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Eagles give Steelers a beating for the ages

It would be cute to say that the Steelers suffered their first crack of the 2016 season in the home of the Liberty Bell.

But the Eagles inflicted a hell of a lot more than a crack in their 34-3 win Sunday. So many young, innocent Steelers fans have never seen their team beaten so badly in their lifetime.

It’s fitting that in a city so rich with history the Steelers suffered a such a historic defeat.

Grizzled Steelers fans aren’t surprised that the Steelers (2-1) took their first loss at Philadelphia. They’re 0-9 there since 1965. Hey, Super Bowl-winning Steelers teams have had their unbeaten records spoiled visiting the Eagles, but not like this.

The 1979 Steelers were 4-0 and lost 17-14 at Veterans Stadium. The 2008 Steelers were 2-0 and fell 15-6 at Lincoln Financial Field.

Those were tolerable, hard-fought losses. The stink from Sunday’s loss, however, won’t go away any time soon.

The Steelers were supposed to average 30 points a game this season, not lose by 30.

In the first two weeks of the season, the Steelers averaged 31 points. On Sunday, they lost by 31.

In the first two weeks of the season, the Steelers mirrored the 2010 team, the last one to make the Super Bowl. They beat the Redskins by their widest road margin since 2010 and started 2-0 for the first time since that season.

On Sunday, the “first time since” nuggets drew some dubious historic parallels.

Their 31-point loss was their worst since they lost 41-10 at Cincinnati in Week 2 of the 1989 season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Steelers hadn’t even trailed by 30 in a game since the opener of the 1997 season, when they lost 37-7 to the Cowboys at home. That streak of 305 games without a 30-point deficit was the longest in NFL history.

Steelers fans under 30 might not remember the 1989 team, but it’s a team worth remembering because it lost 51-0 at home to the Browns in Week 1 and in Week 2 suffered the aforementioned 41-10 loss to the Bengals. But that team fought back to finish 9-7 and make the playoffs.

The Steelers were quarterbacked by Bubby Brister. Their committee of running backs was led by Merril Hoge and Tim Worley.

The talent Chuck Noll had at his disposal was a far cry from the likes of Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris. This was Noll’s best coaching feat outside of the championship years. The Steelers upset the Oilers in the wild-card game and lost 24-23 to John Elway and the Broncos in the divisional playoffs at Denver.

The 1989 Steelers hold a special place in franchise history. In losing by 31, the 2016 Steelers now have something in common with that team. But this year’s Steelers aren’t supposed to be the Little Engine That Could. Winning the Super Bowl is the goal, not just making the playoffs.

The 1997 Steelers were more talented than the 1989 edition despite that 37-7 loss to the Cowboys. Bill Cowher had led them to the playoffs in each of his first five years as head coach and they’d make it for a sixth straight year, rebounding from that loss to finish 11-5.

Losing big to the Cowboys at home in season openers was a thing for the Steelers back then. They started 1994 with a 26-9 loss to Dallas. In between those season-opening losses to the Cowboys was the infamous Super Bowl XXX loss in which Neil O’Donnell threw two passes into the waiting arms of wide-open Cowboys cornerback Larry Brown.

It turned out that those Week 1 losses to the Cowboys were harbingers of AFC championship game losses at home. The Steelers were stunned by the Chargers in the 1994 conference title game at Three Rivers Stadium. In 1997, Elway once again broke the Steelers’ hearts, leading the Broncos to a 24-21 win in that year’s AFC championship game.

The Steelers reached the final four three times in that four-year stretch but had no Lombardi Trophies to show for it.

O’Donnell and Kordell Stewart were better than Brister. Jerome Bettis was better than Worley and Hoge. But the Steelers of that era still weren’t quite good enough to earn One for the Thumb.

This is another period that the 2016 Steelers are supposed to help us forget. Ben Roethlisberger is better than Stewart and Antonio Brown is better than Yancey Thigpen. But on Sunday in Philadelphia we saw a historic marker of those 90s teams that could go deep in the playoffs but ultimately didn’t have what it took to win it all.

If the Steelers keep playing like they did Sunday, they can forget about a deep playoff run or even making the playoffs at all. But there is a precedent for a team losing by 31 points and winning the Super Bowl. The 2003 Patriots were the last team to do it. They lost 31-0 at Buffalo. It was Week 1, so they had a lot of time to fix what was wrong.

And so do the Steelers this year.

Follow Mike @Steel_Tweets

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1 comment

  1. Dustin

    The black and gold blood in my viens is boiling, I don’t know what the hell that was on Sunday but I know it weren’t steeper football

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