Why I'm rooting for the Steelers to win in Week 17, and why you should too

Jared Wickerham

Another few steps are taken toward the end of an outstanding era in Pittsburgh, and regardless of a draft pick, Steelers fans should be rooting for a win.

The beers flowed through that run-down house on University Drive in Fargo, N.D.

The five guys who lived there - four others and myself - turned off all phones, and broke out a case of beer and a bottle of whiskey. No more card games, quarters bouncing off our beat-up kitchen table or drink bets on the current game on TV.

Just the guys and some music. Two of them were staying in Fargo, one was going to Minneapolis, one to Iowa and one to northern Minnesota. Essentially five different directions despite having been intertwined in each other's lives.

Soon, there would be groomsmen conversations and godfather namings. Trips to and from different places, even as those passing-out-on-the-couch options became less and less acceptable.

Not long after that, even an hour drive for a night out was a bit too much. Life moved on into a place where all five of us simply accepted the glory days were over.

It's a very common tale of the college-aged male. Living in a house with cruddy carpet, on which everyone had slept on at one point or another, and countless others. Couches that had long surpassed their expected life span, but had been worked themselves to essentially permanent fixtures of the house.

We sprawled over those relics as we often did, but this time no immediate agendas were pressing. We passed around the bottle and threw bottle caps at each other, equally distributing rippings and jokes on everyone there so no one would feel like their past sins were forgotten.

One ritual we had at the end of nights out was popping in one of the worst movies ever made - Eddie and the Cruisers 2 - and making fun of the poor acting, attempts to mask thick Canadian accents and follow a ridiculously funny plot line.

The girlfriends who had come and gone usually recognized it as their queues to leave or go to sleep. None ever found the humor in it we did, and presumably, no one else on earth either.

There was a pause in a conversation about who was moving what out of which room the following day. The moment hung in the air like a poorly thrown Joe Flacco pass. We all seemed to be now plagued by the same feeling; it was over soon, and there was nothing we could do about it. Like an advancing storm, that inevitability crept forward, powerfully and slowly.

It was silent for a solid five seconds, which is approximately one hour in College Time.

"Eddie?" I asked, realizing we had one last time to do it.

"Yes....YES!!!!!" Buzzy yelled, mimicking a line from the movie. We all busted up laughing and Jake hopped up to pop in the movie.

We kept drinking beers with an occasional pull off the whiskey bottle, replicating the same jokes we had for the last few years in the same stupid movie we quoted as perhaps as much as 20 percent of our normal dialogue.

Eric passed out like Eric always did. Jager went home to his girlfriend, like he always did. We threw stuff at Jake, like, well, you get the idea.

The conversation didn't get any deeper that night. The movie played through, fatigue and drunkenness quieted us straight to the end, when Eddie is finally revealed, not as Joe West, but THE Eddie Wilson.

We didn't speak of the magnitude of that moment. The last time we'd view "Eddie" as roommates.

Not with a bang, but with a whimper, we went our separate ways. It was too painful to say anything. Not a bad pain, but that same inevitable pain you felt when, years later, we'd avoid the cell phone call from one another, or choose not to respond immediately to an email.

Bjorn has two kids now, I hear. Jager too. Buzzy lives in Seattle. Jake is still Jake and Eric is probably passed out somewhere. Those memories will never change.

The Steelers are going to lace up their spikes and hit the Heinz Field turf for the last time this season Sunday. They're going to watch "Eddie" once more, and the whimper you barely hear at the end of the game will be an era passing by.

Many will begin immediately talking about the draft, and bashing the coaches for either winning or losing this game - either one seems to doom this franchise permanently, based on the opinions of many throughout this week.

For guys like James Harrison, who's the best Steelers linebacker since Jack Lambert, he's on that couch, watching "Eddie" one more time. He doesn't care about a draft pick. His future is up in the air, and the inevitability of the conclusion of his time in Pittsburgh cuts even deeper for those who have followed him and cheered for him since 2004.

Harrison wasn't drafted. He impacted this franchise in a way that draws respect and admiration from every era of this game. Defensive end Brett Keisel doesn't care about a draft pick. He was taken as an afterthought in the seventh round, and worked his tail off to start since 2006.

Other guys are on that couch, too. We just may not know who they are yet, but there are several outstanding Steelers players who will pack up their stuff after Sunday's game and not return to the South Side facility.

We should be cheering for them to push the sun back into the sky for just one more game; to give their fans one more memory of their outstanding careers. We should be cheering for them to end their time as Steelers with a victory, not to see their legacies end with the only losing seasons of their careers.

There's no going back after the game. There isn't a next week in 2012. There may not be a next week at all for those players. Just as no one outside that pocket of friends will ever have the same appreciation for "Eddie" that we did, it's not about the movie; it's about what it represents.

The Steelers very well may rebound next year and go 13-3, and that could be without Harrison and Keisel and Hampton. We won't be thinking much about them, in that case, and understandably so. Regardless of their futures, the game must be played tomorrow, just as I determined "Eddie" must be played one more time.

Regardless of the future, they're going to give it their all in what could be their last game.

We should be cheering for that, not some draft pick.


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