Excuse me if I don’t use phrases like “this team is special” and “Championship Caliber Defense” just yet. Oh, I’m coming along for the ride to Tampa fellow Steeler Nation. I’m on the bandwagon. I’m just coming along kicking and screaming.
My fellow blogger Blitz texted me last night “time to start believing” about the same time Troy Polamalu intercepted the BrownRavens hopes and dreams and put the game in the fridge. Yes, the Jell-O was jiggling, the light was out and the butter was getting hard. The Steelers had earned a trip to Super Bowl 43 after playing the toughest schedule the NFL schedule makers could possibly dole out. They earned a trip to Tampa with an Offensive Coordinator whose game planning and scheming can be down right offensive. As can the play of their offensive line. As can the kicking of their 3rd punter of the year, a 40 plus couch potato with brittle hamstrings but a long NFL career behind him. They earned the trip to Super Bowl 43 and are favored against the Cinderella Cardinals from AZ with a big play QB named Ben and a ferocious defense and I am coming along…kicking and screaming.
You see fellow Nation, I am a child of the 70’s. I was a 9 year old huddled around a transistor radio listening to the famous first Steelers playoff game in Pittsburgh in 1972 that ended in an Immaculate Reception. I was 11 when Franco rumbled for 158 and the Steel Curtain came crashing down on Scrambling Fran and the Purple People Eaters. Through the 70’s I thought it was my birthright that the Steelers would go to the Super Bowl and win. Noll’s boys had that effect on a young boy’s psyche growing up in Pittsburgh in the mid 70’s. Then it ended. As Noll would say to the old vets, they all got on with their life’s work. That’s where today’s psyche was formed.
Like Moses, I wandered through the desert for the next 26 years. I saw Jack Splat forced out by a toe. Bradshaw eliminated by a botched surgery on his elbow. Then after a brief glimpse of the next Mean Joe Greene I was awakened to find 270 pound Senior Sack Gabe Rivera ejected out the back window of a 280Z never to walk again. Hard times filled with heartbreak those 26 years in the desert were as I searched for the Promised Land. Cliff the Stiff Stoudt, Mark Malone, Scott Campbell, David Woodley…A young upstart named Bubby Brister said “Yes We Can” years before Obama. This brash boy from Louisiana (see Bradshaw) actually got a team that started the season losing 92-10 to the playoffs where a future hall of famer Rod Woodson torpedoed the Oilers in Houston with a “Heavenly Hit” sending the young Steelers to Denver in search of one for the thumb. I believed again! In Denver Worley and Hoge punished the Orange Crush and the Steelers led late into the night. John Elway ended that dream which died when an exhausted rookie Dermontti Dawson took himself out of the last drive to catch some air and a backup Center hiked the pigskin into Brister’s feet for a fumble. Heartbreak in Denver.
More heartbreak and broken promises followed in the 90’s. Noll was gone but young and fiery Pittsburgh boy Bill Cowher returned the Steelers to prominence. With a ferocious defense led by names like Lloyd, Green, Kirkland, Lake and Woodson the team seemed destined to get the Nation one for the thumb. Alas a QB named O’Donnell would have none of that. He lost to the Bills in 92 at home. He put up only 13 points in an AFC Championship game against SD in 94. He single handedly tried to squash our hopes again in 95 putting up another 13 points in the AFC Title game (at home again) against the Colts. Ernie “Money” Mills bailed him out with a circus catch along the sideline at the 3-yard marker late in the 4th and Bam Morris plowed in to punch our long awaited ticket to Paradise. First we had to wait out a heart stopping “Hail Mary” from Harbaugh. In AZ O’Donnell crushed our hearts with 3 INT and a loss to the hated Cowboys. The ghosts of Swann and Stallworth must have been turning over in their graves even though they weren’t dead. More heartbreak. Kordell Stewart led similar scenarios later in the 90’s and into the new millennium with flameouts at home against Denver and New England in games the Steelers were favored. Still can’t believe we didn’t ride a young Bus named Bettis in the 97 title game instead of scatter armed Stewart and his 3 INT. Cowher finally got us our one for thumb but only after another flameout in 04 against the cheating Pats* and hiring a Whiz at Offensive Coordinator.
So here we are Nation, on the brink again. We are going to Tampa with a “special” team and a “Championship” caliber defense. I’m with you. I’m just not as positive and dreamy eyed as all of you. I’ve had a hard life in the desert with this team I love and this Nation I am a part of. Every week since 80 has seemed like root canal at the dentist. I’ve had my heart broken a thousand Sunday’s. I’m with you though and I’m coming along. I’m just coming along kicking and screaming.