As it turns out, team coaches and players, and owners are fans, too. At least the better ones are, you’d hope. You definitely don’t want an owner who doesn’t particularly care one way or another whether the team is winning or losing, and how they’re losing.
With the Pittsburgh Steelers falling just one game short of reaching the postseason in 2022, there has been plenty of opportunity for regretful reflection, the would’ve, could’ve, should’ves of the season. And as it was for many fans, owner Art Rooney II admitted that the loss to the New York Jets was probably the loss that was most frustrating.
“Well, there are games you look at and think you could’ve won”, he told Bob Pompeani in a one-on-one interview on KDKA. “A couple of those games early in the year. The Jets game is probably one in particular, having the lead late in in the game and giving it up, that hurts. If I had to pick one game that kind of sticks in your craw a little bit, it might be that one”.
The Jets game was the debut of rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett, whom head coach Mike Tomlin inserted into the starting lineup at halftime, pulling Mitch Trubisky. He led the offense to two touchdown drives to take the lead, going up by 10, but the defense allowed two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to sully his debut.
Any one of the Steelers’ losses being reversed would have put them in the postseason, if only they could have gone 10-7 instead of 9-8. And when you have a game in which you blow a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, it’s hard not to regret that one the most. Especially when the quarterback you lost to is Zach Wilson, a guy the Jets chose to sit behind Joe Flacco in a season finale Pittsburgh needed them to not lose.
By then the Steelers had lost three straight and were sitting at 1-3. The season could have still gone in many different directions, of course, and they went 1-3 again before they got to their bye, even if it came against some tough opponents.
Trubisky started the first four games of the regular season, including that Jets game, but the offense was not moving with him in the lineup. After the game, Tomlin said that he inserted Pickett into the lineup because he felt they needed a spark.
That spark could’ve been helpful a week earlier in a frustrating loss to the Cleveland Browns, as well, or a week earlier still against the New England Patriots. The offense did little on those occasions, leaving little margin for error, and unfortunately, they were full of errors at the time.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t other losses that were similarly frustrating. Consider the late loss to the Baltimore Ravens that featured two missed field goals by Chris Boswell, one blocked, in a two-point loss. But the Jets game has consistently been the most popular answer whenever this subject has come up.