HOMBRE DE ACERO Posted December 29, 2005 Report Share Posted December 29, 2005 A HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON December 26, 2005 Pittsburgh defeated the Cleveland Browns 41-0 on Christmas Eve, putting the Steelers and their fans on the brink of Wild Card Eve. They have a chance, and in Pittsburgh, that's all they're asking for. The Steelers have the best fans in the nation. You can talk all you want about the Green Bay fanatics. They don't travel as well as Pittsburgh. No one does. The Cowboys and Dolphins sell a lot of merchandise. The Raiders are always among the most popular. But no one has the fans that the Steelers have. It's not like they're front-running fans, either. The Steelers have not won a Super Bowl in 26 years. Pittsburgh won the ninth, tenth, thirteenth, and fourteenth Super Bowls. That's all nice, but the one that will be played next is the fortieth. The Steelers were 15-1 last year, and had the easiest of roads to get to the Super Bowl. They lost the AFC Championship game at home, which is a hard thing to do unless you're the Pittsburgh Steelers. Remember, the Steelers have lost AFC Championship games in the last decade following the 1994, 1997, 2001, and 2004 seasons. And three of those games were played in Pittsburgh. It is as if Steelers founder Art Rooney, whose franchise had not won a single playoff game in its first 39 years, wanted to win so badly, he made a deal or some sorts. If his team, hosting its first ever postseason game at the new Three Rivers Stadium, could somehow beat the mighty Raiders, Rooney would never again ask for victory in a single game. You know what happened. In the final minute of that 1972 game, Franco Harris made his "Immaculate Reception." The Steelers are the fifth oldest franchise in the NFL, founded in 1933. Virtually all of their success came in the 1970s, however. Why would I think that the Steelers-without a Super Bowl victory in over a quarter-century, have a chance to win one in February? Why would I think that a number six seed-which has never won a Super Bowl-could win one this season? Why do I think the Steelers with five losses this year, have a better chance than last year's one-loss team? It's timing. Pittsburgh might be a better team this year, than last year. They have younger legs running the ball for them. Last season, they had a 33-year old running back carry the ball 250 times in the regular season, and expected him to carry them through the postseason. This year, Jerome Bettis has only 100 carries (58 in the last seven games), and the team is running behind the young legs of Willie Parker. Parker, who got his feet wet with 32 carries in 2004, has the bulk of the work this time around. But Bettis is there when needed. I want youth at running back, but experience at quarterback. Last year, Ben Roethlisberger was a rookie. This year, he enters Week 17 (and possibly the postseason) with three postseason games under his belt. Big difference. Pittsburgh had running back injuries and quarterback injuries and then their left tackle got injured. Now, everyone is healthy now that left tackle Marvel Smith is back. The Steelers need to win in Detroit this weekend to make the playoffs. They make the playoffs even with a loss, if Kansas City loses. And then, they get a shot at revenge. They will travel to either New England (which knocked them out of the Super Bowl last year) or to Cincinnati (which knocked them out of the division title with a win over the Steelers in early December). Don't bet against Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger, who missed four games this year (including Steelers losses to Jacksonville and Baltimore), has a 103.4 passer rating, far better than last year. The Steelers have scored 40 touchdowns, needing one to match their total of a year ago. The defense is just as hard to run on, allowing just 84 rushing yards per game. Safety Troy Polamalu is the best defensive players I've seen play this year. I don't know how, but he knows where the ball is going even before the offensive backs and receivers. Joey Porter has 11 sacks, and the team has 46 sacks (not counting linebacker James Harrison's sack of a fan who managed to get onto the field in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game against Cleveland). The Steelers have tried it the easy way, with home field advantage. Now, they hope to do it the hard way, on the road in the playoffs. They have to win versus Detroit. Then, they have to win in either Cincinnati or New England. Then, they have to win in Indianapolis. Then, they first have to win the AFC Championship Game, maybe in Denver. Then, they can become kings of the road by winning once more in Detroit, this time in Super Bowl XL. Of course, it won't be four straight road games for everyone on the Steelers. Jerome Bettis is from Detroit, Michigan. Bettis is an avid bowler. In his NFL career, he is rolling his 10th frame. If he marks, he'll get one extra ball. Don't bet against him. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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