Start any conversation about the Steelers these days and you’re more than likely going to find yourself in a discussion about how the team got screwed out of the playoffs a few weeks ago, thanks to Ryan Succop and the on-field officials who did the San Diego/Kansas City game.
I can see why people are so up-in-arms over it. To me, the NFL playoffs are an intoxicating experience.
A day or two after the conclusion of the 2013 regular season, while watching highlights of Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the 8-7-1 Packers celebrate a last-second victory over Chicago that gave them the NFC North title, I thought, “Man, that’s just an awesome sight, and I envy their fans.”
No matter how a team gets into the dance or what its seed is once it gets there, the NFL playoffs are just a magical and festive sight to behold—at least I think so.
Two years ago, even after all the playoff games and Super Bowls, I was still super-excited about the injury-riddled 2011 Steelers traveling to Denver as the AFC’s fifth seed.
It would have been easy to become jaded at that point. After all, it was simply the latest of dozens of playoff appearances for the decorated franchise dating back to 1972 season, but it just never gets old for me.
The way the NFL postseason is structured, with the “win or go home” format, I don’t see how any fan could have a ho-hum attitude about their team being a part of it.
Playoff victories are historic—unfortunately, losses are as well—and every NFL postseason game your team is in is more than likely going to give you memories that you’ll be talking about forever.
People in Steeler Nation often talk about the 1989 season and what a joy it was when Pittsburgh knocked off the Oilers in overtime in a wildcard playoff game. But for me, as a kid who hadn’t seen his favorite team in the playoffs for five seasons, the week leading up to the game was something I enjoyed almost as much, because I couldn’t believe this football team that was 5-11 just a year before actually made it!
The fact that they won an exciting playoff game over a bitter division rival cemented the season’s legacy, of course, but even a few years later, as few around town seemed delighted about the 9-7 Steelers traveling to Kansas City as the sixth seed, I was super-excited for the game.
Pittsburgh blew a 10-point second half lead and lost in overtime to the Joe Montana-led Chiefs in gut-wrenching fashion, but that was better than no playoffs at all.
While other fans might tune out the postseason if Pittsburgh isn’t in it, I always try to watch every second of every game that I can because I just appreciate the history of the sport so much.
While it’s been three full seasons since the Steelers last playoff victory and two full seasons since their last appearance, I’ll be an intense observer of both conference championship games on Sunday because, who knows? Parity being what it is in the NFL, a year from now, I might be preparing to watch the Steelers play in a conference championship game of their own.
The playoffs just never get old. Hurry back, Steelers.