There’s a good reason we don’t post very much for most of May-July. It’s because nothing happens in the NFL. We could stage a stakeout of Mike Wallace’s contract negotiations, but it’s been far more interesting to follow NHL free agency and the upstart Pittsburgh Pirates (that felt good to type). After that little bit of buzz about American Football as an Olympic sport, we briefly kicked around the idea of making up Team USA’s roster. Then we remembered that everyone who plays American football is pretty much American and that was the end of that.
Given that nothing is going on, I decided it’s time to reflect on a season that we have already forgotten most of the details about, aided by a series of mostly sarcastic game recaps by yours truly. What DID happen in 2011? Was that the season we missed a bunch of FGs in Chicago? Wait, no, that was 2009. The loss to the Packers wasn’t lat year, was it? Or that late game TD to Mike Wallace to beat those Packers in the regular season? They all run together. So let’s break it down, week by week:
The Steelers: Were demolished by the Baltimore Ravens that was actually not as close as the 35-7 final score indicates. This game put you, as a fan, into an existential crisis over what to believe about your beloved Steelers. You wished things you would never speak of on Ed Reed.
Elsewhere: The Bills hung up 41 points on the Chiefs, the Texans predictably trounced Indianapolis in a demostrative changing of the guard, and nobody had even thought about Tim Tebow yet.
The Steelers: Played basically a perfect game against the Seahawks. Ben Roethlisberger got von-Oelhoffen’d by a totally clueless Raheem Brock but he was amazingly no worse for wear.
Elsewhere: The Bills score 38 points to bring their offensive output to 79 points in two games. The Baltimore Ravens, having already won their Superbowl the week prior, suffer a huge let down against the Tennessee Titans as they are completely incapable of maintaining focus after beating the Steelers.
The Steelers: Narrowly avoid an upset by the lead singer of Nickelback as they come out on top against the Colts on Sunday night.
Elsewhere: The Bills perform a huge upset, knocking off the New England Patriots 34-31. Evgeni Malkin lets everyone know what he thinks of Troy Polamalu.
The Steelers: Got handled by a very impressive Texans team. The offense looked bad, the defense looked worse, and you were right back to not knowing if the 2011 Steelers were actually any good.
Elsewhere: The 49ers beat the Eagles 24-23 and everyone is still thinking the Dream Team will come around and the 49ers are about to flame out.
The Steelers: Thoroughly dominated the Tennessee Titans. Max Starks returned and the line played infinitely better. The defense totally shut down the Titans and Daniel Sepulveda completed a pass.
Elsewhere: The 49ers score 48 points. The Eagles lose again, to the Bills this time. NFL fans are beginning to glance and each other and whispering, “Wait a second… do you think…? No, no, it’s still so early.”
The Steelers: Beat Blaine Gabbert and the Jaguars in one of the least-memorable games in NFL history. Some lineman probably got hurt.
Elsewhere: The Broncos probably had the most interesting week of football and they were on Bye. What a snore of a week.
The Steelers: Took on the over-the-hill gang out in Arizona and won fairly easily. The Cardinals would have a great team if this were Madden ’06.
Elsewhere: Tim Tebow leads the Broncos to a 4th-quarter comeback win against the Miami Dolphins. The NFL would not be the same for the rest of the year. Also, the Saints put up 62 freaking points again the Colts. The Ravens lost to the Jaguars in a pitiful Monday Night Football outing.
The Steelers: Played unquestionably the best and most satisfying game in the past few years with a big-time statement win against the New England Patriots. They were as insufferable as they’ve ever been, but the Steelers beat them up with a physical defense and a high-flying offense. Bill Belichick got outcoached and Tom Brady left Pittsburgh with his head hanging.
Elsewhere: Who even cares; the Patriots got whomped in Pittsburgh. Nothing else needed to have happened in Week 8.
The Steelers: Got stunned by a Joe Flacco comeback drive at the end of the game. Incredibly frustrating loss. Winning that game could have meant easy street to the divisional playoffs, but that loss eventually held them back and they had to go on the road as a wild card team.
Elsewhere: Tebow Time!
The Steelers: Bounced back against an inexperienced but reasonably competitive Bengals team. Polamalu could have picked off a TD to AJ Green and didn’t. Still a strange moment.
Elsewhere: The Ravens, coming off their second Superbowl win of the year, come out flat against the Seattle Seahawks and lose. What a crippling hangover they always seem to get.
The Steelers: Bye week!
Elsewhere: Tebow Mania, probably.
The Steelers: Scraped out a boring win against the Pittsburgh Panthers Kansas City Chiefs. Kyle Orton wasn’t around yet.
Elsewhere: Jon Harbaugh won the HarBowl against San Francisco and hopefully got abducted by aliens in the middle of the ngiht afterwards.
The Steelers: Had a huge first half and cruised from there to beat the Bengals. Dominant win by a better team.
Elsewhere: Tim Tebow had another late game comeback, this one against the Vikings. As this point he is the only story in the NFL.
The Steelers: Beat the Browns in a low-scoring affair. Despite the score, the team as a whole played very well. Another good sign for the rest of the season. Everyone started getting comfortable with how the Steelers were doing.
Elsewhere: Tebow comes back to beat the Bears at the end of the game.
The Steelers: Lost a football game and San Francisco isn’t known for their super-reliable power grid, apparently. There are problems all over that recap and I do not know why.
Elsewhere: The Ravens lost to the Chargers the night before and Pittsburgh failed to capitalize on the chance to take the division.
The Steelers: Beat the Rams on Christmas Eve and there wasn’t an actual recap of the game because Christmas.
Elsewhere: Santa Claus came.
The Steelers: Won their annual end-of-season game against the Browns. Ward got his 1000th catch, Mendenhall tore his ACL.
Elsewhere: The Ravens and Patriots won so the Steelers were relegated to the #5 seed.
WILD CARD WEEKEND
The Steelers play an entertaining game against the Broncos, but everyone got the impression they didn’t take their opponent seriously. You do that, you lose. Ryan Clark had to sit out and Ike Taylor played the worst game of his life. Tim Tebow’s final win as a Denver Bronco was an impressive outing that either showed off some untapped passing ability or showcased him being a lucky S.O.B. Either way, Maurkice Pouncey was unconcerned and also hates you.
Safe to say the season ended on a sour note. But at least the Steelers were beaten by a team that played well in the face of adversity, beaten by an extremely likeable individual in Tim Tebow, and they left no one to blame but themselves. It makes it easier to absorb a loss if you can look back at it and say, “Well, they had everything they needed to win, and they didn’t execute well enough.” It wasn’t the magical season any of us were hoping for (at least not for the Steelers), but it was a fun ride with its ups and downs. The season ended all right too, with the very respectable New York Giants knocking off the Patriots in the Superbowl again.
Five awesome things:
- The win against New England, unquestionably the best thing that happened all year.
- Baltimore’s astounding tendency to choke after beating the Steelers.
- Max Starks returning to the line and leading a rout of Tennessee
- Game two against the Bengals- a complete team effort and a dominant performance.
- Evgeni Malkin tweeting about Troy Polamalu. He best.
Five terrible things:
- The late-game loss to the Ravens on Joe Flacco’s unreal game-winning drive.
- The New England Patriots, existing in general.
- The opening day demolition at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens.
- The power outage in San Francisco and the microcosm of ESPN’s existence that was the unbelievable amount of drama awarded to its coverage.
- Maurkice Pouncey’s general feelings towards you and all your friends.