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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NFL Films co-founder and president Steve Sabol passed away yesterday at the age of 69. While Myron Cope was indisputably the voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers, late NFL Films narrator John Facenda provided the background vocals. For those of us too young to have experienced the Steel Dynasty of the 70s, our knowledge and appreciation of those teams is firmly rooted in the specials that NFL Films devoted to them. It can easily be argued that the work of Steve Sabol and his crew did as much as anybody to establish what we now call Steeler Nation.
They also gave the Cowboys their obnoxious “America’s Team” moniker but we’ll let that one slide.
As I’ve mentioned several times, I was born in the late 70s. I was too young to watch the Steel Dynasty and by the time I started watching football in the mid 80s, the Steelers pretty much stunk. Then one day my mom and I went to the video store and there in their bargain bin was a bunch of vhs tapes from NFL Films. I bought one about Terry Bradshaw (“Greatest Sports Legends,” natch) and another entitled “The NFL’s Best Ever Teams.” Thanks to the magic of youtube, I actually found the Steelers segment from that tape, which I posted above.
I watched that Best Teams tape dozens of times but I watched the Steelers segment probably closer to a hundred. I wore that bit of tape out to the point I still remember there was a bit of distortion and rollback at the part where TB comically tries to block an Oiler on John Stallworth‘s reverse. You youngsters don’t know how lucky have it with your dvds and blu rays. Good grief, I’m turning into my father.
Anyway, Steve Sabol was the man responsible for that and many many other programs devoted either whole or in part to our beloved Steelers. And don’t think for one moment those programs didn’t play a major role in spreading the gospel that is the Black and Gold. I have a complete collection of NFL Films Year in Reviews for every Steelers Super Bowl team (you can get the first five in the must own Pittsburgh Steelers: The Complete History dvd collection but have to buy Road To Super Bowl XLIII separately) and rewatch them before every season or just when I feel like getting psyched up for a game. They’re a fantastic source for great memories or to simply learn a little about the history of your favorite team.
In conclusion, thank you, Steve. Thank you for the countless hours of knowledge and entertainment your work provided us. Thank you for being the preeminent chronicler of the game we follow and the team we love. You will truly be missed. Good-bye and God Bless.
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Eighteen days. In eighteen days, the Pittsburgh Steelers will begin reporting to Latrobe for training camp. The 2012 NFL season will be officially underway. It’s been too long.
I apologize for my sporadic posting schedule this summer. Actually, I’m not. When you have a ton of material to write about during the off-season, that’s usually a sign that things aren’t going well with your team. My most active off-season ever was a couple years ago when Ben Roethlisberger got into a little bit of a situation down in Georgia and I’m sure nobody ever wants to see a repeat of that fiasco.
Thankfully the only big stories to occur since the Black and Gold’s unceremonious exit from the playoffs were the exit of longtime Steelers Hines Ward and James Farrior, the hiring of Todd Haley, and Mike Wallace turning into a whiny little bitch. All things considered, a fairly tranquil off-season. My updates will continue to be a tad sporadic until training camp gets underway but once they kick things into gear, so will Total Steelers. So I thank you for your patience and I hope you’re as excited about the upcoming season as I am.
Thirty-four. While the Steelers and Pens enjoyed totally forgettable seasons, the biggest story in Pittsburgh sports has suddenly become the resurgent Pittsburgh Pirates. With a little less than half the season remaining, the Bucs are a mere 34 wins away from breaking what has become one of the most painful and embarrassing streaks in sports history. With 34 more wins, the Pirates will finally break a string of 19 consecutive losing season.
But the Battlin’ Buccos are actually setting their sights higher than ending the longest sub .500 streak in North American sports history. The team is currently a stunning 48-37 and hold first place in their division. With a top notch pitching staff led by Yankees castoff AJ Burnett and an every day line-up featuring the most exciting player in baseball, Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates might have something special going on. And I think I speak for all ‘Burghers when I say, “Why Not Now?”
Confession time: the Pirates are actually my first true sports love. I was in kindergarten when the Steel Dynasty won their fourth Super Bowl so growing up, I really had precious few chances to witness the glory of living in the City of Champions. The Steelers had a couple decent playoff runs in the 80s and the Pens had Mario Lemieux but there wasn’t any true championship buzz in the city until 1990. That was the year Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla and Andy Van Slyke led the Pirates to the first of three straight playoff berths. The 1990 NLCS was the first playoff game I ever attended live (Screw you, Jose Rijos!) and the first time I obsessed over a Pittsburgh sports team on a daily basis.
