Think back, if you will, to 2006 when the Pittsburgh Steelers were coming off their 5th Super Bowl victory over the Seattle Seahawks, and they were opening the 2006 season at Heinz Field with the Miami Dolphins coming to town.
The crowd had already hyped themselves into a frenzy, then a large group of individuals took the field. Before you knew it the entire football field was seemingly draped in a Terrible Towel. Next thing you know, a black and gold structure takes the field. You can see what it is now...it is a bus. Who steps off the bus? None other than Jerome Bettis waving a terrible towel. He is joined by legends like Lynn Swann, Franco Harris and Mel Blount. The crowd goes absolutely bonkers.
Then you hear something...a song. You know this song. It is that song by Styx, oh yeah, Renegade. Starts off slow, then the song hits it's crescendo and the Steelers run out of the gates. Fireworks explode from the top of Heinz Field, and fans fill the rotundas with banners draped from every metal railing. A giant banner takes the place of the field goal nets with the logos of all 5 Steelers Super Bowl titles.
Joey Porter leads the team out of the tunnel carrying the Super Bowl 40 flag and the crowd has now reached a fever pitch in terms of excitement. The near 80-yard long terrible towel waves like the banner it has become and every single person in the crowd waves their towels with such unbridled jubilation it becomes nearly deafening on the South Side of Pittsburgh.
To say the Dolphins had an uphill battle might be one of the biggest understatements ever. The game itself didn't live up to the pre-game hype, but the Steelers came away victorious, thanks in part to a huge play to Heath Miller and a Joey Porter interception which eventually clinched the victory for the home crowd.
The same could be said in 2009 when the Steelers did not play their best game, but played well enough to beat the Tennessee Titans in overtime as they opened the season following their Super Bowl 43 victory against the Arizona Cardinals.
Welcome to 2015, and the Steelers find themselves on the other side of the field. Having to deal with the crowd and the hyped home team as they celebrate their recent Super Bowl victory in front of their home fans for the first time. There is a reason only two teams have lost the opening game the following year after their Super Bowl victory since they have been featured on a special night to kickoff the season.
In 2012 the New York Giants lost to the Dallas Cowboys at Metlife Stadium, and in 2013 the Baltimore Ravens were shellacked by the Denver Broncos, but that game was played at Mile High and not M&T Bank Stadium due to a conflict with the Baltimore Orioles' schedule.
The Steelers certainly have an uphill battle in front of them on Thursday night, and it has nothing to do with the absence of Le'Veon Bell, Maurkice Pouncey and Martavis Bryant, but playing the Patriots at home the first game after winning a title.
Is it impossible? No, but the Steelers will not only have the Patriots and Tom Brady in their way, but also the frenzied crowd at Gillette Stadium.