So here are my thoughts on the Steelers, 14 hours after that stomach punch of a playoff game in Denver… not that anyone asked.
• Not to be too much of a doom and gloom pessimist, but last night’s loss marked the end of an era. There’s no way around it. When you’ve got a 37 year old James Farrior, a 34 year old Casey Hampton and a soon to be 36 year old Hines Ward, the writing is starkly written on the wall that the core of this 2-time super bowl champion is facing its professional mortality. Seeing Ward on the sideline in an overcoat during the 4th quarter–a time when he used to be counted on most–instead of in the huddle really stuck out to me. My brain tells me he’s played his last game as a Steeler, but my heart doesn’t want to believe it. In his mind he’s got some gas left in his tank, but the Steelers don’t seem to agree. I’m hoping against hope that we he retires as a Steeler, unlike Franco. Seeing 86 playing for another team next year (and probably the year after that) will be almost too much to handle.
• Witnessing a hobbled 30 year old Big Ben was a preview of what’s to come in a few years once he’s lost his mobility for good. Eluding, escaping and improvising have been the cornerstones of his soon to be Hall of Fame career. While he showed flashes of that last night with his TD throw to Cotchery, he isn’t the same without two good wheels (obviously). With the injuries he plays through on a yearly basis, there is no doubt his career will be shortened due to the constant damage to his body. His title as the toughest quarterback in the league gives him a Paul Bunyan-like image, but all those hits add up. A broken hand yesterday or a high ankle sprain today don’t bode well for his long term future. I have no doubt that he’ll have another Pro Bowl season next year and probably the year after that, which will mark his tenth season in the league. But if you think about it, deep down, how many more years will he be able to play after that? When you really do the math, we’ve only got 3 or 4 years left with Roethlisberger as the elite QB we’ve all come to know and expect. I remember seeing Marino is his last few years, and honestly it was sad to watch. A statue in the pocket that could barely walk, let alone run. The thought of Ben forced to be a pocket passer because he can’t move or create time in the pocket is hard to imagine.
•Dick Lebau dared Tebow to beat his vaunted defense with his arm and damnit, if that’s what he did.
•A bad snap at the end of the first half, a fumble by Ben (that he recovered himself) at the end of the 4th quarter and some terrible clock management in the last two minutes of the game cost the Steelers 3, maybe 6 points. How doe we not call a timeout after the completed pass to Antonio Brown with 59 seconds left? Pretty Andy Reid-like if you ask me.