Scenes From a Cold, Dark Super Bowl Loss
10:15 PM EST, February 8th—I am currently sitting outside. It’s 15 degrees in the middle of winter. Nothing is on me except for jeans, a Troy Polamalu jersey and a Steelers sweatshirt underneath it. But I’m not cold. Okay, I'm a little cold, but the anger-renaline is too overpowering to care. I’ve slammed my Terrible Towel a few times on the patio furniture, but other than that, I am keeping my composure. I figured this would be the best place to go, due to the lack of breakable of objects. So why am I out here? We have to go back to the beginning, reader. WE HAVE TO GO BACK!
I am pretty sure I did not need a dramatic introduction to tell you what this article is about. I just like adding LOST bits. At least let me have that.
To say I was angry after the Steelers loss is really an understatement. I needed a few days to write this column, as I am still fuming. Literally fuming. I am still trying to keep the smoke from coming out of my mouth. People are telling me that is just the cold air, but I know better.
There are a ton of reasons why the Steelers lost the game. But let’s just review the main ones:
1) Ben’s Spotty Play
It just wasn’t one play, it was the whole game. Ben has never been a guy to raise his game in Super Bowls (30-51, 379 yards, 1-3 TD/INT ratio in two previous Super Bowls. He was dreadful in the first one, and until the last drive of the second, he really didn’t play well. Without James Harrison’s last-second touchdown at halftime, the Steelers win is really in doubt). I am not sure why Ben doesn’t play well for a full four quarters in the Super Bowl, but he just doesn’t. And I have learned to accept it.
But he really got outplayed by Aaron Rodgers, and that was the biggest difference in this game. I am not putting the full blame on Ben (the rest I will get to momentarily), but when the opposing quarterback is playing to his full potential, you have to raise your game too. Ben had two bad picks, and missed guys open all over the field. I am not sure what the deal was, but Ben seemed to possess the peripheral vision of an 89-year-old bus driver at some points.
Think about all the drops Rodgers had. Without the six drops, Rodgers easily reaches 400 yards and possibly five touchdowns. Roethlisberger did not have any excuses for his performance. The offensive line did not play horribly (Props to Dan “Bronko” Legursky. Dude played surprisingly well given the fact that he hasn’t played center since college, and he looks like a larger Matt Millen). He had time. He over/underthrew Mike Wallace on a few plays that could have gone for big yardage.
I am not here to bash on Big Ben. The guy has made too many plays over the years for me to really be frustrated. But I still kind of am. I feel like a spoiled child.
2) The Secondary
By far the most destructive aspect of the Steelers game. Even Troy Polamalu, my hero, made errors.
Let’s start with Bryant McFadden, who played the game as if he were John McFadden, my sixth grade football coach who had three fingers and was 250 pounds. He was an ass. McFadden got burned all night long, and proved that the Steelers need a cornerback as a draft pick in the early rounds.
We saw William Gay play one of the worst games of his illustrious career, which he would have played worse had Jordy Nelson not contracted dropitis during the game. Jordy Nelson should have had 15 catches for 250 yards and three touchdowns. He’ll settle for 9,140 and 1, but he could have had one of the greatest single games for a wide receiver in Super Bowl history.
Even the two safeties, Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu, played poorly. Clark was burned a few times, and Polamalu allowed the touchdown to Greg Jennings, which really clinched the game. On that same drive, Jennings was able to get completely open in the middle of the field on 3rd-and-5 on a decently deep slant, and caught it for a massive game. I had Vietnam-esque flashbacks to the Larry Fitzgerald touchdown in Super Bowl 43 with four minutes left that put the Cardinals ahead. I may or may not have cried in anger on that play.
Obviously, the Steelers need a guy to replace the aging McFadden. The real question is where to draft a corner in the draft. The seemingly obvious choice would be second round, because the Steelers need a first-round quality lineman. That’s great, especially if we can draft Mike Pouncey and shift him to a guard position. What would be more fun than seeing the Pouncey brothers together. As long as they don’t kiss, the Steelers could have the first fun offensive line in NFL history.
