Watching the Steelers (without Brad)

Two Steelers fans found themselves thousands of miles away from home. In fact, both were in Texas during what may or may not have been the most significant game of the season for Pittsburgh. What did they do?

Brad sent me a text message at 1:46PM yesterday from the Dallas airport: “do you know the Steelers have a chance in hell of making the playoffs?”

My response from Mission, TX: “But a chance nonetheless. Remember: we have it in us. Now is when we need the most faith. If we fail today, then we’re totally f*cked. So have faith!”

The Pittsburgh Steelers are not an easy team to follow. To quote TJ Donegan of the Bleacher Report:

Can anyone figure out the Steelers? Anyone? Bueller?

This really is getting ridiculous. Can they just decide if they’re

a cursed, Super Bowl hangover team or if they’re just an unlucky, injury-prone team that is capable of beating anyone on their day?

They just capped off a five-game losing streak by having their recently-concussed quarterback toss for over 500 yards, knocking off one of the sneakier talented teams in the le

ague 37-36.

Of course before that five-game skid they won five in a row, handing the undefeated Vikings their first loss of the season.

Good times.

Last night’s game was crazy. A game-winning catch in the final seconds. A throw and reception similar to the Super Bowl. A last-instant save of face and hope that will hopeful catapult the Steeler’s toward some kind of playoff chance.  And I believe.

I have to.

Javi keeps saying that this blog has cursed the Steelers. But I don’t believe in curses. And I certainly don’t think that the blog of one short Mexican girl will make any difference. But then again… I certainly think that having  faith means something.

After all, to quote Steelers coach Mike Toml, the Pittsburgh Steelers are

Not dead yet. The guys hung together, fought, made enough plays to win. We haven’t won in a while so it feels good. To keep it in perspective, we’ve got a little pulse here. Hopefully we can use this as momentum to get ready to play Baltimore next week, which is of course a very warm football team. Good to stay in the fight, good to win one for our fans, we’ve got the greatest fans in the world. Good to perform for them and get them something to be excited about here at Heinz Field. Today, I’m just as excited about that as I am getting that five-week monkey off our back.

I’m one of those fans. One of the “greatest…in the world.” So if they’re performing for me, then I’ll return the favor and not give up on them.

So now the name of the game is “wildcard.” Part of learning to watch football this season is trying to understand how this whole NFL system works. And it’s complicated. For the uninitiated, there are two conferences (AFC and NFC), with four divisions each (North, South, East, West). The four division winners for each conference (that’s eight teams total) play each other in the playoffs, which is run tournament style to determine who plays in the Super Bowl. That’s pretty clear, no? Nope. Because there are “wild cards.” Two slots per conference go to the teams that did not win their division, but beat everyone else.

But how do you beat everyone else? First there’s your overall record, against all the teams you play (six of your games in the regular season are against the other three teams in your division and conference, the rest of your opponents are distributed: some of which are in other divisions, some of which are in the other conference – how they put together the schedule is a ballet in and of itself). After that, there’s your record in your division, and then conference (which is unfortunate for teams that are good at winning against teams in the other conference, like the Steelers). After that, it goes to tie breaker. This shit is complicated, but it makes sense after you read it eight times and you start to understand the game.

Why does this matter?

Well, in the AFC (the American Football Conference) there are six playoff slots. Indianapolis and San Diego have cinched the top two and are now playing for seeding (the playoffs are seeded and the top team from each conference gets a bye to the next round). New England and Cincinnati each have 9-5 records, and are close to cementing their place in the playoffs (after all, even if they lose the next two weeks, they’ll both be 9-7, with tie-breakers and conference records to beat most everyone else). The problem lies in the two wildcard slots.

This is where shit gets crazy.

Baltimore and Denver both have 8-6 records this season. And on their heels? Jacksonville, Miami, New York, Pittsburgh, Tennesee, and Houston (in that order) all have 7-7 records going into the last two weeks.

So, for the Pittsburgh Steelers to make it into the playoffs, here’s what I think has to happen.

  • Steelers win against Baltimore and Miami (duh).
  • Denver beats Philadelphia.
  • Denver loses to Kansas City.
  • Baltimore loses to Oakland (Oakland’s on fire, they might do it!)
  • The Pats beat Jacksonville and Houston (likely, although mad love to Houston)
  • The Jets lose to Indianapolis (likely)
  • Tennessee gets crushed by San Diego and (hopefully) Seattle

Well, here’s to hoping that this is how it plays out. Then we’ve got a shot at either wild card slot. If Denver wins, then we really have to destroy the Ravens. If the Ravens beat us next week, we’re out. We’re done. We’re dead.