Super Bowl Predictions: Can I Have That One Back?

Denver's upset win over Carolina -- predicted by hardly anyone (including yours truly) -- should be interpreted as good news for Steelers' fans.

After further review, it didn’t end up Carolina 38, Denver 16 after all.

After further review, Carolina didn’t even win the damn game.

Had I known in advance the Panthers were going to forget how to catch the ball, forget how to throw it, forget that trying to recover fumbles isn’t optional and forget to tackle punt returners that haven’t signaled for a fair catch, I never would have come up with a Super Bowl prediction that turned out to be as on the money as a typical replay review offered up by Mike Carey.

As they say in every NFL locker room but one eventually, we’ll get ’em next year.

For now, the Broncos are on top of the NFL world, and it’s the Denver defense that delivered them there (at least I had the Peyton Manning-can’t-play-anymore part right).

And that’s good news for the Steelers.

In two games against Denver’s vaunted defense this season, the Steelers more than held their own.

They gained 377 yards and scored 34 points on Dec. 20 in Pittsburgh.

And they gained 396 yards while being held to 16 points on Jan. 17 in Denver.

That’s an average of 386.5 yards and 25 points per game.

Each game deserves an asterisk, as the Broncos were without starting safeties Darian Stewart and T.J. Ward in the first encounter and the Steelers didn’t have running back DeAngelo Williams and wide receiver Antonio Brown in the second.

But the constant in both is that the Steelers moved the ball against a defense that’s now being hyped as the NFL’s latest version of an impenetrable wall.

The Broncos looked like that at times against the Panthers, but in reality it was inept offense that contributed to Carolina’s Super Bowl 50 implosion as much as it was dominating defense (just as Carolina’s defense benefited immensely from Manning’s inability to do anything but hand the ball off).

So what does that mean looking ahead to next season?

It means that the Steelers have every right to expect that their offense will be good enough to keep them competitive with anyone, that their offense will be good enough to take them even further than it did this season.

No team picks up where it left off from one season to the next. The Steelers won’t and the Broncos won’t, either.

But what should resonate for the Steelers is that they were able overcome injury and adversity and develop individually and collectively well enough throughout last season that they found themselves in possession of both the ball and the lead with 10 minutes remaining against a team that would ultimately go on to win the Super Bowl.

 There’s no reason they can’t get themselves into a similar position next season, and do a little bit better job of finishing when they get there the next time.

It was at the 10-minute mark of the fourth quarter in the second round of the playoffs against Denver that Fitz Toussaint fumbled, which ignited a chain of events that included a third-and-12 conversion, a missed tackle on third down at the goal line and eventually, a sack of Ben Roethlisberger, all of which conspired to doom the Steelers.

In the end the Steelers got what they’d earned, what they’d deserved, as did the Broncos.

And it’s the Broncos who are now deservedly celebrating a championship.

But they’re not dynastic, no matter how much they might have appeared to be against the Panthers.


Categories: Mike Prisuta’s Sports Section