But we need a cornerback, and the Super Bowl really put this on display. The line was able to hold up, but the secondary got torn apart. You have to believe that there are a few good lineman in the second and third rounds, but there is a lack of shutdown corners. I have no idea what to do here. You cannot fulfill both needs. If I was forced to make a decision, I would say lineman. Ben can’t take a beating like he did this year. But it is pretty easy to make a case for getting a cornerback.
3) First Half Penalties
It just seemed as if every big play the Steelers had in the first half, it was being brought back on a hold/clip. Maybe the score is not as insurmountable if the Steelers attempt to be somewhat disciplined. Instead, they lacked any experience and were as well behaved as myself.
4) Pick Six
Anytime a team scores on defense, they are probably going to win the game. That is just science talking. Or every NFL pundit. But its true. A play like the Packers had deflates the momentum and swings it to the team that had the pick. Get it?
5) Black Eyed Peas Halftime Show
This couldn’t have helped. This may have been the worst live performance I have ever seen, as I tweeted. What happened to the Black Eyed Peas? Didn’t they used to be good? I remember songs like “Let’s Get It Started” getting me psyched for the NBA Playoffs. Then there was Usher. He moaned a few times, did a “split,” then went back up into the Jumbotron. Paycheck well deserved.
Quick Note/Conspiracy Theory: Did anyone else think that was not Slash playing guitar. I think it easily could have been a random guy who put on a top hat and hideous Slash hair and glasses. Would not really be that difficult. Of course, Slash will take any paycheck he can get, so maybe it was him.
6) Mike Tomlin/Bruce Arians
I love Tomlin, don’t get me wrong. He is a G, as the white kids in my neighborhood (me) say. But that 52-yard field goal he had Shaun Suisham attempt was flat out dumb. What if the Packers had gone onto score that drive? Suisham missed that field goal by 25 yards to the left, and he missed the netting that protects the crowd from errant projectile footballs.
My disdain for Arians is well-documented, and I believe he should get the proverbial ax sometime this offseason. Either an ax or Thor’s hammer. The Steelers could make a whole marketing/product placement deal out of it! Anyway, it probably was not the smartest thing to ignore Antonio Brown, the fastest guy on the field other than Mike Wallace, during the game. Even after Emmanuel Sanders injured his foot (which I think wasn’t that bad to begin with, but Mike Tomlin shot Sanders in the foot out of anger. This theory actually came up in my house. By me.), Brown was ignored.
Brown had big kickoff returns throughout the game, and looked like he actually wanted to be there. Unfortunately, Bruce had other ideas.
My biggest grievance with Arians was the play on fourth down, which ended the game for the Steelers. You made Ben go into a three-step drop (which he is not always comfortable with), and attempting a timing route with Mike Wallace (who was having trouble hearing the plays and did not really know which route to run). A screen wouldn’t have worked there? Maybe letting Ben move around, attempting to make a play like he has done so many times in his career?
No, we are just going to force Ben to become a pocket passer, even though he is better on the run. Kudos, Bruce Arians. I am not even going to get into how you abandoned the run after Rashard Mendenhall was busting off runs in the first quarter.
The worst part for me about this game was that I realized the Steelers were not going to win around halftime. Then, they came back to cut it to four, and then Mendenhall fumbled. After that, I definitely knew they were not going to win. As Michael Corelone said, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” Just add a crappy make-up job and subtract the murders, and I felt just like Michael Corleone. The loss did not hurt as much as I thought it would.
Maybe, as I said before, I am spoiled by the Steelers success. They have the most Super Bowls in NFL history, they’ve won two in six years, so I really do not have that much to complain about. But it would have been nice to have just one more. The loss still matters to me, don’t get me wrong. Why else would I spend 20 minutes outside trying not to explode? But I didn’t break all the windows in my house, like I thought I would. If this had been a down to the wire game, maybe I would have. Maybe I would have been $700 in debt, and not writing this right now.
After my trip outside, I came inside and turned on ESPN Classic (figuring that they would be showing nothing about the game, and showing something like billiards or bowling or Congress). There was a documentary about an MMA fighter who had no arms or legs. I realized that the Super Bowl might not have been as important as I thought it was, and I went to bed.
Sure, I stayed up for another two hours after it, but it put everything in perspective.
Which is good, I guess.
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