Saturday, January 23, 2010

Best Steelers Games of the Decade

Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s Steelers beat writer, Ed Bouchette, is preparing an article on the best Steelers games of the 2000’s.  Yesterday, in the PG+ (pay) section, he solicited opinions from the reading public.

Rather than listing mine there where only paying customers can see, I decided to go all Man of the People and post mine here…  absolutely free, for no cost, gratis.  You’re welcome. 

You’ll find that my choices are not necessarily based on the quality of the game or degree of the Steelers skill in winning.  These are the games that affected me on an emotional level, right down to the DNA.

5.  Steelers/Browns 2002 Playoff Game
This was the one where the Browns went out to a 17-point lead and Tommy Maddox fired a huge 4th quarter comeback.  It was also the game in which the fabled “Renegade” video made its debut.  The downside is that it led to the ill-fated “pass first, run with Amos Zereoue second” experiment.

This game makes the list mostly because of my dad’s influence.  This was a case of a “Classic Browns Loss”, meaning one where they get just close enough to smell the victory before it gets yanked away from them in brutal fashion.

Even the last play of the game was a tease…


4.  Super Bowl XLIII: Steelers/Cardinals
What a game.  I was living and dying on the edge of my chair as the Steelers jumped out to a lead and then came very close to pissing the game away.  James Harrison pulled off the longest play in Super Bowl history with his 100-yard interception return for a touchdown as time ran out in the first half.  As he was running down the sideline, I was acutely aware that if he didn’t get in the end zone, the entire return would have been for naught.  (Well, aside from preventing the Cards from scoring.)

When the Cards scored to take the lead late, I was about to head for the steak knives in the kitchen.  But then I realized that there were still 2 minutes left.  Hell, that’s plenty of time for Ben to drive down the field.  He’d been doing it all year and damned if he didn’t do it again.  Santonio’s toe-tapping grab for the final TD was simply brilliant.  But God, how stressful was that waiting for the review to confirm the call?  I almost shredded my Terrible Towel with my bare hands, waiting for it.  

Was worth it though.  But we still had to sweat through the Cards' final possession.  They still had 35 second left and Warner was no slouch either.  The final sack and fumble put the perfect seal on the game.

On the downside, it made all my 5-Time Super Bowl Champion merchandise obsolete. 

3.  Steelers/Colts 2005 Playoff Game
 This was the most stressful game I’ve ever seen.

The Steeler trashed all expectations and came out throwing, opening up a quick 14-0 lead.  The defense was getting to Manning and sacked him twice in the 1st half.  Later when the Colts were starting to move, Troy Polamalu came up with another clutch interception, but the refs mistakenly overturned it.  The Colts eventually scored on that drive.  The NFL issued an apology the next day.  To me this Exhibit 1 of proof of why the NFL is not biased to favor the Steelers, as so many Ravens and other sore-loser fans constantly espouse.

When Joey Porter crashed in twice to sack Manning on 3rd and 4th down deep in Colts territory, late in the game, everyone knew the game was iced.  Steelers had 1st and goal inside the Colts 5.  A couple of runs from Jerome Bettis would put the game out of reach.

Except it didn’t.  Gary Brackett of the Colts put his helmet on the ball and the Bus fumbled… his only fumble of the entire season.  Nick Harper of the Colts was racing the other way, heading for a go-ahead touchdown, before Ben somehow came up with a shoestring tackle.

The Colts advance as far as field goal range before the Steelers defense could stop them.  Then as the Steeler Nation held their collective breath, the most accurate kicker in the league hooked the field goal attempt wide right.

Such a turn of events that game was… from the top of the world to the depths of despair and back again.  Everyone knew the Bus was going to retire after that season.  A fumble on the goal line leading to a playoff loss was NOT the way his career deserved to end.  I was totally exhausted by the end of this game and emotionally spent.

I also knew that the Denver Broncos were NOT keeping this team out of the Super Bowl… not with this kind of mojo going.  (By the way, this was the first season I kept my Mojo Tracking Spreadsheet, to chart the most effective Steelers gear to wear.  You’re welcome.)


2.  Steelers/Ravens Monday Night Massacre
In 2006, the Ravens hung an ugly loss on the Steelers in Baltimore, 27-0.  They just beat the hell out of Big Ben, sacking him like 7 times.  Bart Scott had an especially wicked blindside shot to Bens spine.  It seemed to me that the Ravens D was in his head.  Ben had never looked very effective against them.

The next game they played was a Monday Night in Pittsburgh, the following year.  The Steelers wore their throwback jerseys and just pummeled the living shit out of the Ravens on national television, 38-7 (and the “7” came in garbage time).

Ed Reed had a rough night.  First James Harrison separated Reed from both the ball and his senses on a punt return.


Later, Hines Ward also blew him up.

I think of this hit whenever the Rattie fans cry about Hines being a dirty player.  Do you see where Hines hit him?  Square in the front, helmet to chest.  Not from the back, not from the side, not at the knees.  Keep crying, bitches.  The NFL finally had to make up a rule this year.  Weenies…

Anyway, this was a game I needed.  Living here in Baltimore, I had to have some ammunition against these maggot Ratbird fans and it was delivered with a flourish.  Thank you to Mssrs. Harrison and Ward.  Ed Reed still wants someone to answer that damned phone.

