As the old saying goes, "What a difference a year makes."
Heading into the 2009 NFL season, fresh off of their unprecedented 6th Super Bowl trophy, Pittsburgh Steelers fans around the globe were confident their team could rebound and make a solid run at a repeat Super Bowl appearance in Miami. What a tale of two seasons 2008 and 2009 ended up being.
In 2008, in games decided by a touchdown or less, the Steelers sported an 8-2 record. The team fielded perhaps the league's best defense ever—a defense that was supported by an opportunistic, yet very battered offense.
The 2008 offense, while not amassing amazing yardage or scoring numbers, was able to capitalize on its critical, yet limited scoring opportunities time and again.
The 2009 season told a different tale.
In seven point games, Pittsburgh fared far worse sporting a 5-7 record. The offense set records across the board in several categories, yet the defense seemed to be a mere shadow of its former self.
The 2008-2009 off season wasn't particularly damaging to Pittsburgh.
In free agency the team only lost starters Bryant McFadden and Larry Foote. Confidence reigned that William Gay could replace "B-Mac" and that Lawrence Timmons was ready to go full time at inside line backer.
Yet the defense was nowhere near the same as the prior season, even though Timmons proved an upgrade at middle linebacker. Gay left a lot to be desired at corner back all season long, eventually losing his starting role by season end.
Critical injuries to Polamalu and Aaron Smith (the most unheralded 3-4 DE in the NFL) left the defense vulnerable on the line and in the secondary. The defense wasn't the same. And neither was the 2009 campaign.
Parity is an oft-discussed subject in NFL circles.
I believe it's been in the league for some time. The Steelers are a great example of how simple and subtle changes can have a large impact in on-the-field results from one season to the next.
The 2008-2009 squads were remarkably similar given today's free-agency-driven NFL. Yet a couple of injuries and "lack of motivation" from a Super Bowl-high team was the difference between winning a Super Bowl and not even making the playoffs.
So, as with many Steeler fans reluctant to set aside the glory of 2008, I've chosen to continue to bask in the glory and feeling of it. I've chosen to realize my team was a mere few ball bounces away from having been in a position to defend its title.
I've found a small sense of satisfaction that this year's actual Super Bowl winner wore (drum roll please) Black & Gold (albeit of a different variety). Like Steelers fans from the 1970s who could never let go (I should know, I was and am one of them), I simply can't let go of the good feelings of 2008.
And so I present you, Steeler Nation, with another piece of media I have created that you can use to celebrate and continue to live in the past - a video that couples the rich history of the 70s with the success of our present-day Steelers - Stairway to Seven (thank you to the musical author who, to me to this day, remains unknown).