File this one under, “Can’t make this stuff up.”
Remember the Pittsburgh Steelers magical playoff run leading up to Super Bowl XL? I’m sure we all remember it like it was yesterday. Everybody also remembers exactly where and what we were doing when Jerome Bettis fumbled against the Colts, nearly blowing our shot at an epic upset and his chance to go out on top. In the days that followed, a story even surfaced of a man suffering a heart attack as the result of that play.
What I’m trying to say here is Steeler Nation takes their football seriously.
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— nfluk.com (@nfl_uk) September 25, 2013
On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers meet the Minnesota Vikings in London, England in what has become the NFL’s annual version of an “international friendly.” Technically, the Vikings are the home team – the team’s owner agreed to sacrifice one of their eight home games as a combination veiled threat/silent protest over their decrepit stadium – but in reality the Steelers should enjoy the majority of crowd support.
Londoners are used to cheering for Big Ben, after all.
Besides, Steeler Nation extends not only from coast to coast but around the globe. If my google analytics are to be believed, my visitors span the globe from Mexico to China and from Norway to South Africa. Actually, if the Vikes wanted a home game, they probably should’ve played the game in Oslo. Despite the fact good seats are still available, the crowd should be a bunch of Terrible Towel waving hooligans.
Unless they’ve heard of Ryan Clark.
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A sea of Terrible Towels. Obnoxiously long lines at the gates as security personnel search each bag like they’re afraid Bane might show with a nuclear bomb – Something the NFL has mercifully attempted to fix with their Draconian new purse policy. A chorus of fans chanting “Heeeeath” after pretty much any tight end makes a catch. “Renegade” playing on the scoreboard.
All things which contribute to the experience of attending a Pittsburgh Steelers game at Heinz Field. On the flip side, there are just as many things one doesn’t expect to encounter. Empty seats. Cheerleaders.
Well, starting this Sunday when the Steelers kick off the 2013 season by welcoming the Tennessee Titans to the Big Ketchup Bottle, there will be a new aspect to the game day experience: Band Geeks.
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No NFL franchise has a stronger fan base than the Pittsburgh Steelers. And no NFL franchise does better with the ladies than do the Pittsburgh Steelers. So for the two or three female members of Steeler Nation who read this blog, consider this post a public service announcement. When the preseason kicks off at Heinz Field on Saturday night or when the season proper begins at home on September 8th, the Steelers and NFL have a message for you: “Leave your crap at home!”
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The Baltimore Ravens are Super Bowl Champions. Pardon me while I empty out my vomit bucket.
Okay, where were we? Oh, right. The unthinkable has happened. The Baltimore Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII. If Steeler Nation thought that team of thugs and loudmouths were insufferable before, we’re never going to hear the end of it now.
To add insult to injury, Joe Flacco was named Super Bowl MVP. For those scoring at home, Tyler Palko’s back-up now has more SB MVPs than Ben Roethlisberger. Oh it was well deserved as Bert played the game of his life. I just hope everybody is prepared when Flacco is ranked equal to or above Ben on those “Best Quarterbacks in the NFL” lists we’re inundated with every season.
Then again, they are basically tied with one championship apiece. Technically, Ben has two but Antwaan Randle El accomplished more with one pass than Ben did during the rest of the Seattle game. And Flacco is only now reaching his prime while Ben’s skills are in decline.
Yesterday’s win capped off perhaps the luckiest run by any team in recent memory. Going into the final month of the season, the Ratbirds were in full free fall when Charlie Batch engineered a win for the ages. People forget that Baltimore backed into clinching their division as with decent quarterbacking and decent coaching, the Steelers could have overtaken them. Baltimore had an easy first round playoff game against the overmatched Colts then should have lost to the Broncos if not for a blown coverage that led to the game tying TD followed by yet another choke job by Pey-Pey in OT. Sure every championship run requires a little luck (Ben making The Tackle on Roman Harper) but the Ravens seemingly had a rabbit’s foot up their ass all through this post-season.
That luck held up through the final whistle of last night’s game. Flacco underthrows his receiver by three yards but Jacoby Jones is so wide open he has time to come back (I wonder if Mike Wallace ever thought about trying that?) for what will go down as a 55 yard TD bomb. The Niners fall asleep on the second half kick-off and gift Baltimore a 108 yard return TD. After a power outage which I’m sure Roger Goodell is already planning on fining James Harrison for, San Fran staged an epic comeback which fell short when Michael Crabtree got mugged on 4th and goal but the refs kept their hankies in their pockets.
