I wrote two weeks ago that the Steelers would not make the playoffs, thinking they would be eliminated before they faced the Packers at Lambeau Field in week 16.
With three straight wins to finish the year and everything going Pittsburgh's way, it seemed like me and many others would be eating our words with a side of crow today when Kansas City seemed to have a victory twice that would have sent the Steelers to the playoffs to cap off an incredible final two weeks of football where the stars almost aligned perfectly for them.
A missed field goal and a questionable call in San Diego sealed the fate of the 2013 Steelers. They were a team gradually getting better and also got a lot of help. But when you depend on too many teams to win or lose, it hurts you in the end most of the time.
For a team that played their way to 2-6 the first half of the year, a 6-2 finish to put them back where they were last season at 8-8, it will be a lot of "almost" and "what ifs" coming from fans and the organization.
"What if they had beaten Tenneseee, Minnesota and Oakland in the first half of the season when they played so poorly?"
"What if Antonio Brown's left foot didn't go out of bounds at the Miami 13 yard line on the almost miracle play at Heinz Field?"
"What if Sanders caught the two-point conversion pass against Baltimore on Thnksgiving?"
"The Chiefs almost got the Steelers into the playoffs."
Despite their best effort, the Steelers created their own mess and did their best to clean it up in the second half of the season with some aid. The mess was just a little too much to salvage.
A season in which everyone would've called over after week 9 against New England, the Steelers kept people watching into week 17. It was a crazy final Sunday in the regular season, and everyone watched with intrigue and curiosity to see if the impossible was possible.
Now they enter an offseason with many personnel questions and the 15th pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Fans should hope the Steelers resolve to not have as many "what ifs" and "almost" moments in the new year.
The Steelers are not making the playoffs.
Let me say this again. They are NOT going to the playoffs.
Sorry to be so blunt, but come on, people! It's not all of you, but some are still holding out for a miracle on Art Rooney Avenue. The miracle might disappear before the Steelers take the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field late Sunday afternoon.
You know the scenario. Win out, Ravens lose out, Jets win out, Chargers lose at least one of their last two and BOOM! They're in, baby!
Stop. Just stop. It's not happening. I am surprised Steeler fans aren't sacrificing livestock to the football Gods at this point.
The Dolphins are going to win one of their last two games. That one game is happening Sunday in Buffalo. The Bills have Thad Lewis starting at QB and Miami is playing for a playoff spot. Temps in the mid 40s are as mild as you could get in Buffalo at this time of year.
The Jets are another team who are actually in the hunt. They have Cleveland at home and take on the Dolphins to finish off the year. If Miami does find a way to lose to the shorthanded Bills and New York beats the Browns (which they should), that scenario gets interesting down in South Beach.
The Patriots are in Baltimore to face the Ravens. Even though New England has a healthy Tom Brady, the season is apparently over due to Gronkowski's newest injury. Not only does Baltimore have a shot at the sixth seed in the AFC, they could win the division if the Bengals collapse. The Ravens play the Bengals in week 17. NOTE: Baltimore is 6-1 at home. Got to like their chances against a banged-up Patriot team.
The Chargers have Oakland and Kansas City at home to wrap up the season. This scenario is the one most can see going the Steelers way. Too bad none of the other ones will.
In the end, there are three reason why we are stuck with this scenario. Tennessee, Minnesota and Oakland.
Better luck next year, Steelers Nation.
We all knew Jameis Winston was going to win the Heisman trophy last night in New York City.
For an hour, we got to hear about his and the other five other finalists story on how they got there. A.J. McCarron, Johnny Manziel, Jordan Lynch, Andre Williams and Tre Mason knew they were not going to win. But for any kid who grew up with the dream to play college football, being at the ceremony and recognized is a great life moment even without winning the Heisman.
Those who follow the Pittsburgh Panthers feel as though one particular person got snubbed by the voters. That being PITT defensive lineman Aaron Donald, who, like most defensive linemen, had a terrific season with not much publicity outside of the Pittsburgh media market.
Donald did not make it to New York as a finalist for Heisman, but racked up some very prestigious hardware over the past week.
ACC Defensive Player of the Year, The Lombardi Award, Nagurski Award and the Bednarik Award have all been won by Donald. You would think this would be enough to land him a seat as a finalist for the Heisman, right? Apparently, it did not.
Heisman voters are attracted to guys who run, throw or catch the football. It's an award mostly won by guys in skill positions. When a lineman or defensive player is a finalist, some judge why that player is on the ballot. They often forget what the Heisman stands for. The best player in college football. Believe or not, a nominee can be someone who doesn't always touch the ball. But voters get lost in watching guys like Winston and McCarron and never look at the other guys who help make them look good.
