The almost season: The Steelers’ unlikely revival comes up short

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For Pittsburgh sports fans, 2013 was a world turned upside down: The Pirates were good on the baseball diamond, the Steelers weren’t good on the gridiron. Yet the Steelers managed to almost make the playoffs.

After a disastrous 0-4 start, the Steelers’ chance of extending their season went from almost impossible, to improbable, to unlikely, to — could this be true? — possible. On Sunday, the last day of the regular season, four scenarios had to be accomplished for Pittsburgh to reach the playoffs and the planets all aligned except the one guiding Ryan Succop’s foot.

With four seconds remaining, the Kansas City kicker barely missed a 41-yard field goal that would have defeated the San Diego Chargers and given Pittsburgh a miraculous ticket to the postseason. (A Kansas City win was itself unlikely, given that the Chiefs had rested most of its starters.)

Call it the “almost season,” one or two feet away from something that might have been talked about in Pittsburgh for years. That’s what happens when your team’s final hopes rest with others.

Some good did occur in this almost season. The Steelers never gave up and they played better as the weeks went by, rallying to win eight of their last 12 games. They avoided the ignominy of a losing season. Some of the players had banner years — quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, wide receiver Antonio Brown and rookie running back Le’Veon Bell. Their performances were almost great, and that bodes well for next year.

Perhaps the greatest surprise was that many Steelers fans gave up on their team, leading to the shocking sight of empty yellow seats Sunday at Heinz Field. Who thought there would come a day when Steelers fans weren’t fanatical?

Here’s to 2014, with play and fan fervor extending further than almost. Here’s to reaching the playoffs next time because it is deserved.


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