I loved the Pirates and it was really hard for me to accept what has happened to them since that fateful night in Atlanta. I know this is a Steeler blog and some of you probably couldn’t care less about the Pirates but I think most Steelers fans are Pittsburgh sports fans, period. I know I am. So while we look to Latrobe and what we hope is another glorious season for boys in Black and Gold, let’s keep one eye on the goings on over at PNC Park. The Pirates may be twenty years late to the party but that doesn’t make them any less welcome.
Let’s Go Bucs! Here We Go, Steelers!
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Ah, college graduation. That rite of passage when one chapter of your life closes and another begins. Of course, I graduated in my early twenties with about six figures worth of debt to my name. Something tells me Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t have to worry about repaying his student loans. And while he graduated this weekend some nine years after leaving Miami University (Ohio) for the NFL, it’s nice to see the big lug finally earn his degree. He even trotted out the sham wife (who, to be fair, has ditched the butch haircut and is looking much better these days. She still dresses like my grandma, though.) to
keep him away from post-graduation keggers share in his special day.
While Big Ben was off accepting his bachelor’s degree in education (EDUCATION? No wonder US academic standards continue to plummet), the Steeler were busy getting acquainted with their 2012 draft class. The new CBA makes contract negotiations fairly standard in terms of length and base salary, the only quibbling point left is over bonus money. NT Alameda Ta’amu was the first draft pick to sign, with good reason as the Steelers lavished their nose tackle-of-the-future with a generous deal worth about $2.5 million. To put that in perspective, fourth round pick Ta’amu received roughly the same deal second rounder LaMarr Woodley got back in 2007. RB Chris Rainey was the second player to sign although his contract details haven’t been announced.
Regardless of contract, all our draft picks, undrafted rookies, and non-roster invitees were in town this weekend for their first off-season mini-camp. Sadly not among them was Trick Shot Quarterback Alex Tanney, who I mentioned in my recap of undrafted free agents last week. Tanney decided to sign with the Bills when he found out we also invited former Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson to camp. Johnson, who holds the honor of being the first overall pick of the 2011 United Football League draft, bounced around between the UFL, NFL, and ArenaBall last year. Johnson is a big guy (6’5 240 pounds) with a big arm who also has pretty good mobility for a guy his size. And he’s African-American, like every other quarterback on our roster not named Ben Roethlisberger. I only felt compelled to point that out because like 10% of the QBs in the league are African-American yet the Steelers are going into camp with four on the roster (not to mention Dennis Dixon is still trying to find work). Mike Tomlin must think he’s Jesse Jackson or something.
Anyway, rookie orientation begins with the assigning of jerseys which is always an interesting proposition. The Steelers don’t retire numbers, another of their strange little quirks like refusing to alter their uniform design or field a squad of big-haired Polish girls waving pom-poms. Technically, they have retired one number, #70, worn by Hall of Fame defensive end Ernie Stautner from 1950-63. It was retired in 1969 which to you Steeler historians out there will pretty well explain why his was the last number to be “officially” taken out of circulation.
Vaunted rookie guard David DeCastro has drawn countless comparisons to former Steelers All-Pro Alan Faneca since the moment his name was called by the Ginger Dictator. DeCastro initially took #61 but after second thought (or perhaps some prodding from the Steelers’ PR staff) switched to Faneca’s #66. Maybe they’re both really big Penguins fans. Fellow rookie lineman Mike Adams took freshly retired Chris Hoke‘s #76. Ta’amu picked one of the more iconic numbers, choosing to wear the #95 most frequently associated with Greg Lloyd. Lloyd’s number was actually worn by Joey Porter early in his career but he got sick of being called “the next Greg Lloyd” so he changed it to #55. It’s pretty safe to say Ta’amu won’t have to worry about those comparisons as even if he blossoms into the anchor at the middle of the Steelers D, there’s not much confusing a mouthy linebacker built like a brick house with a fatass lineman charged with the dirty work up front.
Then we have perhaps one of the more ignorant things the Steelers have done in recent years. Rookie linebacker Sean Spence asked for and received #51. Granted James Farrior may not be a Hall of Famer or even one of the top ten linebackers in Steelers history (although that’s arguable) but he was key contributor to three Super Bowl bound teams not to mention a long-time defensive captain. They couldn’t wait ONE FREAKIN’ YEAR before peddling his number out to some midget who’ll probably be cut in a year or two?? Not to mention for those hoping Farrior might be brought back at a later date, I guess now it’s clear the Steelers have turned that page.