Anyway, the Ravens are your 2012 NFL champions. I promised silver linings so here are two. First, since San Francisco lost, your Pittsburgh Steelers are still the only NFL franchise with six Lombardi Trophies. And second, last night was the final time we’ll ever have to see Ray Lewis in an NFL uniform. If karma is a really a thing that exists, hopefully one day we will see him in a bright orange jump suit as karmic justice for the murder he already got away with (and kudos to Phil Simms for having the balls to mention that during the telecast instead of just repeating the company line).
Final lining? Um, the Pittsburgh Pirates report to Spring Training in 10 days.
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Super Bowl XLVII has finally been set. And for fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers, you couldn’t pick a worse match-up if you tried. Ordinarily we can find at least one team with which to align our rooting interests. When the Baltimore Ravens face the San Francisco 49ers for the championship in two weeks, the only satisfying outcome would be an asteroid annihilating the Superdome.
The Niners are probably the lesser of two evils. They’ve never done anything directly to the Steelers. They do, however, possess five Lombardi Trophies. Should they win, the Black and Gold would no longer sit alone atop the NFL hierarchy as the only franchise with six championships. And considering the Niners have a fairly young roster while the Steelers are old and in decline, they’d be a whole lot better bet to climb the “Stairway to Seven” before we do.
(As an side, isn’t it crazy that out of 47 Super Bowls, the Niners and Steelers have combined to appear in 13, over a full quarter of them, yet have never faced each other? Damn you, Tim McKyer!)
On the other side, we have the Baltimore Ravens. I don’t have to bother explaining why Steeler fans would rather have their pubic hair plucked out by a pair of rusty pliers than see the Ratbirds win the Super Bowl. It’s bad enough we’ll have to spend the next two weeks hearing what a great guy murdering thug Ray Lewis is, are we really ready for Joe Flacco to be considered an elite quarterback? Even worse, if he plays even remotely decent the pain will continue well into next season as talking heads immediately start ranking him ahead of Ben Roethlisberger despite 90% of his offense being checkdowns to tight ends and Ray Rice.
Can Steeler Nation live in a world where Tyler Palko‘s back-up is considered one of the NFL’s best?
The cherry on top of this shit sandwich is both teams are coached by a Harbaugh. The Niners’ Harbaugh si clearly the bigger asshole what with his childish theatrics after every minor setback although choosing between them is kinda like choosing between the best venereal disease. There are no winners here. We all lose.
Pray for the asteroid.
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This Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers face the Dallas Cowboys in a game brimming with playoff implications for both teams. A Steelers-Cowboys match-up really needs no added incentive. Steeler fans hate the Cowboys, Dallas fans detest Pittsburgh. Even though the two teams only play each other once in a blue moon, it doesn’t dissipate the level of animosity and anticipation between the fan bases.
The Cowboys have adopted the moniker of “America’s Team.” No two words inspire more bile to well up in the stomach of Steeler Nation. The fact Jerry Jones and his merry band of miscreants have adopted that as both marketing slogan and credo will never cease to anger us. Usually these rivalries mean more to fans than they do to the players but it seems that isn’t always the case.
Ben Roethlisberger gave an interview on Wednesday where he was asked about the “America’s Team” moniker. Ben suggested if the Cowboys represent American, perhaps the Steelers should be referred to as the “World’s Team.” Not the cleverest bit of trash talk although you have to admire that Ben’s heart is in the right place. Certainly no team has a larger or more passionate fan base be it in the US or around the world than do the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Bragging right are all well and good but that’s a secondary concern come Sunday afternoon. As I said, both teams are in the thick of a playoff race. Both teams need a win to keep pace. A loss at this juncture could severely cripple their post-season plans. In fact, a loss could very well wind up knocking a team out of the picture altogether.
STEELERS DEFENSE vs COWBOYS OFFENSE
Tony Romo continues to be Tony Romo. What that means is you always have to take the good with the bad. The good is when he’s on, he can be a very competent passer with the kind of arm capable of making all the throws. The bad is he’s still prone to boneheaded mistakes. Romo has throw for 4,000 in every season he’s been healthy and started and he’s less than 100 yards away from eclipsing that total once again. Unfortunately, coming off a year where he posted a career best TD/INT ratio (31/10) he’s fallen back to old habits this year, nearly balancing his stat sheet with 20 TD against 16 INTs.
One bit of good news for Romo and company is that his best target, WR Dez Bryant, is adamant about playing this Sunday despite suffering a broken finger. Bryant is currently 10th in yardage and has caught 9 of Romo’s TDs so his presence would definitely be missed. How effective he’ll be catching balls with a broken finger remains to be seen. Mike Wallace can’t catch balls with two perfectly manicured hands so maybe having all your fingers operational isn’t that big a deal.
