The Pittsburgh Steelers season?
Well, we knew that was over. We knew that before Sunday’s pitiful 55-31 loss to the New England Patriots.
There will be plenty of time to write a eulogy for the 2013 Steelers.
For now, it’s time to wave the white Terrible Towel and surrender to the Patriots. They have ultimately prevailed in a rivalry that was sparked a dozen years ago.
The Patriots lit up the Gillette Stadium scoreboard like Las Vegas at night, scoring 55 points, all by the offense. It was the most points allowed by the Steelers in franchise history. Get ready to hear “Speed Limit 55, Steelers 31″ jokes.
New England’s Big XII-like 629 yards of offense is the most ever allowed by the Steelers, a Patriots franchise record and the 10th most for a single game in NFL history, according to Pro Football Reference.
Perhaps it’s appropriate that one of the darkest days in Steelers history came Sunday in a stadium with men dressed in Revolutionary War attire known as the “End Zone Militia.”
The Patriots staged a Boston Tea Party of sorts at the confluence of the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, stunning the 13-3 Steelers in the 2001 AFC championship game.
On that day, the dynamic between these teams changed.
Steelers-Patriots was a nondescript and fairly infrequent matchup in the 70s and 80s. Tensions heightened in the 90s, when the teams split two playoff games.
Then, on that sunny January afternoon at Heinz Field, the Steelers and Patriots became sworn enemies. Since then, every game between the teams has been an event.
The Patriots beat the Steelers again in the 2004 AFC championship game on their way to their third Super Bowl victory in four years.
Since then, the Steelers have won two championships of their own and had a chance to tie the Patriots with three titles since the turn of the century. But they lost Super Bowl XLV to the Green Bay Packers, and another shot at a championship has become less and less realistic.
These days, the best the 2-6 Steelers can hope for is respectability. It’s hard to imagine Ben Roethlisberger matching Tom Brady with a third title. It’s more likely that Brady will hoist a fourth Lombardi Trophy while the Steelers rebuild.
The Steelers still haven’t beaten Brady at Gillette Stadium, and Sunday might have been their last chance.
The way the NFL scheduling format works, the Steelers won’t play the AFC East again until 2016, and the Patriots will go to Pittsburgh. The only way the Steelers will meet the Patriots next season is if they both finish in the same place in their respective divisions this season. The Patriots are 7-2, so no way that’s happening.
They could face each other again in 2015, but who knows if the 36-year-old Brady will still be around?
Sunday’s game was the 10th between the Steelers and Patriots that has involved either Brady or Bill Belichick. The Patriots have won seven of them. The Steelers have defeated Brady only twice, both times in Pittsburgh.
If the Steelers saw Brady for the last time Sunday, he sure gave them something to remember him by.
He threw for 432 yards, just the third time he’s thrown for more than 400 yards in a game. His leading receiver, tight end Rob Gronkowski, hauled in a career-high nine catches for 143 yards and a touchdown.
The Steelers yielded 197 rushing yards for the second straight week. They’ve allowed more just one time since Mike Tomlin became head coach.
Even more disturbing than those Sega-like numbers Sunday was the Steelers’ inability to tackle. The Patriots gained at least 8 yards on 11 of their carries, and so many of their rushing yards came after contact.
Every time a Patriots running back pushed a pile of white jerseys, the Steelers looked more and more like a bad football team. Their defense resembled the ruins of a conquered city with the Patriots marching through.
The current generation of Steelers will never have bragging rights over the Patriots.
The battle is over.