It comes down to this. While it's not the only time you'll face your former team, the first one is the most important. Gotta admit, I'm somewhat nervous. I saw what you did to your former team, the Baltimore Ravens, on Nov. 5, 2007.
Again, I apologize for doubting you.
It's in that spirit I am writing you this now. I know you don't care about this stuff, as you seem to have the sentimentality of an inanimate carbon rod, but you were this franchise. All the accolades given to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, those who really watched the team noticed when your teammates voted you MVP over him in 2007 - arguably Roethlisberger's best individual season.
Roethlisberger, in all his greatness, may have won the individual accomplishments, but you won our hearts and minds.
We fell for you when you destroyed the Browns fan. We smiled and nodded in a lack of surprise while the rest of the football world flipped out over your performance against the Ravens - a game that is still to this day one of the greatest individual performances in league history. We saw your Super Bowl run, equating it only to one a player who's been doubted his entire career could make.
I still firmly believe you would not have scored if you were not used to doing things no one else thought you could do.
That touchdown turned out to be huge in the grand scheme of that game, as well as your career. It capped off your Defensive Player of the Year season - an award that, to that point, even the great Troy Polamalu hadn't won.
The splash playmaking ability of this defense declined sharply when you were injured against Houston in Week 4 of the 2011 season. It was gone when you were recovering from knee surgery in the early going of 2012. You made us all remember what you were capable of when your favorite adversary, Ravens OT Michael Oher, once again let you by him in the second half of a game, and you stripped Joe Flacco of the ball, regaining possession for your offense.
People always paid more attention to the fines, and perhaps understandably so, but these kinds of plays sealed your legacy. The glory went to quarterback Charlie Batch, but you caused the turnover that led to the game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Again, playing second-fiddle to the quarterback's first chair. Such is the way of defensive players in the NFL today, I suppose. We know what you feel about Roethlisberger. We're even willing to let it slide.
You're missed in SteelerNation, James. We're hoping the Bengals start off 0-2, and a 52-6 victory seems like a nice final score. I wouldn't mind if Brad Gradkowski came in late for a few snaps, and you rack up a few sacks in the loss.
Maybe even a wayward Browns fan comes onto the field and you hunt him down, like a cheetah stalking a gazelle.
I just want to chant "SIL-VER-BACK! SIL-VER-BACK!" to myself once more. Send that chant as a text to my brother I've sent more often than anything else (it even shows up as an auto-correct option now). I want you to lose, James, because nothing will affect your legacy anyway.
Either way, best of luck. Be nice to Mike and Marcus, let Jonathan, Isaac and (God help us) Felix keep the ball. Don't lead with your head (you know all about that) and stay healthy.
Oh, and please come back for the 10 year Super Bowl championship anniversary in 2018. It won't be the same without you.
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