One could say this whole season was a dream, because it was almost too good to be real. A rookie quarterback going 14-0 as a starter. An "over-the-hill" running back being the leading rusher on the best rushing team in the NFL. Beating a 7-0 and an 8-0 team in back-to-back weeks. All of it was so surreal, that I was positive that this season would have a happy ending. Hence, that is why I can not believe that the Steelers were routed the way they were by the Patriots.
People in the media kept saying it would be a blow-out, but I refused to believe it. Considering that the Steelers had a stout defense and solid running game matched with the fact that the Patriots are a very similar team, I saw this game as a low scoring defensive struggle, with the final score somewhere around the 10-13 point range. I would never have thought that any team would have put up 41 on this Steelers team.
Them again, I never would have thought that the Patriots would have given up 34 points (in October). In my opinion, neither game was a match-up of the two teams playing at their best. The Patriots did not have Corey Dillon and Deion Branch in their loss. The Steelers had a tired, rattled rookie...and the defense failed them at times. Speaking of which, I do not understand how the Pittsburgh defense could play so well all year, and then give up two of the biggest plays all season in the AFC Championship game (60 yard touchdown pass, 45 yard pass to set up the second touchdown). Yadda, yadda, yadda. Like I said, neither game was indicative of the quality of these two teams. New England had an off day; then Pittsburgh had an off day.
Which brings me to next season. I honestly believe that these two teams will meet again in the AFC Championship game over the next several years. Still, that does not make me feel any better right now.
I know, I know. Ben will indeed have many (note: many) other opportunities for a Super Bowl. But, I really wanted a ring, or at least a Super Bowl appearance, for Jerome Bettis. The man is such a quality person...seeing him slumped and dejected on the side-lines nearly broke my heart.
People have been trying to tell me that 16-2 is better than being 6-10. I agree...but 16-2 hurts much worse. When your team plays in the AFC Championship game, they are one game away from the Super Bowl. One measly little win. Unfortunately, the closer they get to the Super Bowl, the bigger the let down if they lose. When your team goes 6-10, you have several months ot ease into the pain. Conversely, when your team loses the Championship game the transition of emotions from hope to defeat are so drastic that one does not have time to prepare oneself for the agony. Honestly, I can not fathom how the Buffalo Bills fans of the early 1990s ever dealt with that much suffering.
The thing that hurts the worst is that the Steelers have beaten both of the teams that will be playing in the Super Bowl. Obviously, I would have much rather have had the Steelers lose both games of those games in October/November and win in January/February. Alas...
Well, I guess the Steelers peaked about three months too early.