Last Wednesday night, the bulk of Steeler Nation sat down and enjoyed America's Game, the final recap of the magical 2008 season.
One of the main themes, one that arose from the incredible December victory over the Ravens to clinch the AFC North, was Mike Tomlin's admonishment not to get "preoccupied with style points." After all, this team found ways to win, and to paraphrase Tomlin, the important thing was to have one more point than the other team at the end of the game.
So, what happened after an important opening game win against the Tennessee Titans, not only the last team to beat the Steelers but one that also racked up plenty of style points along the way?
Steeler Nation came out in force, dissatisfied with a quality win because of...not enough style points.
It had been a long wait since the Steelers last won a Super Bowl, with a series of severe disappointments that seemed to build upon each other in between. Alfred Pupunu. Larry Brown. Terrell Davis. Troy Brown. Rodney Harrison.
In 2005, the loveable loser Bill Cowher finally got his ring. Jerome Bettis got his ring. It was stirring drama that felt like the closing act of a play, complete with curtain calls. And sure enough, it was.
There were conflicting messages circulating last week, and the San Diego Chargers didn't know what to think.
The Steelers' offensive coordinator insisted that the Steelers would run the ball against the Chargers. Meanwhile, the running back complained that he was frustrated, the offensive line rationalized their problems this season and great chunks of Steeler Nation believed that the only thing standing between the Steelers and a Super Bowl was the use of a fullback, even positing that the key to the Steelers' post-season was the unemployed Dan Krieder.
In two weeks, the Steelers will play for the right to play for the right to go to the Super Bowl.
Isn't the bye week great? When you break it down game by game, entering as a top two seed sets the stakes so incredibly high. Wild card games feel like just a small step towards a greater goal, just one team out of 12 fighting to stay alive. Skipping them does wonders for a team's outlook because the destination is so much easier to see. Win one game and you're in the final four.
The field is set. The date is set. The time is set. The opponent will be known this weekend. While we wait and watch, the Steelers work.
But (before I get ahead of myself) this is supposed to be a post-game, and there's only one thing worth discussing after the Steelers mopped up the Browns.
"64 percent of all the world's statistics are made up right there on the spot. 82.4 percent of people believe 'em whether they're accurate statistics or not."
- Todd Snider (from the song "Statistician's Blues")
The NFL is a media driven league. From the television networks to the Internet, a select few media personalities have an overwhelming influence on the opinions of Joe Football. In my experience, I'm convinced that most of them don't watch that much football aside from the games they cover in person.
You can't tell the whole story of a baseball game by looking at the box score. You can't tell anything about a football game by looking at the box score.
There is no other sport where stats are as useless, but contribute so much to conventional wisdom.