The Dallas packing attack remains strong with TE Jason Witten continuing to be one of the most dangerous pass catching targets in the game. He and Bryant are complemented by Miles Austin, whose 2012 campaign has been beset by injury. Perhaps to their detriment, the Cowboys don’t run as much as they should although Felix Jones and DeMarco Murray remain threats out of the backfield.
I’m not gonna lie, Dallas’ passing game scares the heck out of me. Coming off an utter dismantling at the hands of Phillip Rivers (who really didn’t even play that well) and a crew of utter no-name receivers, this game has the potential to get real ugly real fast if the Steelers’ secondary doesn’t play a helluva lot better. To that end, the Steelers have already decided Curtis Brown, who was about as useful as tits on a giraffe against San Diego, will ride the pine in favor of Josh Victorian. Victorian, who spent the entire season on the practice squad, didn’t exactly shine in his brief stint last Sunday but I can safely say it’d be nearly impossible to play worse than Brown did.
LaMarr Woodley has been practicing and it appears the Steelers will have their oft-injured LB back for the game. Of course, the Football Gods have deemed it unfair for us to have both Woodley and James Harrison together for any length of time so look for one (or both) to leave after a handful of plays. On paper, it looks like the defense will be formidable with both Woodley and Troy Polamalu back after extended absences but I think we’ve seen enough of Troy to know he’s playing at half speed. Whether that’s good enough for him or Woodley or Harrison to force another big game-changing turnover remains to be seen.
STEELERS OFFENSE vs COWBOYS DEFENSE
Big Ben and company better bring their A-game or else last week’s anemic offensive effort is gonna look like an ArenaBall game by comparison. I don’t know what has gone wrong with Todd Haley‘s offense but something clearly has. Going back to the game against KC, the offense has been sputtering to a standstill even with Ben at quarterback.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the problem is because nothing seems to work. The running game doesn’t move the chains. The passing game creates opening only for passes to CLANG harmlessly off the receivers’ hands. The short quick routes still end with Ben running for his life. And the end result is a team with a load of offensive talent on paper struggling to score points.
The offensive line will look different yet again with rookie first rounder David DeCastro finally getting a start at RG. Ramon Foster will slide over to the left while Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey remains in the middle. Whether this line-up will open up some holes for the running game is anybody’s guess. It will certainly help matters if Jonathan Dwyer and iRed can get something going on the ground.
The Cowboys boast perhaps the fiercest pass rush we’ve seen all year. OLBs Demarcus Ware (11 sacks) and Anthony Spencer (8.5) will eat Ben up if the team becomes one dimensional. Corners Brandon Carr and Maurice Claiborne aren’t the flashiest secondary even though they’ve combined to form the 8th best pass D in the league. Dallas has a very strong defense so when the plays present themselves, it’ll behoove the Steelers to not let those opportunities slip through their fingers.
The last time these two teams met during the regular season, a pick six by Deshea Townshend turned the tide of the game and perhaps of the season. The Steelers went on to win and then went on a roll which culminated with a heartstopping victory in Super Bowl XLIII. Will this game be a similar springboard? Or will it be just another stop on the path to diminished expectations?
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If you’ve paid any attention to the news the past couple days, you probably heard a little something about the weather we’ve been having here in the Northeast. Hurricane Sandy, what always subtle media types are calling “Storm of the Century,” tore through the eastern seaboard causing epic damage. The brunt of her fury was felt in New Jersey and New York and while talking about things like football games may seem trivial when homes are destroyed and millions are without power, this is a football blog so let’s proceed while being fully aware of our place in the grand scheme of things.
This Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers are slated to play the New York Giants in the New Meadowlands aka MetLife Stadium. This would be their first game in the new home of the Giants and Jets since they opened their new digs back in 2010. Whether the game kicks off on Sunday is still up in the air. The field is reportedly a mess although I’m sure it’s no worse than Heinz Field after a typical weekend of football. The concern is with the power grid and whether public transportation will be operational enough for people to actually get to the game.
The league is reportedly planning to go ahead with a Sunday afternoon kickoff as scheduled. If problems arise, the reports are they’d move the game to Monday which kinda confuses me. If things are a mess on Sunday, why would they magically be solved 24 hours later? When New Orleans got sunk by Hurricane Katrina, they didn’t just change the date, they moved the game 2,000 miles north by relocating the venue from NO to New York.
Regardless, a game will be played some where.
