Sorry folks. The stars did not align. If the Raiders were quarterbacked by anyone but JaMarcus Russell, the Steelers would still be alive for the Sunday night game, at least. Still, the Steelers have no one to blame for their ended season save themselves. Had any one of the many wire-thin losses gone the other way, Pittsburgh would be in the postseason. Or if Big Ben had not suffered a concussion late against KC, they would be in and the Ravens would not.
Meantime, Pittsburgh did all it could today, though very much in established 2009 fashion, by storming to a big lead through three quarters only for it to all but vanish within a few minutes in the 4th.
With the exception of a bizarre (and inane) trick play where Santonio was intercepted throwing into double coverage when the Steelers already had the ball on Miami's side of the field, I thought Arians called a mostly good offensive game plan. That Santonio play can't be fully discounted. The Steelers were driving to take a multiple score lead when the team once again tried for a desperation home run call when they easily could have gotten points anyway. As had happened previously this year, that reach resulted in a costly turnover that allowed an opponent to hang around. I have no way of knowing for sure, but I imagine Arians, whatever you think of him, has probably saved his job with the team based on the play the previous three weeks. I don't agree with it, but that's my guess.
Though the secondary came away with the timely interceptions to seal the game, the pass coverage was mostly awful. The Dolphins receivers had free reign over what looked to be conceded midrange routes by the defense. It was telling how many 10+ yard plays they put together. It was, however, another huge game by LaMarr Woodley. I'm glad to see he's a first alternative to make the Pro Bowl. He certainly deserves it. It's interesting that he and James Harrison seemed to flip roles in the final few games. Whereas Harrison was the primary pass rusher early in the year while Woodley was forced into coverage, now Woodley is one beating double teams while Harrison drops back. Silverback's forearm injury is possibly to blame for that, but it's still worth noting.
Even if the Steelers fell just short of the playoffs, there's some positives to take away from the year. After it seems like the team gave up against Cleveland, they went through three decent teams to have an outside shot at the playoffs. Presumably, Aaron Smith and Troy Polamalu return next year. Mike Wallace will be that much a better option at receiver. The biggest free agent losses the team could suffer are Jeff Reed, Casey Hampton and Ryan Clark. Hopefully more help at O-line or corner arrives via the draft. Considering the Steelers didn't lose any game this season by more than a touchdown, a few fixes are all that stands between this team being a serious contender again next year. That and the Super Bowl the team won 11 months ago help to ease the disappointment.
- During the break while medics dealt with Pat White, Ike Taylor (he got a pick!) was shown without his helmet. Based on the giant WARD shaved into the back of his head, I thought he might have lost a bet to Hines.
Nope. Turns out it's some 9th Ward pride (check the 9TH shaved into the side of his head). I guess that's cool. I liked my bet idea better.
Also, this Big Ben hip fake made me laugh for two minutes straight.