Likes and Dislikes: Wild Card Game

Disappointing.

This one word sums up the Wild Card performance the Steelers had against the Ravens. However, it’s difficult to point the finger at one disappointment in general.

The biggest disappointment, obviously, would be losing to the Baltimore Ravens.

Another “D” word, disgusting, comes to mind when I heard John Harbaugh call his QB, Joe Flacco, the “best in the NFL.”

As had been the case in several other games this year (such as the Browns, Jets and Bucs) the opposing quarterback didn’t have to do much in order to secure a victory. Joe Flacco connected on 18 passes total, which was just enough to get his team into the next round of the playoffs.

Disappointing could also be used to label the officiating crew of this game. At no time did the game, in my opinion, feel fairly called. The balance of decisions (called or not) appeared to go in favor of Baltimore. I don’t want to sound like the guy blaming the outcome of the game on the referees, but there’s enough doubt to think a change in a call or two definitely had an impact on the game overall. (Read why Clete Blakeman couldn’t call a fair game for more analysis on the officiating of this game.)

Make no mistake about it, the Steelers made plenty of mistakes on their own. The pressure on Joe Flacco throughout the night was minimal. The defense couldn’t get off the field in 3rd down situations, particularly 3rd and long. The offense turned the ball over, which is a surefire way to lose a playoff game. And settling for field goals in the red zone, while giving up touchdowns to the opposition, is a good way to dig a hole.

However, I’m still proud of the way my team played this year. I had no expectation of the Steelers winning the AFC North and hosting a home playoff game. At best I had them as a Wild Card team. I will forever be disappointed they lost to the Ravens, a hated divisional rival, and a team I still feel is not that good.

In conclusion, the Steelers still have lots of promise. The whole of their offensive unit will return for next season. It was even nice to see Bruce Gradkowski come into adversity, having not thrown a pass in 2 seasons, and move the chains (plus nearly score.)

But I also feel bad for what might be the final game in a Steelers jersey for Pittsburgh legends such as Troy Polamalu and James Harrison, as well as those who didn’t have the opportunity to suit up for the game such as Ike Taylor and Brett Keisel. The sting of this loss will hurt longer for them than most of us fans.

For the 2014 Steelers, this will be the season where they “Ran The North” but had a young team with veteran leaders who fell just short of the ultimate prize.

Though Charlie Batch criticized fans for lowering their expectations (from that of winning Super Bowls) our expectations were lowered by a team who somehow avoided a losing season (since 2003) while reloading for a shot at their 7th World Title.

For that I salute the entire club, and I eagerly look forward to revisiting them later this year.

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