The agonizing wait for the 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers season, once measured in months, now can be measured in mere hours.
The Steelers will try to make their third straight playoff appearance for the first time since the turn of the century.
Not since Bill Cowher led the Steelers to six straight playoff appearances from 1992-1997 have the Steelers reached the postseason three straight times.
In 2006 and 2009, the Steelers missed the playoffs after coming off Super Bowl victories.
This year, their situation is more parallel to 2003.
The Steelers were stunned by the Patriots in the 2001 AFC championship game and suffered an overtime loss in the 2002 playoffs. Then in 2003, they flopped to 6-10.
As heartbreaking as that was, the heartbreak of 2010 and 2011 has been much more acute.
The Steelers could smell a championship in 2010, but lost in Super Bowl XLV. Then their 2011 season ended with an overtime loss much more sudden than their 2002 playoff OT loss.
Merely breaking the cycle of two playoff seasons, then a non-playoff season won't be enough for the Steelers in 2012.
In this era, it's championship or bust for the Steelers, and they face seven questions as they go for their seventh championship.