Bumped from the Fanposts. An excellent dog days of the NFL offseason article and conversation starter by one of BTSC's stalwart die hard football fanatics. Good stuff and nicely written as usual from 5020. Cheers. -Blitz-
The Rams started out as the team to beat for “Team of the Decade” status in 2000. With an exciting Super Bowl win against the Titans featuring a late shoe string tackle by Mike Jones (who would go on to play (or not play) for the Steelers) The Rams featured Dick Vermeil as Head Coach and “The Greatest Show on Turf” offense led by Arena League refugee Kurt Warner. The Rams seemed poised to win half a dozen Lombardi’s but as so often happens in the NFL (except in Pittsburgh and New England) front office instability helped lead to their downfall. Vermeil retired. Offensive guru but decision and motivationally challenged Mike Martz took over. The Rams were upset by the New England Patriots* in 2002 after a Raven title in 2001. Warner was jettisoned.
The New England victory in 2002 at the Louisiana Super Dome marked the resurgence of the next challenger to “Team of the Decade” status. The Pats* stunning season led them to Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship game against Bill Cowher, Kordell Stewart and the Pittsburgh Steelers who had been looking for their one for the thumb throughout Cowher’s tenure in the 90’s. In the game, the Steelers D knocked Tom Brady out of the game and the Pats* were sparked by Drew Bledsoe and a clutch special teams squad which upended the Steelers 24-17 on route to their first Lombardi in club history and first championship of the Y2K decade. The Steelers had their chances late in the game but 2 interceptions by Slash Stewart in the last 3 minutes of the game sealed the Steelers fate. Were the Patriots* using film and stealing the Steelers signals? At times it sure seemed that way but thanks to Roger Goodell burning all the evidence we will probably never know.
The Patriots* turned dynasty, cheating or not over the next few years staking claim to “Team of the Decade” and making a push for “Team of the Ages.” Brady seemed unflappable and unstoppable. Belicheat* had a counter move for every move. An exciting last minute 32-29 win over Carolina in 2003 and another exciting and tight 24-21 win against Donovan McNabb’s Eagles in 2004 seemed to cement the Pats* status as the best of Y2K and conversation began about if they were as good or better than the 60’s Packers, the 70’s Steelers or the 80’s 49ers.
Then from the ashes of the 2004 AFC Championship game came a new challenger from the city of Steel. Bill Cowher’s Steelers made an improbable ride on the road and on the emotion of getting Jerome Bettis home to Detroit for his last Bus ride. When Belicheat*s Pats* fell to Denver in a flurry of turnovers the stage was set for Pittsburgh to get the elusive one for the thumb. After pummeling Carson Palmer and the Bungles and then upsetting the heavily favored and once 13-0 Colts the Steelers beat Denver handily at Mile High and behind 3 big plays beat the Seattle Seahawks on February 5, 2006 at Ford Field in Detroit 21-10 for the last Bus stop.
Rather than buckle down like the 70’s Steelers this band of Black & Gold road warriors partied like there was no tomorrow. After QB and leader Ben Roethlisberger almost killed himself in a helmet-less motorcycle crash it was downhill. Peyton Manning won his elusive title in February 2007 and New England reestablished themselves in the 2007 regular season with an unmatched 17-0 record plus 2 playoff victories. Dynasty status and Y2K laurels seemed destiny. Then a crazy thing happened to the Pats* on the way to the coronation. Swirling controversy over the Belicheat* tapes met the charged up New York Giants. The Giants came out swinging and staggered the Patriots* with a 17-14 Super Bowl win (the Pats* 3rd Lombardi loss in franchise history) to stop the dynasty talk.
In 2008 regular season the Pittsburgh Steelers were retooled under the direction of young Mike Tomlin. Led by Elway like QB Ben Roethlisberger and one of the greatest defenses the league had ever seen the Pittsburgh Steelers charged to Super Bowl XLIII on February 1st 2008. They beat the Arizona Cardinals and their comeback QB Kurt Warner (see the 2000 Rams) 27-23 in one of the most exciting Super Bowl’s of all time. The Steelers now have 2 Lombardi titles in the last 4 years and are poised to challenge for a 3rd in 2009. Another Super Bowl title in XLIV will create a huge argument for “Team of the Y2K Decade” with Steel City fans pitted against chowder heads. One simple way to stamp the Steelers ticket would be to beat New England in the AFC Championship game this season on route to the “Stairway to Seven.” In my opinion, a Pittsburgh Super Bowl title over the bodies of the Patriots* this season gives Pittsburgh the title of “Team of the Decade.” It’s a long road. There are games to play. Injuries to avoid. Unforeseen challenges to conquer. But in the dog days of summer with Latrobe still in the distance now is the time to hope and dream. Hopefully for the Steelers now is the time to train. Here We Go Steelers!