Would they have made it this far had "The Incident" not occurred? That is something we will never know.
What is "The Incident?"
Well to find out, we must go back a few months. I was talking to a friend of mine near the end of November while we were playing football. He asked me, "Did you see 'The Incident?'"
At first, I was at a loss for words. I wondered if he was talking about the Steelers vs. Bills game that weekend. Fortunately he was, and I realized what "The Incident" was.
"The Incident" occurred in overtime between the Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers. Ryan Fitzpatrick heaved a perfect ball into the end zone for Stevie Johnson, and he missed the catch.
It was there, and Johnson missed it!
The game ended with Shaun Suisham kicking the winning field goal a little bit later.
So why should the Steelers thank this "Incident?"
Quite simply, do the math. Had the Bills beaten the Steelers, Pittsburgh would have dropped from the No. 2 seed in the playoffs to the No. 6 seed! That's because Baltimore would have won the division with a 12-4 record, and the other Wild Card team, the 11-5 Jets, beat the hypothetical 11-5 Steelers, so they would have the tiebreaker.
What would that mean for the Steelers? A date with the Indianapolis Colts in Lucas Oil Stadium. Beating Peyton Manning at home is normally a tough task, but he has such a bad record in the playoffs (9-10), so let's assume they somehow get by the Colts.
Then the real problems begin.
The Patriots have owned the Steelers ever since Bill Belichick and Brady teamed up. They somehow have been able to torch the Steelers defense a lot, so I would expect the Steelers to lose that game.
But if the Steelers made it past the Patriots by some act of God, they would probably be forced to play the Ravens in Baltimore. Beating Baltimore on the road in the AFC Championship game would be difficult to say the least.
People will point out that Pittsburgh beat Baltimore on the road in the regular season. True, but the playoffs are a whole other animal.
Even if we assume that the Jets beat Kansas City and then Baltimore, the Steelers would still be forced to play the Jets in New York. This might be an easier game, but even then it's hard to beat a home team in the conference championship. This would be too close to call.
So we've established that without "The Incident," Pittsburgh would probably not be in the Super Bowl.
However, if the momentum from that loss carried over, and the Steelers had a bad finish to the year, Pittsburgh may have lost to anybody.
Remember when the Steelers lost to Jacksonville in the playoffs? It was all because of a lack of momentum. They had lost three of their last four games, and then suffered heavily.
If the Steelers do win the Super Bowl, my recommendation is for the Pittsburgh players to give some of that bonus money to Stevie Johnson. He is a big reason they made it this far, after all.