27 January 2002

Steelers Lose Another AFC Championship

My Pittsburgh Steelers lose another AFC championship game. The 4th in 8 years - and all in Pittsburgh, three at Three Rivers Stadium (no longer standing) and this year's contest occurs in the inaugral season of Heinz Field. The transition to a new venue didn't bring a reversal of fortune. It leaves a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach to see your team get within one game of the big game, and end up losing - especially when they're the favorites.

Kordell Stewart threw 3 interceptions, though one of them was a meaningless hail mary toss at the end of the first half. The last two, however, happened in the game's final four minutes and put to rest a valiant comeback effort by the black and gold. Down 21-3, the Steelers rallied for two touchdowns in the second half, and it appeared they had shifted momentum to their side. And they knocked the Patriots starting quarterback, Tom Brady, out of the game in the first half.

Yet, special teams play is what killed them. New England scored two touchdowns on returns - one a punt return by Troy Brown and the other on a blocked Kris Brown field goal attempt that was picked up and run into the Steeler end zone. The field goal fiasco was crippling - it put the score at 21-3 and in essence, enacted a 10 point shift (assuming the field goal was made). But special teams are a critical piece of gameplay, and the Patriots outshined the Steelers in that aspect. Neither team could run the ball at all, though both teams displayed bouts of passing efficiency.

The game was also marked by replays galore. Both coaches exercised their two challenges - and it seems that every catch by a reciever was questioned.

It's difficult to lay blame at the coach for a loss like this - Bill Cowher didn't throw the interceptions for Kordell Stewart, miss the tackle on the punt return touchdown, or the fail to neutralize the onrushing Patriot who blocked the field goal. But Cowher seems to be following in the footsteps of his mentor, Marty Schottenheimer, in trying to affix the label of being the biggest "choke coach in the history of professional football". One win and three losses in AFC championship games, and zero for one in super bowl appearances. Of course, it's quite an accomplishment to host four conference championships in ten years. Maybe I need to consult Buffalo Bills fans, who endured four straight super bowl defeats.


i know its fucking ridiculous