1.  Super Bowl XL: Steelers/Seahawks
This one was a long time coming… 26 years since the last one.  When I was young, a Steelers Super Bowl appearance seemed to be my birthright.  Those were rich years that made me fall head over heels in love with Pittsburgh Steelers football.  Then came the 80’s.  (Cold shudder runs down back.)

I got to go to this game and I plan on posting on the whole experience as we draw closer to this year’s Super Bowl.  This was the top hat on an entire magical season.  There was the late-season rampage where every game was a must-win.  There were 3 incredible playoff games… the crazy win over the Bungles in Cincy, where my brother and I attended and almost got into a parking lot brawl, the stomach cancer-inducing game against the Colts (#3 above) and the Mile-High waxing of the Broncos.

It took 26 years to get back to this point. (Obviously I am ignoring Super Bowl XXX against the Cowboys, which I consider the all-time low point of my Steeler fan years.  I was practically comatose by the end of that one.)  26 years of ups and downs, good runs and bad, always with a crushing playoff loss in the end.
The Steelers were escorting Jerome Bettis to his hometown of Detroit, for what they knew would be his final game.  There was no way we were not going to be there, as it was a Perfect Storm.  The distance was drivable (no airfare).  We have friends in nearby Toledo (no hotels).  All we had to do was get tickets.  Luckily, my brother is known as The Ticketmaster.  We got our tickets… we paid dearly, but we got our tickets.

I’ll never forget sitting up in the 2nd deck of the end zone, watching the pre-game festivities.  As Aaron Neville and Aretha Franklin sang the National Anthem, I thought about my friend Brill and how much he’d be enjoying the moment.

The Steelers looked like hell for the first half.  I was wondering if spending all that dough might have been a terrible mistake.  Then suddenly, Willie Parker came flying down the field straight towards us.  I think I became a bit possessed at that moment because I began speaking in tongues…or at least yelling in tongues.  It sounded something like:
GOWILLIEGOWILLIEGOWILLIEGOWILLIEYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHH!
(Caution: Annoying song warning.  You may want to turn down the volume on this.)


At that moment, I knew we had a pretty good chance of winning.  Then when Antwaan Randle El lofted that perfect pass to Hines, we were right behind the play and could see Hines wide open, I knew the game would be ours.  I knew that the rap of Steeler fans having to live in the past would be over.  I knew that there was nothing anyone could say that would take this feeling away.


Not that they didn’t try, what with all the whining about penalty calls.  Geez, you’d thing the (scant few) Seahawks fans had been training in Baltimore.  Maggots… The Steelers made plays, the Seahawks committed the fouls, the refs called them.  End of story.

But that was it… a 26-year schneid was broken and I was there with my family and friends to see it.  Nothing can beat that.  Except maybe a couple of pork chops.

7 comments:

  1. I would definitely take your opinion over a beat writer. You represent the people!

    The Steelers have quite a history and you've documented it well.

    What did you think of the games last night? The only thing I care about is the Colts losing the Super Bowl. Unfortunately Minnesota probably had a better chance of doing that than New Orleans. If it weren't for all the silly fumbles and that bone headed interception to send it into overtime they'd be going. But I am happy for the Saints and New Orleans.

    We'll see what happens. But I may not even watch it.

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  2. For a short time, I thought the Jets had a chance. But then it was like Manning decided to stop playing around and get serious. Dude just picked them apart in the 2nd half.

    Was wildly entertained by the Saints/Vikes game and very happy that the Saints pulled it out. But I'd have rooted for either team against the Colts.

    It's not that I hate the Colts that much; it's more like I don't want them to reach 2 Super Bowls in 4 years, like the Steelers did. It's tough enough competing for decade honors with the Patriots, without the Colts crashing the party.

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  3. I know shit about football. There's some yards, and some innuendo-y sounding things that make me laugh, but if there's porkchops, save me a seat on the couch.

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  4. I just wanted to say Superbowl XL3 was a great thrill to watch. Harrison's 100 yd. interception return had me on the edge of my seat cheering him on. I especially love how SNL portrayed him in a skit where he's still trying to catch his breath. Hilarious!

    MaDay

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  5. Thanks, Maggie!

    And it was great having you there with us at my Game #1!

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  6. Good list! The only one I wouldn't have there would be the Baltimore 38-7 games, but since you're in Baltimore I can understand.

    In place of it I'd put the 2005 AFC Title game in Denver. To me, that game symbolized all of the pain we went through watching this team get so close over the years, but falling short. That win symbolized an entire generation of Steeler fans finally getting to taste what their parents did in the 1970's.

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  7. Bar Keep,
    First, thanks for coming by!

    Yes, I'll be the first to admit that choosing that Ravens game was purely a personal matter. I needed that game, just to survive here amongst the Ratbird faithful, who had grown a little big for their Rattie britches the prior year. Plus, those hits on Reed live in infamy.

    As important as beating the Broncos in the 2005 AFC Championship game was, I never had much doubt they'd do it... not after disposing of the Colts.

    The bottom line was that they got it done, and kept their date in Detroit, to see The Bus home. And that's something we're all proud of.

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