One step closer wasn't quite enough for Steelers
The Standard about which coach Mike Tomlin speaks so often is the highest of bars. To clear it, the Pittsburgh Steelers must not only get to the Super Bowl; they must win it.
Their 2016 squad jumped a bit higher than the one that preceded it. Doesn't change the fact that nearly a decade has passed since one of the NFL's most storied franchises has accomplished its goal.
Which is not to suggest their 2016 season was a complete waste. For a third consecutive year, the Steelers advanced beyond the point at which their previous season ended. The 2013 Steelers missed the playoffs. The 2014 won the AFC North but lost a wild-card game at home. Last season's Steelers finished second and earned the conference's final wild-card slot, won a playoff game and ultimately bowed to the Super Bowl champions in Round 2.
These Steelers returned to the top of the their division. They won a home wild-card game and a Round-2 road contest in the postseason. Along the way, younger players were worked in on defense and the offense continued to flash signs of being football's most dangerous.
Oh, and there was that nine-game winning streak.
Translation: much good was accomplished by the 2016 Steelers. But don't take our word for it. Have a look for yourself.
Game 1: Steelers 38, Redskins 16
At Washington, the Steelers opened the NFL campaign as they were expected to on Sept. 12. A third-quarter interception by Ryan Shazier highlighted an encouraging defensive effort. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)
Game 2: Steelers 24, Bengals 16
At Heinz Field, a rematch of an AFC wild-card game went to that contest's victor, too. Amid sloppy conditions on Sept. 18, running back DeAngelo Williams led a persistent, if non-dominant, rushing attack that stymied the Bengals' intentions on avenging a crushing defeat. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
Game 3: Eagles 34, Steelers 3
At Philadelphia, the Steelers looked good on an opening drive... and then did a dreadful impersonation of a championship-caliber club the rest of this game on Sept. 25. A touchdown celebration by Eagles running back Kenjon Barner said it all. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
Game 4: Steelers 43, Chiefs 14
At Heinz Field, and again in the rain, the Steelers bounced back from their first loss with a mashing of the Chiefs. After failing to generate much of a pass rush in previous contests, the Steelers were disruptive on Oct. 2, including this first-quarter sack by defensive lineman Cameron Hayward. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)
Game 5: Steelers 31, Jets 13
At Heinz Field, while donning the infamous "Bumblebee" uniforms for a last time, the Steelers put on a playground-football display against the hapless Jets. A couple of touchdown catches by wide receiver Sammie Coates on Oct. 9, served notice of the Steelers' other emerging weapons for Ben Roethlisberger. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)
Game 6: Dolphins 30, Steelers 15
At Miami, the Steelers again appeared troubled by life outside of Pittsburgh. Seemingly drowning before this game on Oct. 16, the Dolphins breathed life into their season by pounding the Steelers from all sides — and knocking Roethlisberger out with a knee injury. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)
Game 7: Patriots 27, Steelers 16
At Heinz Field, the Steelers took on Tom Brady and Co. without their own future Hall-of-Fame quarterback. Also, as they would eventually need to do the rest of the season, minus their best defensive player (Heyward). And while the Steelers kept it close on Oct. 23, the Patriots rode running back LeGarette Blount to a comfortable win. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)
Game 8: Ravens 21, Steelers 14
At Baltimore, the Steelers returned from a bye-week with a returning Roethlisberger. The good news ended then and there on Nov. 6. And the Ravens took over first place in the AFC North thanks to timely plays such as wide receiver Mike Wallace's secondary-scoring touchdown. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
Game 9: Cowboys 34, Steelers 30
At Heinz Field, the Super Bowl era's two flagship franchises staged arguably the NFL's Game of the Year on Nov. 13. Roethlisberger was unflappable, leading what would have been a fourth-quarter comeback drive. However, the struggling Steelers' defense allowed an even later touchdown by Cowboys rookie runner Ezekiel Elliott to extend a losing streak to four games. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
Game 10: Steelers 24, Browns 9
At Cleveland, the Steelers needed something to flip in their favor. Unsurprisingly, they found it in football's "Factory of Sadness" on Nov. 20. Hardly dominant, the Steelers didn't seal a losing-skid halting win until the fourth quarter — with help from a fumble-recovery touchdown by nose tackle Javon Hargrave. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)
Game 11: Steelers 28, Colts 7
At Indianapolis, the Steelers actually won away from Pittsburgh in a non-AFC North city. Finishing the NFL's Thanksgiving slate of games, Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown produced a prime-time television hit on Nov. 24. All of a sudden, the streaky Steelers were trending up. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
Game 12: Steelers 24, Giants 14
At Heinz Field the Steelers suggested to Football America they might be back amongst true title contenders. The most inspiring development on Dec. 4, was the defense. And no defender made a bigger play than inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons' momentum-changing interception to prevent a Giants' score in the second quarter. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
Game 13: Steelers 27, Bills 20
At Buffalo, the Steelers nearly were caught watching the brilliance of running back Le'Veon Bell. Amid the snow on Dec. 11, Bell made NFL history with a Superman-like effort that even seemed to include defying the laws of gravity. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)
Game 14: Steelers 24, Bengals 20
At Cincinnati, the Steelers looked to be caught in a trap a week before their division rematch/showdown against the Ravens. They trailed the Bengals by three scores on Dec. 18, but rallied for a win that couldn't have happened without a whole lot of resolve and a good many field goals from kicker Chris Boswell. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
Game 15: Steelers 31, Ravens 27
At Heinz Field, perhaps the most memorable regular-season rendition of the NFL's fiercest rivalry was a Christmas present for football fans everywhere... with the exception of those in Baltimore. Brown's catch-and-stretch scored the winning touchdown on Dec. 25, for another Steelers' rally, which secured another AFC North title. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
Game 16: Steelers 27, Browns 24 (OT)
At Heinz Field, in a game with nothing on the line for the Steelers, another rally rung in New Year's Day. This one was led by backup quarterback Landry Jones, who connected with receiver Cobi Hamilton in overtime on Jan. 1, sending the Steelers into the NFL playoffs on a seven-game winning streak. (Chaz Palla |Tribune-Review)
AFC playoffs (wild-card round): Steelers 30, Dolphins 12
At Heinz Field, the Steelers showed their offensive might early by racking up 200 yards in the first quarter. After that, though, their playoff victory on on Jan. 8, was mostly memorable for big hits from the defense and late action for star players. But give it up to Brown, who had never scored a postseason touchdown before busting out for two against the Miami Dolphins (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)
AFC playoffs (divisonal round): Steelers 18, Chiefs 16
At Arrowhead Stadium, the Steelers' defense tomahawk chopped the second-seeded Chiefs and made Boswell's six field goals hold up in Kansas City on Jan. 15. And while Bell continued to up the ante for franchise running backs in the postseason, it was a turn-back-the-clock performance by outside backer James Harrison (seen here sacking quarterback Alex Smith) that shocked and awed for the Steelers. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)
AFC playoffs (championship): Patriots 36, Steelers 17
At Gillette Stadium, it might have been over before Roethlisberger (seen here arriving for his fifth title game) suited up. Between Bell's groin injury and the Patriots' successful double-teaming of Brown, the Steelers' offense became Big Ben and The Other Guys on Sunday night. And the defense, so stout during a nine-game winning streak, once again proved inept up against Brady's surgical, efficiency. A one-score deficit at halftime was washed away on this damp New England night during a third quarter during which the Steelers unraveled in their most important game. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)
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