The Pittsburgh Steelers were stunned on Sunday night when points came off the board and one mistake by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger gave the New England Patriots a 27-24.
It was an early Christmas present from one future Hall of Fame quarterback to another, with the Patriots now sitting in first place in the AFC and it’s a loss that could force the Steelers to travel to Gillette Stadium in the event of a rematch of the AFC Championship when they should have been hosting.
That undoubtedly stings, but they’ve got absolutely no time to sulk about it. Not with Antonio Brown dealing with a calf injury that could linger into the playoffs.
Sure, you’re going to have a hard time convincing Steelers fans that the officials got it right when they ruled that tight end Jesse James didn’t complete the process of the catch while attempting to extend for the goal line. They actually did, but it doesn’t change the fact that the decision to take those points off the board is still the result of a poorly-defined rule.
James caught the football and we know that because only after you’ve caught the football can you have the wherewithal to reach for the end zone. Unfortunately, our inability to clearly define that fact leaves us with a rule that forces too literal an interpretation of a completion.
Yet, at the end of the day, they’re going to be better off pretending like it never happened and paying it no mind whatsoever publicly in the coming weeks. Because what the Steelers did prove on Sunday regardless of the result is that they can be title contenders.
They were better than the Patriots in every measurable way for the vast majority of that football game. And even when coincidence soured the end result, you can still make the compelling case that things would have been different had Antonio Brown not been injured.
Yes, a second crack at the Patriots is likely to be made more difficult because they’ll be visiting Gillette Stadium when it’s at its least inviting should they get their desired rematch. But the Patriots are going to have an even harder time finding the stops that set the stage for their comeback late with somebody as reliable as Brown moving the chains.
So now the Steelers have to erase Sunday from their memories and make sure they sew up the Wild Card bye that they’ll inevitably need to get Brown back to full health. Because should they get the opportunity to do this again, they’re going to need him at his best to finally get to the point where they can move past New England.
X-rays were negative and Brown’s trip to the hospital appeared to be more precautionary than anything. So it’s unlikely that he misses more than a week or two and that means Pittsburgh’s ability to compete for a championship is still alive and well.
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