Here come the Steelers. There go the Steelers. Every season, it’s about the same. They are always expected to make the playoffs, always predicted to contend for the Super Bowl ring, yet never fulfill the promise. Consistency has become coach Bill Cowher’s curse.
The better you are, the bigger the expectations and the more bitter the disappointment. The New England Patriots “failed” to three-peat, but with as many distractions as the Patriots had this season, it’s amazing they even made the playoffs.
Only a few weeks ago, the Steelers were considered playoff long shots. Beaten at home by the Cincinnati Bengals, they were prematurely pronounced dead by Bengals’ receiver Chad Johnson, among others.
They relinquished the AFC North title, only to leapfrog the Bengals in the playoffs. Then they overcome Indianapolis, where few people outside their locker room gave them a chance. Now it's on to Denver, where they again will be the underdog.
Since 1994, the Steelers have made the playoffs eight times and won their first game every time, including last week in Cincinnati. But they have won their second game only once. That was in 1995, when they made it to the Super Bowl and lost to the Cowboys.
Nobody knocks on the door more than Cowher, who has yet to find an answer.
After 14 seasons in Pittsburgh, he is the NFL dean of coaches. The Steelers are the model of stability. Yet every time they try to get over the hump, the hump wins.
This year the odds are steeper than usual. Not only do they have their own history to overcome, they are a No. 6 seed, and no No. 6 seed ever has reached a Super Bowl. They would have to win three games on the road to get to Detroit.
Luckily for Pittsburgh fans, the Steelers are an excellent road team. They have won eight of 10 away from home this season and 15 of 18 the past two seasons.
Unhappily for Pittsburgh fans, that’s only good enough to earn a trip this week to Denver. They will no doubt bring everything they have, however.
Sometimes, bringing everything the Steelers have isn’t the best idea. They are an emotional team, a reflection of their coach, and their nasty demeanor can lead to mistakes and penalties.
There was pushing and jawing after many early plays in Cincinnati, and Cowher was dismayed by a later penalty against prize safety Troy Polamalu for flipping a football into the face of Bengals’ center Rich Braham.
The only acceptable encore is a Super Bowl, but an 11-5 record already is considered a comedown from 15-1.
A: They also beat the Patriots and have a chance to repeat Saturday. If they do, you’ll hear plenty about the Broncos. If they don’t, they will go down as another above-average team unable to win a playoff game since John Elway left. I agree they have been impressive this season in a tough division. Coach Mike Shanahan’s defensive makeover has appeared to work. Nobody left in the playoffs ran for more yards than the Broncos. But until they win that first playoff game under Jake Plummer, there will be skeptics.
PFT: Jets RB Mike Goodson was charged with five gun and drug counts Friday morning, after New Jersey State Police found the car he was riding in parked in the middle of Route 80 in Denville, N.J.
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