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Jim Clack. Ray Mansfield. Steve Furness. Joe Gilliam. Dave Brown. Ray Oldham. Willie Fry, Jr. Steve Courson. Dwight White. Ernie Holmes. Tyrone McGriff. Mike Webster. All members of the Steel Dynasty. All passed away in their 40s and 50s, many from heart disease/heart attacks at an unusually early age. Linebacker David Little had a heart attack while working out, causing the barbell to land on his throat, killing him at the age of 46. Terry Long committed suicide. Justin Strzelczyk led police on a high speed chase before slamming head on into a tanker truck. He was only 36.
Moving away from the Pittsburgh Steelers, a spat of suicides have plagued the NFL in recent years. Eagles safety Andre Waters took his life in 2006. Former Bears safety Dave Duerson killed himself in February of 2011. His suicide was what really fueled Roger Goodell‘s ongoing crusade against dangerous hits and crystallized the league’s resolve to crack down on concussions.
And now we Junior Seau.
Seau was the latest, and arguably highest profile, ex-player to commit suicide, taking his life yesterday at the age of 43. I’m not going to go into a long syrupy tribute to Seau because, frankly, taking one’s own life is something which deeply offends me. It’s a selfish, cowardly act which does nothing but create a world of pain and heartache for those you profess to love. If you tuned into the Four Letter yesterday to catch the breaking news, you no doubt saw the heart-wrenching footage of Seau’s mother which ESPN rather shamelessly exploited by playing on a near-constant loop. So while my sympathy does go out to Seau’s family, I want to confine my comments to how Seau’s death shines light on a very disturbing aspect of professional football.
Yesterday, Commissioner Goodell suspended four players involved in the New Orleans Saints BountyGate case, most notably Jonathan Vilma, who received an unprecedented full season ban. I was on Twitter when the news broke and almost without exception, every Steeler tweeted their displeasure with the Goodell’s ruling. LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison posted the above, which only goes to show the players don’t get it. Nobody has been more critical of Goodell’s heavy-handed punishments than me but what the Saints did goes far beyond what any Steeler was ever fined/suspended for. Putting bounties on players for the express purpose of injuring them is no different than a bookie in Vegas paying a legbreaker to rough somebody up in a back alley. What the Saints did wasn’t poor sportsmanship, it was a CRIMINAL act.
Harrison does make an intelligent point, however. Don’t kid yourselves, the NFL knew it was eating these guys up and spitting them out. Goodell was promoting “player safety” while simultaneously pushing an 18 game season. The owners have been and always will be a bunch of self-serving assholes.
The owners have never given a crap about the players unless they had to. And it’s finally come to a head with the lawsuit Harrison references where thirty-one former NFL players have filed suit against the league for not protecting them against concussions. That and the recent spate of suicides, all of whom were later found to be suffering from serious brain damage, has revealed an ugly truth about the game we love. As the players have become bigger, stronger and faster and the game has become more hard hitting and violent, the players bodies simply can’t take it. And the brain is usually the first part that goes to mush.
Mike Webster is one of the greatest Steelers ever. He’s a Super Bowl champion, the standard for his position, and a Hall of Famer. On a personal note, he was also my grandpa’s favorite player. But he lived out the last years of his life sleeping in his truck and unable to function in society. His brain was so damaged from years of wars in the trenches, he was a veritable walking vegetable. I know it’s easy to say, “Players know what they’re signing up for,” but nobody should be subjected to a life like that. Nobody.
And it’s long past time the NFL and its players pull their heads out of their asses and take steps to ensure more players don’t end up like Seau or Webby in the future.
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The Pittsburgh Steelers have finally found their man. Or, more accurately, Art Rooney II found his man. After all, the Deuce seems to be the one calling all the shots these days. I wonder if he even bothered to consult his head coach or superstar quarterback before making his latest move.
It appears former Kansas City Chiefs head coach Todd Haley will be named the Black and Gold’s new offensive coordinator. This will be a homecoming for Haley, a native of Upper St. Clair and the son of former Steelers player and director of player personnel (1971-90), Dick Haley. Upon graduating from Florida in 1991, where Todd’s athletic resume consisted solely of playing for the Gators vaunted golf squad, young Haley hooked on with the New York Jets as a scout and later as an offensive assistant under Charlie Weis while the elder Haley served as their player personnel director. Ah, I love the smell of nepotism in the morning.
