A loss is still a loss, but this one had plenty of redeeming social value beyond the comeback that almost was.
That fourth-and-4 from the New Orleans 40-yard line couldn't have come any closer to popping without actually producing points, which it somehow did not.
Seven Saints rushed and seven Saints were blocked (Antwaan Randle El and Mewelde Moore got their men, along with all five offensive linemen). Ben Roethlisberger actually had time to pump-fake, which sent Hines Ward out of his "hot route" and wheeling up the field, wide open.
If Roethlisberger throws it a little sooner or a little later and with a little more air under it it's a chains-moving play, a big play or a scoring play.
It was something of a fluke that the ball, Ward and Emmanuel Sanders all ended up in about the same place at about the same time.
If they could get it blocked the same way again the next time, the Steelers would be more than happy to take their chances on such a play.
The same can be said for the 13-yard completion to Randle El that preceded the fourth-and-4 near miss.
"He almost spun out of it," Roethlisberger said. "One inch more and he's gone."
The same can be said for Heath Miller rumbling downfield with the ball under his arm, and for the Roethlisberger underthrow to Randle El in the end zone, and for Randle El's yes-it-is-no-it's-not touchdown.
They were a lot closer than many might suspect given the early-game struggles and the final margin.
* Someone was on his details when the Saints shifted out of field goal formation late in the first half. New Orleans coach Sean Peyton said afterward the Saints were indeed going to run a gadget play with holder/backup quarterback Chase Daniel there. The timeout signaled from the sideline and called by Larry Foote squashed those plans.
Will Allen maintained the Steelers were ready, willing and able to defend and cited the presence of himself, William Gay, Anthony Madison and Ryan Clark on the field (four defensive backs) as evidence to support his contention.
Nice to see the special teams prepared in advance.
* The Steelers' goal-line stand in the third quarter was as big a factor in the outcome as the Saints' holding the Steelers to three points from inches away in the second quarter.
Ziggy Hood, Chris Hoke, Nick Eason and Foote were among those on the field during the first two downs. Hoke's shoot-the-gap tackle on second down offered hope that the defensive line doesn't necessarily have to fall apart even if Aaron Smith never makes it back.
There's enough depth even without Aaron. Hopefully, that'll inspire the Steelers not to cut any more players they know they're likely to lose while waiting on a Smith comeback that might never happen.
* Smith was back at practice on Wednesday and as reported here last week confirmed that he'll be out eight to nine weeks. His plan moving forward is to allow for "about six weeks for it to heal and then strengthen it back up and see how it goes from there."
If that timetable holds Smith thinks he'll be able to play effectively in the playoffs. If not, "It won't be because of a lack of work, I know that," he said.
* Although he's fumbled on consecutive Sundays, Sanders deserves another opportunity to continue returning kickoffs and punts. The ball-security thing isn't to be taken lightly, but neither are those yards Sanders is amassing and the sparks he's igniting.
* The Saints were 4-3 coming in but capable of so much more, even without Reggie Bush. The Steelers suspected they'd get New Orleans' best and pretty much did.
The Bengals are 2-5 and deservedly so. The Steelers should expect what you'd expect from a 2-5 team come Monday night.
A loss to that New Orleans team was understandable, even anticipated.
A loss to this Cincinnati team would be alarming.