If you’re anything like me, in addition to the Pittsburgh Steelers, you love all things NFL.
I’m sure you have a handful of teams you also enjoy watching besides the Steelers. Maybe you don’t enjoy them and respect them a much as the Steelers, but I doubt you would ever use a derogatory name to describe them, such as the Clowns, Ratbirds, Cheatriots, Bungals or even the Browns.
I have four teams that I really respect and often find myself rooting for when I’m sitting in front of my 40-inch flat-screen television in good old Crafton, Pennsylvania (childhood home of Bill Cowher) and not watching the Steelers. As you will be able to see, the only way any of these teams could face the Steelers in the playoffs in the current format would be in the Super Bowl which make it a little bit easier.
Below, I’d like to rank those teams for you. Won’t you join me?
No. 4: New York Giants
That’s right, the New York football Giants. It’s funny, I grew up mostly hating them when they were part of the NFC contingent that spent years making life miserable for AFC teams in the Super Bowl. I rooted against the Giants when they demolished the Broncos in Super Bowl XXI (I was a big John Elway fan in those days). I cheered for the Bills and Scott Norwood as they attempted to knock off New York in Super Bowl XXV.
I actually liked the New York Jets back in those days. Oh, not so much that I got all bent out of shape when they inevitably lost in the playoffs, but I thought they were the cooler of the two New York football teams. Besides, Broadway Joe Namath once played for them, and he said something about a guarantee. What wasn’t to like?
But a bunch of stuff happened in the late-2000s that changed my mind about both teams. For one thing, the Giants knocked off the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, thus preserving my ability to brag about rooting for the only football team that ever won four Lombardi trophies in six years. Also, Eli Manning played for the Giants (he actually had a big hand in winning Super Bowl XLII, believe it or not), and who could ever hate a Manning? Also, it was around this time that the Jets hired Rex Ryan, and who could ever love a Ryan? That’s right, I doubt even Buddy could.
Anyway, a few years later, the Giants once again knocked off New England in the Super Bowl. That’s right, little old Eli tortured the team that always tortured his big brother, Peyton Manning. You know how it is with kids and technology—they always seem to know how to press the right buttons to make something work. I’m sure Peyton was both amazed and impressed.
No. 3: Carolina Panthers
I didn’t always like the Panthers, an expansion team that came into the NFL in 1995, but there was something about their march to Super Bowl XXXVIII that inspired me while I was dealing with some depressing post-surgery convalescence.
I’ll never forget what Sam Mills, the late, great Saints linebacker who was coaching the Panthers linebackers while battling terminal cancer, said to his players after they won three playoff games en route to the Super Bowl: “I have good days, and I have bad days. But I have days.”
For some reason, that quote has always stuck with me and provided perspective during some rough times.
The Panthers may have lost a heart-breaker to the Patriots in the Super Bowl, but they gained a fan. It doesn’t hurt that they’ve been the Steelers designated opponent in the last preseason game every year for about two decades. It also didn’t hurt that Carolina drafted Cam Newton, one of my favorite players over the past decade or so.
No. 2: Los Angeles Rams
How could I not like the Rams? They were the team that played the Steelers in the very first football game I remember watching as a little seven-year old back in January of 1980: Super Bowl XIV. I wanted Pittsburgh to win, of course, but that didn’t stop me from cheering for the Rams throughout the ‘80s and early-’90s before they finally relocated to St. Louis in 1995.
Yes, the Bus, Jerome Bettis, began his career with the Rams in 1993, but I grew up idolizing another LA running back: Eric Dickerson. Yes, I was a huge Dickerson fan, and I still can’t believe he rushed for 2,105 yards in 1984. Why didn’t the Rams pay him all the money? Why did they eventually trade him to the Colts in 1987?
Anyway, I don’t know what happened after the Rams moved to St. Louis in 1995, but I stopped caring about them. In fact, I stopped cheering for them at all. I rooted against them in Super Bowl XXXIV against the Titans. I cheered when the underdog Patriots knocked them off in Super Bowl XXXVI (little did I know...).
But I was pumped when they moved back to Los Angeles in 2016. In fact, as Peyton Manning’s final year played out with the Broncos in 2015, there were rumors that he would sign with the Rams for one season, just to give them a bump in their new, old home.
That would have been so cool.
No. 1: Dallas Cowboys
I grew up a huge Cowboys fan. Don’t misunderstand, I wasn’t a big enough Cowboys fan to love them nearly as much as the Steelers, but my love was strong enough that I cried when Joe Montana hit Dwight Clark in the back of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown pass in the final seconds of the 1981 NFC title game.
There was just something about the Cowboys and their rich history. They were a glamour team, sure, but one that had to overcome a lot of heart-break in the late-’60s before finally winning the Super Bowl following the 1971 season. The Cowboys may have only won two Super Bowls during their epic run that lasted from the late-’60s through the early-’80s, but they were literally about a dozen plays over a two-decade period away from being the greatest dynasty in the history of the NFL. All those players. All those Hall of Famers.
They were an excellent organization that deserved all the love and adoration they received as America’s Team.
I cheered for the Cowboys all throughout the 1980s, but my love turned to hate in the early-’90s after Jerry Jones bought the franchise and hired Jimmy Johnson to replace the legendary Tom Landry as his new head coach. I realize they were always cocky and arrogant, but they took it to a new level under Jones, Johnson and an array of trash-talking players led by Michael Irvin.
My hate for the Cowboys persisted through the 1990s, 2000s and part of the 2010s. But something happened a number of years ago, and I began to cheer for them again. Maybe it was nostalgia. Maybe it was tradition. Maybe it was the fact that Tony Romo and Dez Bryant were cheated out of their moment when Bryant’s obvious catch was ruled incomplete in the final moments of a divisional round playoff game against the Packers following the 2014 season.
Today, I still cheer for the Cowboys and want them to reign supreme in the NFC.
The Steelers and the Cowboys in the Super Bowl: How cool will that always be?
I know there will be plenty of people who “can’t believe you can cheer for them after they... (fill in some way they did something terrible to the Steelers)!” But this is my list. If you would like to share your list, or just tear mine to pieces, you know where the comments are.