The Packers played a very good game and Aaron Rodgers a great one, but Steelers fans are going to look back at Super Bowl XLV and agonize over the many opportunities squandered and what might have been. Like Super Bowl XXX, it was a game they never led, but seemed just on the cusp of taking control of, until being undone by costly turnovers. At least the ones on Sunday weren't quite as ugly.
Were it just the two first half turnovers, the Steelers very well might have completed what would have been the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. But twice being situated on the Packers' side of the field with a chance to draw closer than 21-17 resulted in a frustrating decision to attempt a 52-yard Shaun Suisham field goal and later a huge fumble by Rashard Mendenhall.
Despite all that, of course, the Steelers still had a shot at the very end to stage last-second heroics, having the ball with two minutes left and a timeout, though a stupid penalty by Keyaron Fox meant it would have to be a touchdown drive of 80-plus yards. It stalled out pretty quick. The last throw by Ben to Wallace was off target. Even if it's caught to maintain the drive, the Steelers probably have to burn the last timeout inside of a minute with the ball still on their side of the field. Not impossible at that point, but not the greatest likelihood of getting a touchdown, either. I'll give Antwaan Randle El credit for having probably his best game of the season, but that was a time when Emmanuel Sanders was missed.
It was just such a schizophrenic postseason for the Steelers. Garbage first half against Baltimore capped by a heroic comeback in the second. Dominating start against the Jets that almost slips away in the second half. About as miserable a start to the Super Bowl as they could have had, but one foul-up too many and a lack of a huge play by the defense in the second half prevented another championship. Obviously it would have been nice to get a great performance from start to finish, but obviously there are not many teams in the NFL capable of such outings, at least this season.
For the most part, Ike Taylor did a good job with Greg Jennings. Both of Jennings' touchdowns can on plays where Ike wasn't covering him. I realize McFadden was coming in hurt and even left the game at one point, but getting corner help is going to be a huge necessity in the coming offseason. If you think teams can spread out the Steelers and dink and dunk now, just try seeing the defense without Ike.
For all the pregame attention on Doug Legursky, his name didn't come up much during the game, which is generally a good thing for a lineman. I'd have to watch the game again for a full evaluation, but other than one mishandled snap between him and Roethlisberger, I felt like he had an all right game. Can't complain much about injuries when the Packers also lost Donald Driver and Charles Woodson during the course of the game.
It's a disappointing conclusion for what could have been another championship season. That it was there for the taking lends more regret the more one thinks about missed chances, but it's worth stressing that many people - myself included - never saw the Steelers getting even this far given the shitstorm of horrible things that happened the previous offseason. They won the division. They furthered their dominance over the shithead Ravens with a third playoff victory over Bawlmer. They denied Rex Ryan a trip to the Super Bowl for the second time in three years.
Presuming there even is a season in 2011, there remains reasons for optimism assuming the team can retain Woodley and Taylor. The two starting tackles will return. Presumably more help on the offensive line should arrive. And hey, something might happen to Bruce Arians, not that he'll be fired now, presumably. Granted, it's another year older for Ward, Farrior and Hampton, but the Steelers have positioned themselves well for the future at wideout and obviously at linebacker.
It'll take a while to get over and, as all Super Bowl losses do, will linger more than your garden-variety postseason defeat, but it's not the end of the run for this team yet. Let's just hope they get a chance to keep it going in 2011.