That's the burden of being a lineman, offensive or defensive. You never receive full credit when it's due. You are the one who protects the quarterback on offense, and creates holes for the running back. On defense, you are the guy who not only makes tackles and sacks the quarterback, but creates holes for his linebacker. Donald and other linemen are there to make those guys look even better than they are already.
Aaron Donald proved to everyone that he is one of the best, if not the best defensive linemen in college football. He did not have a larger, national platform to display his talents. He was a part of an average PITT team that went 6-6. Boston College was nothing exciting in the ACC this year at 7-5, but Andre Williams 2,000 plus rushing yards got him a seat the ceremony.
Everyone can yell and scream until they are blue in the face arguing why he deserved to be in New York as a finalist, but Aaron Donald doesn't need to prove himself to anyone by sitting in a suit watching Jameis Winston accept the Heisman on ESPN. He's got four awards to prove his worth.
The Heisman has a prejudice against linemen and defensive players. It's all about the flashiest, most talked about guy in the game. A person that the media will grab onto and ride with until they give them a reason to let go (like Teddy Bridgewater).
Aaron Donald didn't need that. He went about his business, and has been handsomely rewarded for it.
There are 35 bowl games. If you plan on watching all of them in their entirety, you're probably unemployed, hate your family and own multiple televisions.
Chances are, you're not watching some of the bowl games, and you're mainly focusing on the ones with intriguing matchups, or the bowl your favorite school is playing in.
Here are the games to watch, peep or skip all together during bowl season.
Vizio BCS National Championship Game (January 6, 2014, 8:30PM) ESPN
(1) Florida State vs. (2) Auburn
Why Watch It: Duh. It's the national title game. Two exciting offenses take the field at the Rose Bowl. Jameis Winston will look to add a national title to his Heisman (Spoiler: He's gonna win it Saturday), and Auburn looks to go from a team that won 0 games in the SEC last season, to national champion.
Also, it's the last bowl game of the BCS era.
The Rose Bowl (New Years Day, 5PM) ESPN
(4) Michigan State vs. (5) Stanford
Why Watch It: The Spartans and Cardinal both have top rated defenses. They also have great run offenses. It's old time football on New Years Day.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (New Years Day, 8:30PM) ESPN
(15) Central Florida vs. (6) Baylor
Why Watch It: UCF is a former Conference USA school now playing in the American Athletic Conference that is an exact replica of C-USA. Baylor got a second chance at the Big 12 title after the Sooners scored late to beat Oklahoma State a week after the Pokes embarrassed the Bears in Stillwater.
Baylor wins this easily. Bears offense will be too much for the Knights.
Discover Orange Bowl (January 3, 2014, 8:30PM) ESPN
(7) Ohio State vs. (12) Clemson
What Watch It: The Buckeyes would rather be in California than South Beach. Will 2-loss Clemson hand Ohio State a second loss? Probably.
All State Sugar Bowl (January 2, 2014, 8:30PM) ESPN
(3) Alabama vs. (11) Oklahoma
Why Watch It: It could be Nick Saban's final game coaching the Crimson Tide. The Sooners helped secure an at-large spot by beating Oklahoma State.
Russell Athletic Bowl (December 30, 3:15PM) ESPN
Miami vs. Louisville
Why Watch It: Despite missing out on the BCS bowl game and Heisman trophy run, Teddy Bridgewater will be fun to watch and see what he does against the Hurricanes defense. Miami had an up-and-down finish to the season.
Capitol One Bowl (New Years Day, NOON) ESPN 2
(19) Wisconsin vs. (9) South Carolina
Why Watch It: The Badgers dropped their finale to Penn State and fans of the Gamecocks feel like they were robbed of an at-large bid for the Orange or Sugar Bowl.
Valero Alamo Bowl (December 30, 8PM) ESPN
(10) Oregon vs. Texas
Why Watch It: Oregon is vulnerable. Mack Brown may or may not coach in this bowl game. As of now, he's planning on it. The drama surrounding Texas is worth watching the game.
AT&T Cotton Bowl (January 4, 2014, 7:30PM) FOX
(13) Oklahoma State vs. (8) Missouri
What Watch It: BCS bowl or not, this is a great game to watch. Both teams play great offense. The Cowboys have a slight advantage on defense. Both missed out on conference titles, too.
Hawaii Bowl (Christmas Eve, 8PM) ESPN
Boise State vs. Oregon State
If you hate watching "It's a Wonderful Life" on Christmas Eve, this might be your best option.
