By: Bob George/BosSports.net
September 02, 2002

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Michael Skakel still thinks someone else killed Martha Moxley.

And the Pittsburgh Steelers still think they rule the AFC.

Eight months have passed, and Steeler fans are still basking in a glory they never saw. All those New Orleans hotel rooms that the players and fans reserved were used up, all right, except that it didn't click that the people using them dress in navy blue instead of black. Kordell Stewart can probably sit down with you and tell you all about how well he matched up against Kurt Warner in Super Bowl XXXVI.

Face it, it was their birthright to win that game on January 27th. They were ten-point favorites over the New England Patsies, and they were at home in front of a rabid Heinz Field crowd. Blood as red as ketchup would be spilled all over the field, all of it from the visitors. It would be Bill Hillgrove and Myron Cope singing their way off the air, and not Gil Santos and Gino Cappelletti.

Bill Cowher had made it clear to everyone that the Steeler Super Bowl logistics were all set. All they had to do was to get by the poor Patsies on Sunday, then head to New Orleans for a real football game against the mighty St. Louis Rams. The Patsies were just a formality; Cowher probably was more concerned about players screaming for tickets for their wives and families than the ungodly remote possibility that the Patsies might actually give them some semblance of a game.

Stop it, Bob, says Joe Patriot Fan. My sides are splitting. Tears are running down my face. I can't stand it anymore. After Joe settles down, he runs to his VHS tape library and pops in a tape of the January 27th classic (for his own private viewing, we assume, and we understand that Joe can't spell "disseminate"). And Joe begins to laugh so hard that he resembles Drew Bledsoe at game's end.

Eight months have passed, and the Steelers still don't get it.

What's even more puzzling over why the Steelers are dishing out smack towards the Patriots is that the Patriots followed up the win over Pittsburgh with a win way down yonder in New Orleans over St. Louis. The Patriots don't merely wear the moniker of AFC Champions. They happen to be World Champions. Maybe Steeler Nation was too depressed to watch the championship game and figured all along that the Rams cremated the Patriots. Why bother to watch when Warner will ring up 60 points against the Patsies by halftime?

Well, at least we know. And this being another Steeler week here in New England, we believe it's time to educate this poor NFL subculture named Steeler Nation. Call it your good deed for the month, your Good Samaritan project.

If you know people who swear allegiance to the Steelers, now is the time to knock some sense into these people who have absolutely no handle on reality. These are the kind of people who will insist on one plus one being three if that's what they think. These are the kind of people who follow the preachings of the beeheaded Cope rather than the mellifluous Santos. These are the people whose knowledge of the game is so "terrible" that their towel they wave bears that very word.

But they are fiercely loyal fans, some of the best in the NFL. All we have to do is acquaint them with "reality", and then they'll be the complete package. It appears that, while Pittsburgh has never been recognized as having "knowledgeable fans" like the greater Boston area, Steeler fans will indeed benefit greatly from our little lesson in reality.

So, here goes.

Lesson One: History

Steeler fans think that just because they won four Super Bowls, they are the greatest thing pro football has ever seen. While Patriot Nation concedes that winning the four Super Bowls was an incredible feat (one of this writer's top ten NFL Films clips is seeing Art Rooney hold aloft the Super Bowl IX trophy, the first of the four), Steeler Nation needs to come down off of its lofty pedestal and realize a few things about these four Vinces.

First of all, the Steelers were a nothing franchise for 40 years (to this day, the Steelers are 15 games below .500 all-time) until Mr. Rooney received his first Vince from Pete Rozelle. Second, as great as those Steel Curtain teams were (and most of those players are deservedly in the Hall of Fame), the Steelers' window of real greatness closed after Super Bowl XIV, and has never re-opened. Third, as great a coach as Chuck Noll was in the 1970s, he quickly lost touch with the NFL in the 1980s and faded away after the 1991 season. Fourth, despite his obvious success as a head coach, Cowher, if he were to retire tomorrow, would always be remembered most for his failures at home in the AFC Championship Game.

You can say that the Patriots have a wacky history, and that the snowplow game pales greatly to the Immaculate Reception. But the Patriots have done more in their first 42 years than the Steelers did in their first 42. The Steelers finally reached their first Super Bowl in their 43rd year. The Patriots have been to three of them already.

And finally, the Steelers don't have the most Vinces in NFL history. The 49ers and Cowboys do. While it doesn't tarnish the four the Steelers have won, it diminishes the impact just a little bit.

Lesson Two: Who really won, and why

Stewart has been known for some real prime slop to come out of his mouth during his strange career. But maybe the sloppiest of all slop came at the AFC Championship Game postgame press conference. This supposed newly mature leader of the Steeler offense sat behind a microphone and proclaimed to the football world that "Sometimes, the best team doesn't win."

In a way, Stewart is right. But in the game he refers to, the best team did win. The Patriots were the best team. The score said Patriots 24, Steelers 17. Teams that are better don't suffer two crippling special teams mistakes. Teams that are better don't have a running game that nets eight yards on nine carries. And most of all, and we mean most of all, teams that are better don't have quarterbacks who throw interceptions on the final two drives of the game with his team down seven points.

Where John Elway would have scored two touchdowns, Stewart threw two picks. Where Roger Staubach would have created another Steve Sabol classic, Stewart threw two picks. Where Joe Montana would have made Jerry Rice even more of a football God, Stewart threw two picks.

Heck, Bledsoe finished under .500 (10 for 21). Who had the better game between Bledsoe and Stewart?

Lesson Three: Humility

Stewart has the biggest problem here, but so do Wayne Gandy, Troy Edwards and Lee Flowers. And not because he's a dirty tackler.

Gandy and Flowers went ballistic on their special teams after the game. One of the Steeler players, perhaps one of the aforementioned gents, said in the Pittsburgh papers that their special teams "suck". Edwards blasted the officials on a bad call (the punt play where he ran out of bounds, forcing the re-kick that Troy Brown returned for a touchdown). Hines Ward also chimed in with his disdain for the Steeler special teams.

Did any of the Steeler players say anything resembling "Gosh, the Patriots really played a great game!"? If anyone did, e-mail us.

Naturally, the fan base is right with the team. The Patriots are still the Patsies who happened to get lucky. The Patsies got lucky because the Steelers gave up 14 points on special teams mistakes. If this game is played 100 times, the Steelers win 99 of them. That sort of thing.

Never mind that the Patriots have won three of the last five meetings between the two clubs. The two the Steelers did win were thanks to a lousy Bledsoe pass to Kevin Henry and a crippled offense that could only score six points coupled with a defense that gave up only seven.

Thanks to all this lack of humility, the Steelers will be dealing with a Patriot team next Monday night which may be angrier than them, instead of the other way around. Defending champs are always the hunted. But in this case, the Patriots may turn out to be hungrier, as their opponents seem three times as arrogant as they were in January, even though the Patriot players go home each night and admire this huge silver ring they received recently.

We're just glad that it's football time again. Time to defend the Vince, and time to see if the Patriots are tough enough to do it with everyone gunning for them.

And it all begins in one week. Monday night, in front of a man in the broadcast booth who will probably once again tell them to kill the clock and play for overtime.

And a black and gold team across the way who may never, ever be intelligent or gracious enough to pay them their due respect.


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