After the Pirates clinched their first postseason berth in 21 seasons on Monday at Wrigley Field, one of the more popular jokes has been: "There are babies who were born this week who only know the Pirates as winners and the Steelers as losers."
Of course, the reason for this popular joke is because of the 0-3 start by the local professional football team--the first such start in 13 seasons.
After 20 years of losing and 21 years of no postseason baseball, I suppose you have to forgive people for making "pro-Pirates" jokes at the Steelers expense. I mean, how long did the Buccos have to put up with such jokes during their record-setting 20 years of losing seasons? Speaking of the Buccos, they clinched homefield advantage for the National League Wild Card game this coming Tuesday, thanks to an 8-3 victory in Cincinnati on Saturday, and the 162nd regular season game on Sunday will mean absolutely nothing and will be a chance for manager Clint Hurdle to rest his starters.
Remember when the playoff-bound Steelers had a "meaningless" regular season finale, and Ben Roethlisberger or Hines Ward would miss Week 17 with one of those 24 hour "hindsight is 20/20 if your starters go down in a meaningless game" injuries?
Looks like the Steelers might have one of those meaningless Week 17 games again this season. Unfortunately, it could be on par with your traditional (before this season) Pirates regular season finale. But you know what? It's OK, because if there's one thing Pittsburgh's favorite football team hasn't been so far in 2013, it's boring.
Heck, even in a year when the Steelers may not make the playoffs, they still get a Super Bowl- like neutral site game that's all the talk, thanks to the NFL's annual pilgrimage to Jolly Old London, England (see what I did there?) The Steelers even took part in a Super Bowl-esque "Media Day" when they landed in London, complete with cornerback Ike Taylor making fun of the British accent. Not in a mean way, of course. In Ike's typical charming way (think Ike and Mr. Rooney, only with the British).
And just to let all those babies who were born this week know who the real top dog in Pittsburgh STILL is, the CBS crew for the Steelers game "at" Minnesota (the Steelers still have too much cache to lose a home game) will be none other than Jim Nantz and Phil Simms. You might not like those guys, but they're CBS' number one crew, and number one crews don't do just anybody--0-3 might not look good in SB Nation's power rankings, but TV ratings are sexier than power rankings.
Yes, the Steelers are still a draw, and despite not showing up in London until Friday, while the Vikings have been there all week, I'll just bet Pittsburgh is the more popular team, come Sunday at Wembley Stadium (just like Super Bowl IX, but with fish and chips).
The Steelers may be winless, but they've done it with flair.
There's been the usual talk of Mike Tomlin not having his team ready to play, each and every week, and of course, there's been calls for OC Todd Haley's head--I certainly hope he didn't think he'd be immune to that kind of stuff, even if he is from Upper Saint Clair.
I mean, we're not even a month into the season, and we've already had the OC get into it with some fans at a hotel, the OC and Antonio Brown get into a shouting match on the sidelines (maybe) and the quarterback call out the unseen rookie running back on his weekly radio show. Speaking of which, the Steelers have like 52 radio shows between the 53 men on the roster. It's just a matter of time before someone really snaps and says something that will give reporters--and bloggers like me--hours of material (I'm talking to you, Ryan Clark).
Isaac Redman even had the courtesy to, not only pretend he didn't have a concussion in Pittsburgh's Week 2 loss to the Bengals, he had the good manners to tell everyone he fooled the medical staff, this at a time when the NFL is really, really, really cracking down on head trauma (My God, even Brown, a receiver, was flagged for a face mask against the Bears in Week 3).
Talk about your flair.
I don't know how many games the Steelers will win in 2013, but I highly doubt they'll stop being entertaining. I can say this because we as fans still care very deeply about the team.
So, again, to those babies who were born this week, no, the Steelers are not losers. They're just having a down time of it. Yes, the Pirates are awesome, and old people like I'll be in 20 years will always cherish 2013 and what it meant for baseball in Pittsburgh. However, there's a difference between doing it one season and sustaining it over the long haul.
Winners sustain, and the Steelers are still winners until they prove otherwise.