In the meantime, I was planning to use the Black and Gold’s initial trek into MetLife to talk about a wonderful website called Stadium Journey. My folks moved to Tampa a few years back (and have now experienced the exact same number of hurricanes as we have, go figure) and I immediately started planning my Spring Training itinerary. In looking for a site that might point out what venues are most fun, I stumbled across Stadium Journey.
Stadium Journey is basically your AAA guidebook for sports arenas. They do a comprehensive job, and I mean COMPREHENSIVE job, of obsessively covering every possible place you can watch a sporting event. When you can find a review for the home of the Brevard County Manatees, you know you’re dealing with pros.
This being a Steelers site, I’m sure most of you wonder what they thought of the Big Ketchup Bottle. As you can see by their review of Heinz Field , they were quite impressed with almost every facet of the place. They didn’t even hold those hideous mustard yellow seats against us.
I occasionally receive a message from a member of Steeler Nation saying they’re coming to town to take in their first Steelers game. They usually conclude by asking if I have any tips regarding the experience. Unfortunately, I’ve never been to a Steelers game at Heinz Field. For one, I hate the cold weather. For two, I have a 55 inch plasma 3DTV. And lastly, I only get offered lousy seats for games nobody wants. So why would I want to freeze my ass off way up in peanut heaven when I can sit home and enjoy the game in ideal comfort?
If you want to know about Heinz Field, just check out Stadium Journey’s write-up. They do a better job than I would anyway.
One note, and it’s my only quibble with the review. I have been to Heinz for several Pitt games so I have to take issue with the only real negative part to the review concerning access to the stadium. The reviewer complains about parking, the price, location, and lack thereof. Well, when I go to Heinz, I take the Clipper over. Tickets are only $10, far cheaper than the expensive lots they complain about and the boat lets you off literally a stone’s throw from the stadium’s entrance. They run on a fairly regular schedule so you never have a long wait nor is the boat ever obnoxiously overcrowded. It’s by far the easiest and least stressful way to get to Heinz and I’m a little surprised the reviewer totally missed it.
So there you go, Stadium Journey, your one stop shop for all the Heinz Field info you’ll ever need. And while your over there, check out some of the other entries. We all know how Steeler Nation loves to take over opposing stadiums so if you’re one of the millions and millions who live outside Steeler Country, bookmark the site in case you ever decide to be a member of those invading hordes.
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Apologies for being late to the party with this but I’ve been battling a hellacious cold this week.
On Tuesday afternoon, it was announced the Pittsburgh Steelers will play in London next season. You lucky bastards with season tickets need not worry, the game is being considered a home game for their opponent, the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikes, in case you’ve forgotten the roof-collapsing debacle a couple winters ago, hate their home stadium and will do anything to avoid playing there. Even fleeing to other countries, apparently.
When this news was announced, I saw a bunch of Steeler fans on twitter bitching about how unfair it was to ask our boys to travel all the way to England right smack in the middle of the season. If the Steelers go on a four game losing skid after coming home, I’m sure those cries will only increase. The Patriots are playing in London this year so we’ll see how a good team handles the trip. Personally, I don’t see it as that much different than having to travel out to California or Seattle.
Besides, if you wan to blame anybody for the Steelers being chosen for this “honor,” blame Dan Rooney. The Ambassador to Ireland has stated on several occasions one of his dreams is to see his team play in his home land. When reporters questioned him, he quickly backed down by saying he meant an “exhibition” game but let’s be real. The NFL isn’t exporting an exhibition game, if they send the Steelers overseas, it’ll be for a game that counts.
The NFL’s attempt to teach Europeans that football means a manly game full of exciting action and not a sissy sport where dudes in short shorts fall on the ground pretending to be hurt every two minutes have thus far fallen flat. The World League has long since folded and the annual London game has struggled to sell tickets. What’s more, the crowds that have shown up have been largely apathetic.
If you’ve ever watched World Cup soccer, you know soccer fans are among the rowdiest crowds in sports. For those of you who don’t keep abreast of your international politics, the Irish and English don’t particularly like each other. The violence has mostly subsided but they still love to beat the shit out of each other in athletic contests.
No doubt the Steelers were chosen with the hope they bring their Irish connection to the game. Steeler Nation is the most passionate fan base in sports but if that happens, you’ll see things taken to whole new level.
And we’ll also be treated to roughly 532 “Big Ben” jokes in the week leading up to the game. My only regret is the game won’t be carried by ESPN. Resident clown Chris Berman’s head would likely explode from all the lame puns he could belch forth. And if that happened, well, I’d almost be willing to trade some jet lag for the chance to get that goof off the air.