With a compact schedule, NFL games take on a greater magnitude than those in others sports. Each contest represents over six percent of the campaign, which translates to a simple NFL truism: They're all important.
Nevertheless, I offer what feels like a voice of solitude, amidst a rash of emergency alerts regarding the Steelers flying across the NFL airwaves, when I say to Steelers Country:
"It's not that bad. We'll still be fine."
In the past, coaches of various franchises have taken drastic, symbolic steps to help their teams heal after blowout losses, including burying the game film in a box under mounds of dirt.
I repeat, "We'll be fine." But Tomlin and the team need to watch the film before they bury it. Nobody who witnessed today's loss can deny that improvement is necessary.
Philosophically, Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco needed to beat Ben Roethlisberger as badly as any signal-caller needed to beat another all season. Mission accomplished, as the Ravens' right-arm man made precise throws and good decisions, taking advantage of holes in the Steelers' secondary.
What helped Flacco immensely was the combined play of the Ravens' offensive line and ineffectiveness of the Steelers' defensive front. At no point in the game was this more evident than Baltimore's third touchdown, where announcers pointed out Ray Rice, lined up wide with man coverage prior to the play.
The man dubbed Fluke-o in the Steel City was simply sublime. He shook off the debris of a horrible history against Pittsburgh for one afternoon, and in the aforementioned play, took time to check his options before hitting Rice, who had adjusted his route back out toward the sideline and scurried into the endzone, diving to hit the pylon and putting Baltimore up 21-7.
It was a microcosm of the game to that point.
Mendenhall's fumble and Ben's interception at the start of the second half served notice that it simply wasn't Pittsburgh's day.
The offensive line continued to get pushed around, leaving fans to wonder if the team is going to be burdened with inconsistency in the trenches again.
The defensive line was gashed, most evident on a burrowing run up the middle by the man once known as Ricky Williams.
Make no mistake, the Steelers, to paraphrase a quote once used by Joe Theismann after a brutal loss, "got their butts handed to them on a platter—and the tray was bent!"
For the next week, plenty of articles are going to ask Steelers Country not to panic, only to paint a portrait of a team in complete disarray. Writers will be accurate in their assessments, except for when they speak of the big red button they would love to have you press:
Don't do it. Steelers fans—don't press the button! Even when they tell you not to press it, they'll make you feel like you should.
Already I've read articles from journalists who are saying "I told you so." These doomsayers were very well-hidden in the hours before the game, only coming out of the woodwork as a matter of circumstantial convenience.
The Steelers were AFC favorites at eight o'clock this morning—and they're among the favorites now.
Without downplaying the brutal loss, it's also important to look ahead to a season that still promises success, great memories and additional hardware.
After a Sunday, September 11, 2011, that rattled many Steelers fans to their core, here are seven other dates that can remind fans in Pittsburgh not to throw in the Terrible Towels.