Growing up in the 80's, I was pretty envious of older Steelers fans who got to witness, first hand, the awesome decade of the Super 70's. I believe I made a similar comment on BTSC when I first joined a couple of years ago, and someone said, "Youth is wasted on the young."
Fair enough. I guess I REALLY wouldn't want to be older just so I could say that I witnessed those epic seasons of the 70's. But when you don't get to see something unfold before your very eyes, something that you find downright fascinating, you do become sort of jealous that you weren't old enough to remember those awesome times.
As a kid, I would listen to adults go on and on about Hall of Fame players such as Mean Joe and Bradshaw, and when I would mention players of the 80's like Louis Lipps and Mike Merriweather, my elders would snicker.
The more I heard about the "Super 70's," the more I wanted to witness a Super Steelers Era of my own.
Finally, after many years of wondering what it would be like, the Steelers won Super Bowl XL following the 2005 season, and that was a dream come true and enough to sustain this life-long fan for many years. However, they then won Super Bowl XLIII just a few years later, and made it back to Super Bowl XLV two seasons after that.
Three Super Bowls and two titles in six years might not quite be on par with four championships in six seasons, but it's not chopped liver. Furthermore, I can safely say that I'm now currently witnessing the second "Golden Age" in team history.
In quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, I've seen this generation's Terry Bradshaw. Like Bradshaw, Roethlisberger is an elite quarterback with all the talent in the world. You can probably debate for hours about who is better, but there is no debating how important an elite quarterback is for winning Super Bowls. To quote Bradshaw: "You can lose with me, but you'll never win without me."
In safety Troy Polamalu, I've witnessed this generation's Mel Blount. Yes, different positions, but both equally disruptive to opposing offenses. In his prime, Blount was such a dominant and physical corner, the NFL outlawed Bump 'n Run coverage and unofficially called it "The Mel Blount rule." They have yet to name any rules after Polamalu, but he's such a game-changer, he's the central focus of an opponent's game plan each and every week. And lastly, Blount and Polamalu each have the honor of being named the "NFL Defensive Player of the Year."
In guard Alan Faneca, I may have seen this era's Mike Webster. Again, different positions. But much like Webster, who dominated the center position for most of his career, Faneca was considered by many to be the best guard in the league during his prime.
In wide receiver Hines Ward, I've witnessed this generation's...........oh, who am I kidding? They broke the mold when they made Hines Ward. He has all the receiving records, so it would be easy to compare him to Swann or Stallworth, but there was only one Hines Ward. He may be the only receiver in history to be known as much for his blocking and physical style of play as he is for his receiving. I suppose you could compare him to a player from the 70's, but it would most likely be a linebacker, and probably Jack Lambert.
But since there is only one Hines, I can say that the Lambert comparison is best reserved for linebacker James Harrison. Much like Lambert back in the day, Harrison is an intense competitor who is difficult to deal with and has been known to play on the fringes from time-to-time. And like Lambert, Harrison is always the most focused man on the football field. I have a copy of the team's 2008 highlight video, and during a game in Cleveland, one of the Browns' offensive linemen says, "Number 92 is bringing it on every play."
In defensive lineman Aaron Smith, I was fortunate enough to witness maybe this generation's Mean Joe Greene. No, Smith wasn't as dominate as Greene was during the 70's, but he was arguably the most important component of Dick Lebeau's 3/4 defense. And much like Mean Joe, Aaron Smith garnered more respect in the Steelers locker room than maybe any other player.
I suppose I could go on forever with these comparisons, but you get my point. I've seen some extraordinary football and some awesome players over the better part of a decade. Maybe not four Super Bowls and nine future Hall of Famers, but when this new era finally does come to an end, the numbers in both categories might be more comparable than we think.
I had visions of the 70's being one huge party in the City of Pittsburgh with the Steelers as the guests of honor. This is an educated guess, but the 70's probably weren't one huge football celebration, and the Steelers weren't on everyone's minds, 24/7. People still had to get up for work everyday, and there were thousands who couldn't even do that after the collapse of the steel industry. Steelers fans of the 70's had the same struggles as people from any era. The only difference was that they were able to witness the first "Golden Age" of Steelers football, and this brought them unspeakable joy and gave them memories that lasted a lifetime.
I can say this because I've witnessed the second "Golden Age" of Steelers football, and it really hasn't changed my life. I still have the same problems that I had pre-2005. I still have to get up for work everyday, and I still worry about paying bills and other personal issues. But witnessing this new Super era of Steelers football has certainly brought me unspeakable joy and given me memories that will last a lifetime.
"Golden Ages" are pretty awesome.