Pinstripe Bowl (December 28, NOON) ESPN
Notre Dame vs. Rutgers
Nice bowl game for both fanbases. Far cry from where the Irish were last season, though.
Las Vegas Bowl (December 21, 3:30PM) ABC
(20) Fresno State vs. (25) USC
The Bulldogs almost snuck into a BCS Bowl. The Trojans didn't think they would be here when they canned Kiffin. Fresno State could win this one.
Little Caesars Bowl (December 26, 6PM) ESPN
Pittsburgh vs. Bowling Green
The Panthers couldn't get the Compass Bowl for a fourth straight year, so at 6-6, they'll take a game against the MAC Champion. Could be a good one.
Poinsettia Bowl (December 26, 9:30PM) ESPN
(23) Northern Illinois vs. Utah State
The Huskies were a win away from playing in a BCS Bowl game. Still, this bowl game isn't half bad for a team out of the MAC. Also, Heisman finalist Jordan Lynch should be fun to watch.
Texas Bowl (December 27, 6PM) ESPN
Syracuse vs. Minnesota
The Gophers were good this year? Might be a reason to turn it on for a few series.
Fight Hunger Bowl (December 27, 9:30PM) ESPN
BYU vs. Washington
How will the Huskies play now that their head coach is assembling his staff down at USC?
Belk Bowl (December 28, 3:20PM) ESPN
Cincinnati vs. North Carolina
Worth looking at if you're planning on watching the marathon of games on December 28th.
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (December 28, 10:15PM) ESPN
Michigan vs. Kansas State.
The Wolverines are one of those teams that will appeal to an audience.
Music City Bowl (December 30, 3:15PM) ESPN
Ole Miss vs. Georgia Tech
Ole Miss is trying to build itself into an SEC contender. The Yellow Jackets triple option is fun to watch.
Chick-fil-A Bowl (New Years Eve, 8PM) ESPN
(24) Duke vs. (21) Texas A&M
I miss the days when we called this the Peach Bowl. Two ways this game could go. Either Duke makes it close or Manziel goes "Johnny Football" all over the Blue Devils.
Holiday Bowl (December 30, 10:15PM) ESPN
(14) Arizona State vs. Texas Tech
Sun Bowl (New Years Eve, 2PM) CBS
Virgina Tech vs. (17) UCLA
Could be a sleeper...hopefully won't put you to sleep like past matchups in this bowl game.
Gator Bowl (New Years Day, NOON) ESPN2
Nebraska vs. (23) Georgia
I want to put this in the "Watch It" list, because both of these teams had their downfalls this season. It could make for a close game.
Outback Bowl (New Years Day, 1PM) ESPN
Iowa vs. (16) LSU
Could be unwatchable by halftime. Not a bad one to peep if you flip back and forth between it and the Gator Bowl.
New Mexico Bowl (December 21, 2PM) ESPN
Washington State vs. Colorado State
Both these teams are bowl eligible for the first time in a long time. Still unwatchable football.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (December 21, 5:30PM) ESPN
Buffalo vs. San Diego State
Smurf Turf. That's it.
New Orleans Bowl (December 21, 9PM) ESPN
UL-Lafayette vs. Tulane
A home game for Tulane pretty much.
Beef O'Brady's Bowl (December 23, 2PM) ESPN
East Carolina vs. Ohio
Playing a bowl game in a building that looks like a football stadium on the outside, is used for baseball, and doesn't look a football stadium on the inside.
Military Bowl (December 27, 2:30PM) ESPN
Maryland vs. Marshall
Not much hype to find in this one.
Armed Forces Bowl (December 30, 11:45AM) ESPN
Middle Tennessee vs. Navy
A game you would see on CBS Sports Network in week 2.
AdvoCare V100 Bowl (New Years Eve, 12:30PM) ESPN
Arizona vs. Boston College
At least this game has Andre Williams.
Liberty Bowl (New Years Eve, 4PM) ESPN
Rice vs. Mississippi State
Rice won the Conference USA Title. That's all I got.
Heart of Dallas Bowl (New Years Day, NOON) ESPNU
UNLV vs. North Texas
UNLV has a football team? That wins?
BBVA Compass Bowl (January 4, 2014, 1PM) ESPN
Vanderbilt vs. Houston
For once, Pittsburgh isn't playing in this bowl game. Also, this bowl game should not be played two days before the title game.
GoDaddy.com Bowl (January 5, 2014, 9PM) ESPN
Arkansas State vs. Ball State
Another lousy bowl game to keep you occupied for another 24 hours until Florida State plays Auburn.
Ladies and gentlemen, your final BCS Standings have come out, and here are the Top 4.
1. florida state (13-0)