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When a game is more than a game, even 10 years later

Some Super Bowls hold memories for different reasons other than the game itself.

Super Bowl XLV Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Today, February 6, 2021, is the 10 year anniversary of the last time the Pittsburgh Steelers appeared in a Super Bowl. Playing the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV in Cowboys’ Stadium, the Steelers came up short while seeking their seventh Lombardi trophy. I know it brings up some frustrating memories with Steelers’ Nation, but for me it hits home for a whole different reason.

Shockingly, I don’t remember much of this game.

I remember various things from the game since I’ve seen them multiple times over the last 10 years. But I often like to think back to the real-time emotions I was feeling and the location where I was watching various Steelers games over the years. I remember everything about the magical 2005 post season run. I also remember holding my newborn daughter in my arms trying to get her to go to sleep during Super Bowl XLIII only to have my wife take over because my anxiousness was not allowing her to relax. But the Super Bowl following the 2010 season is memorable for me outside of the actual game.

It all started January 2, 2011. I got a call that day that my mother was taken to the hospital and was unable to walk. She had attempted to get up in the night but collapsed due to no feeling in her legs. After many tests, it was a determined she had a 20 inch lesion on her spine. After days of trying to figure out exactly what was going on with her, it was determined that she had Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO) which is a disease similar to Multiple Sclerosis. In fact, before it was given a name it used to be called “hidden MS.” Little did my mother realize it that losing her vision in one eye three and a half years earlier was the first sign of her autoimmune disease. There was just so little known about it at that time that even multiple eye specialists had never heard of such a thing in order to help properly diagnose her before it attacked her spinal column.

So what does this have to do with the Steelers and Super Bowl XLV? It’s simple. Almost every year I watch the Super Bowl with my parents. Even when I was in a small one bedroom apartment for Super Bowl XL, my parents traveled more than two hours and watched the game with me. But when my mom got sick and the doctors told her she would have 3 to 6 months of inpatient physical therapy in order to learn how to walk again, not watching the Super Bowl with my parents was the last thing on my mind.

To my surprise, it was not the case for them.

I don’t remember a lot of the details as the Steelers made their way through the 2010 postseason. I remember the Steelers coming back from 14 points down at halftime against the Ravens, and I remember Maurkice Pouncey being injured and not being able to play in the Super Bowl. But I can’t even remember where I was when I watched those games. I do remember talking to my father about them as something else to escape from everything going on with my mom. She was working really hard to learn how to walk again. But my dad was doing his best to keep things together at home, often times by himself.

My mom had talked about coming to my house for the Super Bowl, but I just assumed it was kind of a running joke. She was supposed to be in the hospital for months, and it didn’t help that I lived in a split foyer home where our main living area is on the second floor. The steps into my front door and then up to the living room wasn’t easy before she was diagnosed.

To not draw out the story anymore, I don’t remember a lot of what happened in the Super Bowl XLV. My memory of that day comes from watching my mother with her pink cane go one step at a time and come up into my living room in order to watch the game. She had made so much progress she had moved from in-patient to our-patient in weeks instead of months. Coming to my house for the game, even before we knew it would be the Steelers, was an overzealous goal she set. And she did it.

Could I have traveled to watch the game at my parents? Absolutely. But that’s not what they wanted. My mom needed this win as part of her recovery, and she got it.

Trying to remember in real time what happened, there is only one thing I recall from that game against the Packers. It was the two-minute warning. I said to my parents how if someone would have told me the Steelers would have the ball with two minutes left with a chance to win the game, I would have taken them up on it. That’s all I remember.

So here I am, 10 years later thinking about the last time Steelers made a Super Bowl. When I look back on that day, I remember so much more than the game. More importantly, on this day 10 years later my mother will once again walk up the steps into my living room along with my dad and spend some time with her grandkids before waking up on Sunday to watch another Super Bowl with my family.

It might not be the Steelers playing, but I’m still grateful for another year and another Super Bowl to watch with loved ones.