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Top 5 Disappointments for 2007 Season: #2 - Heinz Field

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We continue our countdown of the biggest surprises and disappointments from the 2007 season with the #2 disappointment: Heinz Field.

This may seem like an odd choice to many of you, but there were a number of reasons why I was disappointed with our home-field advantage this year. Of course, the obvious place to start would be the Week 12 against the Miami Dolphins, when multiple inches of rain absolutely decimated the natural grass playing surface at Heinz Field. It was an embarassment to the nation that night, as players' feet could visibly be seen sinking into the ground, not to mention the one punt that stuck in the ground like a javelin, coming to a complete halt upon contact with the ground.

Fine, so inclement conditions sullied our playing surface that week and the next against the Bengals. The Rooneys and the organization choose to have natural grass, and it's not unreasonable for them to stick with that decision, given the benefits that do come along with it, not to mention the considerable investment they've already made over the years on the surface. I do think that this particular Steelers team would benefit from a faster track with artificial turf, but that's a discussion for another day.

Well Blitzburgh, if you're willing to forgive the field conditions, what's your beef? That's a legitimate question, as the Steelers did after all finish the 2007 season with a 7-1 home record. My problem was the booing in both games against Jacksonville. In Week 15, many Stelers fans headed to the exits late in the 3rd quarter with Jacksonville ahead 22-7. That's just a two score deficit for those of you who may be reading about football for the first time. Two scores and you're leaving? $150-$1000 ticket and you're ready to call it a day so soon? After the comebacks we had mounted against Cleveland and the Jets just weeks before?

The boos came pouring in during the first half, when Jacksonville was carving up our run defense with little to no resistance at all being offered by Pittsburgh. The performance was putrid through three quarters no doubt, and it ended fittingly, with Jacksonville marching down the field on a 8-play 73-yard drive to win it after we had tied it up.

But seeing the Heinz Field faithful leave the stadium in the 3rd and early 4th quarter really disappointed me. Sure we had been playing poorly for the better part of the past month. Sure we were playing piss-poor defense, something the Steelers patrons aren't used to seeing, especially at home. And yes, fans pay their hard earned dollars to go to games and have every right to boo their team when they under perform. All that said, I was still disappointed. Where's the faith in Big Ben? Where's the show of support to first year head coach Mike Tomlin in his first year, when it should have been expected that there might be some struggles?

Then in the playoffs, the boos resurfaced in the 1st half. After the promising start to the game where we took an early 7-0 lead, Jacknsonville proceeded to score 21 unanswered points. Poor special teams play, bad decisions by Big Ben, a confused defense on that TD pass to Maurice Jones Drew. All were disappointing to us fans. But after the remarkable season Roethlisberger had put together, I was disappointed to hear the fans booing him during the first half following his interception barrage.

Like I said, fans have every right to boo. And I personally believe there's a time and a place to do it. For example, if I were a NY Knicks fan, I'd boo every time Isiah Thomas' name was announced by the PA guy. But not this team, not this year.

We're young at QB, our OL is mediocre at best, our defense couldn't get after the QB for the 2nd half of the season, our special teams play was sub-par, and we were breaking in a first-year 34-year old head coach. And we still won 10 games and earned a home-playoff game. Execution, strategy, and personnel issues plagued this team far more than underachieving did.

Steelers fans deserve a good product, and as I've said before, we've been spoiled by getting just that for the vast majority of the 90s and this decade. I'm proud to be a member of the NFL's greatest, and most ubiquitous fanbase. I smile when we're on the road and our fans nationwide find a way to drown out opposing teams' home crowds. It's a special organization with special fans. May the boo-birds only sing when effort lags and times get truly tough.

Effort did not wane this year, and a divisional title following an 8-8 year hardly qualifies as the dark days for this proud franchise.