 6-17.

Now Pittsburgh got to playing the short game too. Inching along with the occasional pass to James or Brown for over 10 yards. Jesse James ran a great route and caught an 18 yard pass that was called a touchdown but reversed. 1st and inches. The Steelers, with Bell injured, did something they rarely do on the goal line, run the ball, and twice. They lost 5 yards total and an incomplete pass led to a field goal. Pats up 9-17.

3rd Quarter

The Steelers went three and out to start the half.  Short passes. Then Brady ran a sneak and the ball came loose, recovered by the Steelers. The refs decided he was down though and the Steelers felt it appropriate to give up 24 yards to some guy named Hogan who can apparently turn invisible to the Steelers secondary. They got a field goal out of it. Pats up 9-20.

The Steelers still appeared to be in range to someone who maybe isn’t familiar with how these games always go. There was a 19 yard pass to Rogers. Then there was a 13 yard pass to Brown. Then … a punt.

Edelman took a short pass 17 yards. Develin took a short pass 13 yards. Then the invisible man, Hogan, gets one for 39 yards. Blount ran it 18 yards and then another yard for the touchdown. Pats up 9-27.

Then Eli Rogers fumbled a 5 yard pass. Edelman for 18 and then 10 yards. Touchdown. Pats up 9-33. The extra point was missed.

4th Quarter

Sammie Coates caught a pass for 30 yards. Way to go Sammie. Brown got one for 18, then 9. Cobi Hamilton caught one for 7, securing the first down. The Steelers quickly realized they were in the redzone though and played appropriately … that is to say badly. They ran twice, realizing, now that Bell is out, that’s an option in the redzone. Then two incomplete passes.

The defense held the Pats after a first down forcing a punt. But a deep pass to Heyward-Bey was intercepted and returned 37 yards. The Steelers defense, with 33 points on the scoreboard was awake now and forced a field goal in the redzone. Pats up 9-36.

The Steelers then conducted the drive they needed about an hour ago. They did a lot of short plays, all adding up to first downs, all the way to the 30 yard line. Then Roethlisberger threw a 30 yard pass to Hamilton, who earlier let a touchdown pass bounce off his torso, for a touchdown. Williams caught the 2 point conversion. Pats up 17-36.

Pittsburgh tried an onside kick with 3 and a half minutes left but NE got it. Then they got a first down and knelt the clock out.

Next: Steelers at Patriots AFC Championship: Potential Unsung Heroes

Well that’s it Steelers fans. See you next year. Or next week, we’ll still be writing about the various goings on in Steel Town so stay tuned, and I’ll be in a better mood too. The Steelers had a great season and overcame a lot. Let’s tip our cap to the fellas for a fun ride. If anything good can be taken from today though, or from this whole week frankly, let it be the immortal words of the immortal James Harrison, “I’m not done.”