No team ever wants to lose a game. But, the reality is, every team does. With the exception to the 1972 Miami Dolphins, no team has ended the season with as many losses as they started it with, 0.
There are certain losses that hurt a lot worse than others. Losses to a division foe. Being defeated by a team that physically is not as talented as yours. Being a team's first win, losing more than two games in a row, and of course, losing to the Cleveland Browns. (Not to pick on the Browns, but no team that has ever lost to Cleveland has gone on to win the Super Bowl.)
Then, there are the losses that are acceptable. To open or close a stadium. When you have many injuries, and the other team has more wins than you. When you are playing a team in primetime, on the road, in the opposite conference, and that is coming off a Super Bowl season.
Yes, the loss to the Saints, though it is still a loss, is one of the most bearable losses that a team can afford to have. It really does not hurt in the standing of the AFC, simply because they are from the NFC. It does not hurt in the tie-breaker scenario, because if the Steelers are to play the Saints again this year, it is going to be in the Super Bowl, which I would be fine with that.
Sunday night, the Pittsburgh Steelers played a very good team, on the road, in primetime, and on that night, the Saints were the better team.
Every team has a bad game, now and again. Not to take anything away from the Saints, they played the better game, had the better game plan, executed better and deserved to win the ball game. But, Pittsburgh did not play like the Pittsburgh Steelers.
As I stated in a previous article (which, you can check out right HERE), the Steelers were, without question, outcoached against Sean Payton and the rest of the Saints coaching staff. The offensive line, played like they did in 2009, Ben Roethlisberger played as if his suspension just ended yesterday. The receivers had a hard time catching the ball, Heath Miller fumbled, the running game had no holes.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Steelers could not shut down the passing game, they did not successfully blitz, and when they did, it was picked up. Other than shutting down the running game, which the Steelers always do, they played poorly all night.
And, STILL were in position to win near the end of the game.
The best teams in the NFL lose on a regular basis. Two weeks ago, it took the Ravens OT to defeat the win-less Buffalo Bills. If it didn't happen, Vegas would lose so much money, it would be closed down.
Great teams respond to the losses, and come back the following week and play with a chip on their shoulder.
The Steelers next game will come on Monday Night Football, when the Steelers travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals.
Cincinnati, who defeated the Steelers twice in 2009, were preseason favorites by many NFL writers and fans, to be playing in the Super Bowl in February. They were believed to have improved their team enough that they would again, at least, be AFC North Champions.
The 2010 season has not been kind to the Cincinnati Bengals, as Carson Palmer is looking more like Arnold Palmer, and the Bengals are sitting at 2-5, with four straight losses. A win against the Steelers, and it could begin to turn the Bengals' season around.
A loss to the Steelers (having already lost to the Browns) would all but eliminate Cincinnati from the playoffs.
The Steelers know this, and so do the Bengals.
If the Steelers are going to be a great team, they need to go into Cincinnati on Monday night, and play Steelers football.
Smash mouthed defense, shut down the run, limit the passing yards. On offense, the offensive line MUST open running lanes for Rashard Mendenhall, and give Ben Roethlisberger time to throw deep to Mike Wallace.
If they don't, then there will have to be a lot of soul searching done in the Steelers locker room.