The Pittsburgh Steelers, and by proxy their fan base, are a very fortunate bunch. In their years of existence the black and gold have wrapped their hands around the Lombardi trophy on six occasions, which ties an NFL record. The NFL isn’t baseball, where a team like the New York Yankees sports 27 World Series championships. Parity is king of the NFL, and it makes the game, and competition, the ultimate.
At the ripe age of 38, soon to be 39, I have been fortunate to watch the Steelers play in the big game four times.
Super Bowl XXX
Super Bowl XL
Super Bowl XLIII
Super Bowl XLV
The Steelers have won two of those four games, and I can honestly say each game brought with it a set of experiences which have carried on to this day.
Time to take a trip back to these games, and how they’ve shaped me as a fan...
Super Bowl XXX
Dallas Cowboys - 27
Pittsburgh Steelers - 17
Being born in 1983, the first Steelers team I truly fell in love with was the 1994 Steelers team. At the age of 11, I was completely infatuated with Pittsburgh sports at that time. The early 90s Penguins and Pirates dominated their respective sports, please don’t bring up the Pirates and Atlanta Braves or the name Sid Bream, and the Steelers followed with an incredible team to match their city counterparts. I was a huge Barry Foster fan in ‘94, and that Blitzburgh defense was amazing to watch.
After falling short vs. the San Diego Chargers in the ‘94 AFC Championship Game, the Steelers made it to the dance in ‘95. Huge underdogs to the Cowboys the Steelers were able to match Dallas and bring a unique brand of intensity to the game. They mirrored their head coach, a young Bill Cowher. I still remember the onside kick, Bam Morris running over Dallas defenders, and even the Neil O’Donnell interceptions. I can tell you exactly where I was on the couch when the game ended. I remember watching Bill Cowher give his late wife a kiss and embrace his daughters after the game.
I was young, but after that game I knew I was hooked on this football team. I just never thought it would take a decade for the team to get back to the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XL
Pittsburgh Steelers - 21
Seattle Seahawks - 10
What can be said about this game which hasn’t already been said about this amazing team/playoff run? The first sixth seed to make it to, and win, the Super Bowl. I might be alone in this regard, but I was already emotionally drained by the time this game even started. The emotion of the Wild Card game vs. the Cincinnati Bengals where Carson Palmer tore his ACL, the unbelievable ending to the Indianapolis Colts game with Ben Roethlisberger’s tackle, the AFC Championship Game win over Jake Plummer and the Denver Broncos.
It was all so emotionally taxing, to the point I watched the Super Bowl and was shockingly calm. When I look back at the game, I hate how the officials injected themselves into certain moments of the game. I also hated how poorly Roethlisberger played. Nonetheless, getting that “one for the thumb” was something I was so happy to see. It had taken a long time, but I finally got to experience the Steelers win a Super Bowl, like my father had told me about for so long.
Super Bowl XLIII
Pittsburgh Steelers - 27
Arizona Cardinals - 23
The Steelers vs. Cardinals wasn’t supposed to be much of a contest, especially with Pittsburgh’s defense being as dominant as they’d been all season. Watching Larry Fitzgerald out run Troy Polamalu into the end zone left me with such a sinking feeling. No one knew it would only set up one of the most memorable finishes in Super Bowl history. That entire drive, not just the ending, was vintage Roethlisberger.
This game was marked not just with the team’s sixth championship ring, but the fact my family had expanded the November before the game. My oldest, and only, son was born just three months prior. When Santonio Holmes caught the touchdown pass I swear my head touched the ceiling of our condo where we lived at the time. My next thought was how my son needed to see this.
Much to the chagrin of my wife, I went into our son’s room and wrapped him in a Terrible Towel to celebrate the win. He doesn’t remember this game, obviously, but was an extremely memorable moment for me as a father. This game was special in every possible way.
Super Bowl XLV
Green Bay Packers - 31
Pittsburgh Steelers - 25
Of all the Steelers’ Super Bowls I’ve witnessed, this is the only one I refuse to watch a second time. I should go back and watch it at some point, but this one was a gut punch in a lot of ways. One of the main reasons it hurt worse was the fact I knew it was the last swing of that legendary defense. You could see the household names a step slower than usual as the Packers moved the ball on the proud defense.
Everyone will point to Rashard Mendenhall’s fumble caused by Clay Matthews, but if you watch the play again you’ll see if David Johnson doesn’t whiff on his block that play never happens. You can watch the play HERE.
Despite the loss, I never fathomed the Steelers would start a drought of not making the Super Bowl with that game. It was the prime of Roethlisberger’s career, and the team just needed to put together some pieces on defense.
Yet, here we are not just in the midst of a playoff winless streak, dating back to 2016, but a team without a quarterback and in the search for a new General Manager. Nonetheless, every one of the aforementioned games has shaped me as a fan, and ultimately as a writer. If you want to hear more about this, check out my Let’s Ride podcast on Friday in the player below:
There are those who have a much richer history with the Steelers than me. My father, for example, has witness all eight of the Steelers’ Super Bowls, and has also seen the Pittsburgh Penguins in six Stanley Cup Finals and saw two Pittsburgh Pirates World Series championships.
It doesn’t matter. We all have our own journey with this football team.
What’s yours? Feel free to share that in the comment section below, and enjoy the Super Bowl this evening!
(Note: The “Letter From the Editor” feature runs every Sunday in the NFL offseason.)