By Danny Cox
2012 was supposed to be the season that the Pittsburgh Steelers jumped up to the top of the NFC North and seriously challenged the Baltimore Ravens as to which team was better. Upon opening the season though, the Steelers traveled to Denver and faced a Broncos team that was sporting new quarterback Peyton Manning for the first time.
That opening day loss put a damper on things, but it was just one game.
Week two saw the New York Jets come to town, and there was a lot riding on this game because the Jets had created a lot of preseason buzz. It was expected that they’d be one of the top teams in the entire AFC, but the Steelers just went out and decimated them 27-10. This was looked at as a huge sign because Pittsburgh had just demolished a Super Bowl favorite.
Then, everything fell apart again in week three.
Pittsburgh traveled out to Oakland and lost to a lowly Raiders team 34-31, and that was a bit of an embarrassment. Again though, the Steelers redeemed themselves the next week by defeating a perennial NFC favorite in the 3-1 Philadelphia Eagles. This resulted in a big victory and again put the Steelers into a class of strength.
Little did anyone know at the time, just how bad the Jets and Eagles would end up being in 2012.
The next week? That’s right, things just crumbled yet again and the Tennessee Titans somehow got the Steelers into town and took them down. Here was a Steelers team that could take down the powerhouses of the NFL, but couldn’t even beat the 1-4 Titans.
Why was it that Pittsburgh performed their best against the strong teams and bombed in the “easy win” games? Well, they vowed to change that and they did.
At this point, the Steelers went on a tear through some of the better teams in the NFL and put together a four-game win streak. This streak included victories over the Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins, both of which are 2012 playoff teams. Oh, and another victory happened to be over the Super Bowl defending New York Giants.
The Steelers were 6-3 now, and just one game behind the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North. They were also two games ahead of the Bengals and miles ahead of the Cleveland Browns, so things were looking up. Three or maybe four more victories and the Steelers would be a playoff team.
Four or five more victories, and the Steelers may have even ended up division champs.
From here though, things collapsed on a monumental level. The injuries that had been plaguing the Steelers throughout the entire season were catching up with them in a hurry, but now they had the biggest setback of all…a shoulder injury to Ben Roethlisbeger that put him on the shelf for three weeks.
A loss to the Ravens seemed impossible to avoid as Byron Leftwich stepped into the starting quarterback spot. He did well, but couldn’t pull out the victory and then he got injured too. Career back-up Charlie Batch was the next option, and he would get the start at quarterback the next week. What could happen against the Browns, right?
Well, a 20-14 loss to the Browns is exactly what happened and there was a lot of fear in Pittsburgh. Things seemed to take an early season turn the next week though as the Steelers rebounded from embarrassment and took down the mighty Ravens to stay in the playoff hunt with a 7-5 record.
Making matters better was that Big Ben was coming back from injury, and would face the reeling San Diego Chargers.
Then, he would face the up-and-down Dallas Cowboys.
Next up, the Cincinnati Bengals headed to Heinz Field.
Finishing up the season was a rematch with the Browns, and the Steelers were able to pull out a victory there so that the year could end on a high note. It was too late for the playoffs though, and all they could muster up was an 8-8 season, and the clichéd “there’s always next year.”
Injuries played a huge part in the 2012 demise of the Steelers, but there were a few other things including an invisible running game, an aging defense, and the inability to win the games that they really should have. Changes have got to happen in Pittsburgh before the 2013 season, or it’s going to be another long year of mediocrity and over-the-hill players.
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Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. His work can be found on Examiner.com.