It’s a beautiful morning in Sunny California as I walk the two big Akita’s at sunrise. Samurai & Muki are on the hunt as night becomes day. The morning is crisp for Cali. It’s definitely in the 50’s. The sun reflects off the top of the Calabasas hills and the nocturnal coyote heads back to his den for his rest avoiding me and my 200 LBS of Japanese bear hunters. It’s a beautiful morning in February in America and I’m enjoying life. I love many things. I love football. It’s still football season! It’s the last Sunday of NFL football. One last game today. But the Steelers aren’t playing.
I love the feeling you get waking up the morning of the last big game when the Steelers are playing in it. Every day on the right side of the dirt is a good day. But waking up the day that your team is playing in the last game of the football season for all of the marbles is an exhilarating experience. At least it is for this Steeler fan. We in Steeler Nation have become quite used to that feeling especially lately. Don’t ever fail to enjoy every minute of your life Steeler Nation. It ends in an instant. And so does your teams competitiveness in today’s NFL sometimes. So enjoy the Steelers run of success from 2001 through 2011. Especially the last few when we added Ben Roethlisberger into the Blitzburgh mix. I’ve savored those sacred last Sunday’s of the NFL season that the Steelers have participated.
The first Super Bowl is a blur for me. I was only an 11 year old little leaguer from Stanton Heights who’s first love was Clemente, Stargell and the Pittsburgh Pirates. But I remember that Sunday. Vivid memories… I remember Franco busting it to the outside and running for a TD. LC Greenwood seemed to bat every pass little Fran tried to heave up when he wasn’t running for his life from Mad Dog or Mean Joe. Steelers special teams let us down (go figure) as Bobby (Damn) Walden had a punt blocked keeping the seasoned Vikings in the game…Larry Brown caught a TD in the end zone late in the 4th quarter. The Steel Curtain secondary pulverized a purple receiver on the last Hail Mary (Harrison would be suspended for a month for that hit) and the Steelers had another INT. The Emperor is carried off the field by Mean Joe and Rocky. Art Rooney was hoisting this big silver trophy I have come to know as the Lombardi and love.
The following last Sunday’s memories are much more plentiful. As I understood the game more and understood game strategy the huge moments were recognized in an instant. They live with you forever in the morning’s thoughts before yet another chance at winning the last NFL game on the last Sunday of the NFL season.
Lynn Swann in his gracefulness, Jack Lambert in his viciousness and Terry Bradshaw to John Stallworth twice in the 4th quarter in the late Sunday twilight will live forever in my childhood memories. Chuck Noll was the greatest coach I ever witnessed. Please spell his name correctly. I also remember Neil O’Donnell and his ineptitude in the biggest of last Sunday’s against the most hated of rivals that will live in the annals of Steelers history as Pittsburgh’s biggest gaffe. But Joey Porter, Big Ben, Fast Willie, Randle El, Hines, The Chin, The Hair and The Bus cleansed the Nations souls of the disappointment of not getting a ring for Woodson, Lloyd, Kirkland, John L and Dawson. The Steeler Nation had one for the thumb. I’ll never forget smoking a big fat COHIBA in the Jacuzzi drinking Champagne from Spain on ice since XXX and watching Sports Center until 3 AM on that cool Cali night on that last Sunday of the NFL season.
XLIII was gravy. It was icing on the cake. The morning workout was awesome. The anticipation was immense. The 5020 Club was filled with friends. The tall cool Cali girl that I shared time with and her friends and mine shared special time together that last Sunday of the NFL season. Our 2 little Akita puppies (only a few months old) were not 50 LBS of Akita yet but along with the Cali girl were good luck charms in a great life. I will never forget our great times. On two of them we shared last Sunday’s of the NFL season. The Steelers were dominant early that XLIII Sunday. Harrison took one to the house and Chick Hearn would have put it in the fridge if he’d have been around on that last Sunday of the NFL season. BA’s inability to run clock (it’s my article so I get to write history) led to AZ being able to hang around. When Warner hit Fitzgerald the entire room looked to me. “That’s not good” I stated calmly. The calm spread...A good friend from the XIV days stated “They left Ben too much time. We can do this.” And we all believed. His wisdom was well founded. Ben mounted a Championship drive for the ages. Holmes was clutch. In the most stunning moment of Super Bowl memories Santonio Holmes made the catch of catches. The Steelers would hoist their 6th Lombardi by his fingertips. Victory is such a rush. Euphoric.
Those are the memories that I took into the last Sunday of the NFL season last year on this sacred of days to all of those that worship in the Steeler Nation. What did I take out of last year’s last Sunday? Ben played sloppy early and had 2 bad turnovers. The defense not being able to stop Aaron Rodgers was disappointing. Mendenhall fumbling was a shot in the heart. Sam and Mama-san are disappointed there is no evening chasing critters in the backyard and no celebration in the hot tub. Al Pacino was playing in my head “On any given Sunday, one team wins and one team loses.”
Wow. It’s that quick. Game is over. Season is over. You get dealt the worst pick in the draft. #31. You have the shortest time to get ready of 30 other losing franchises. You are not going to Disneyland. Jay Leno won’t be saving space on the couch for you. You are not going to the White House. There are no parades, caps or DVDs. There are no “America’s Greatest” specials on NFL Network. There is just might have been.
So savor every moment of life Steeler Nation. And savor every moment of Steeler football. Savor it while the Steelers are competitive and we have a shot at playing on the last Sunday of the NFL season. Sometime soon Ben Roethlisberger will have the Pittsburgh Steelers playing on the last Sunday of the NFL season. And I will savor that morning’s sunrise a little more vigorously on that daybreak. Hopefully I will savor and remember special moments and not disappointing ones but I will savor and remember just the same. I’ll remember when Ben goes deep to Antonio Brown and when Pouncey and the 2012 #1 draft pick Guard are opening holes for Isaac Redman. A Steeler OC is milking the clock. The Steelers are in the victory formation. Ben hands the ball to Troy after taking a knee. I’ll savor watching Troy and Hines riding off in a similar fashion to Jerome Bettis. The big rookie Nose Tackle can carry Coach T as in Pittsburgh, the standard is the standard. I’ll smoke COHIBAs and drink Spanish Champagne that has been on ice since XLV while sitting in the Jacuzzi. I’ll watch Sports Center discussing Mike Tomlin approaching Chuck Noll’s 4 Lombardi titles instead of Bill Belicheat. And I’ll spend special times with special people (and Canines) in my life. It will be the last Sunday of the NFL season and the Steelers WILL be playing. We’ve come to expect that in Steeler Nation and there is nothing wrong with that…Here We Go Steelers!