Despite getting a foot in the door because of his dad, Haley did work his way up the NFL food chain on his own merit. He served as an offensive assistant/wide receivers coach in Dallas under Bill Parcells, then became Ken Whisenhunt’s offensive coordinator when he moved down to Arizona. This would be the first time the Steelers recycled something from
Pittsburgh West Arizona instead of vice versa. Anyway, after helping the Cardinals reach the Super Bowl, Haley left for the head coaching job in Kansas City. Under Haley, KC had a miserable first season but rebounded to go 10-6 and capture their first AFC West title in seven years in his second. This year was shaping up to be another wasted campaign although that was only marginally on Haley as he lost his starting quarterback, All-Pro running back and top wide receiver all by mid-season.
Of course, coaches have seasons where they’re snakebitten and survive, especially when they’re coming off a division title. The reason for Haley’s sudden dismissal is the same reason I’m worried about him joining the Steelers. The Chiefs were stuck playing Tyler Palko and GM Scott Pioli saw exactly what Pitt fans saw in Palko; not much. So Pioli picked up Kyle Orton off the waiver wire which for some reason irritated the stubborn and paranoid Haley. Despite Palko’s obvious incompetence, Haley refused to play Orton, almost daring Pioli to fire him. He got his wish.
This isn’t the first time Haley has run afoul of his co-workers. His career is littered with a history of not getting along with management, fellow coaches and/or his players. In KC, Haley kept another Steeler alum, Chan Gailey, on as OC when he took over, only to relieve him of his duties about a month into the season. The next year, they brought in former Patriots and Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis but Weis left abruptly after only one year for what would seem an inferior job as OC at Florida. While in Arizona, Haley feuded with several players, most publicly being a sideline blowup with Kurt Warner and shouting match with Anquan Boldin. At Dallas, Haley was said to have a poor relationship with a number of players, most notably Terrell Owens. Okay, I can’t hold that one against him.
But I am worried how his abrasive personality will mesh with a veteran and, frankly, accomplished team like the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger isn’t some raw rookie who needs a boot up his ass. Maybe the young receivers could use a little discipline but I’d think that’s the quarterback’s job. I can just see Haley reaming out Ben on the sideline and Ben being all, “See these two rings? How many do you have? Zero? Then shut the f@ck up.” That’s not exactly the kind of team unity that spells championships. In fact, it sounds a lot more like the circus in Dallas than the Steeler Way.
Then again, the Steeler Way has always been the coaches coach and the owner doesn’t interfere. Art II’s meddling already blew that tradition all to bits so if he’s going to be another Jerry Jones, why not bring Cowboys-style chaos to Pittsburgh as well. If Haley can deliver a 4,000 yard passer and two 1,000 yard receivers next year, I’ll certainly eat my words. However, I have a feeling Haley’s Comet may not have been worth the
76 year five year wait.
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Despite what you may have heard, there will be a Super Bowl played this Sunday even though the Pittsburgh Steelers won’t be in it.
Fans here in the Steel City have definitely been spoiled by the Black and Gold’s success throughout the years. Because we’re so accustomed to being in the big game, Super Bowl Sunday becomes slightly anti-climatic when our team isn’t actually playing in it. Oh, we’ll still watch because Pittsburgh is football country. And occasionally we do have a rooting interest, such as this year when we’ll once again pull for our NFC cousins to upend the hated New England Patriots.
If you’re tired of hearing about Rob Gronkowski’s ankle or Peyton Manning’s giraffe neck (Here I thought Eli Manning was the one starting in the Super Bowl. If my big brother stole the spotlight as shamelessly as Pey-Pey, I’d smack him.), you can prepare for kickoff by reliving some glorious moments from years past. Vivendi Entertainment recently sent me a DVD entitled Greatest Super Bowl Moments. As you may expect from being a fan of the most successful franchise in NFL history, the DVD is veritable treasure trove of fond (and a couple depressing) Black and Gold colored memories.
The DVD is produced by NFL Films and if you’ve been a football fan for any length of time, you’re probably familiar with their fantastic productions. Starting in 1967, when the game was still called the World Championship of Football because the term “Super Bowl” hadn’t been coined yet, the games are covered chronologically up through last year’s heartbreaker between the Steelers and Green Bay Packers. Each game is given 5-10 minutes of highlights, which may sound skimpy until you realize the entire DVD clocks in at almost 2 1/2 hours. The early games are mostly highlights until we get to the 80s, then there is a lot more behind the scenes stuff in terms of mic’d up coaches and players. If you’re a young football fan, it’s a great historical record of the most important game of every season while if you’re an older fan, it’s fun to revisit the memories of years past.
Paying particular attention to the Steelers segments, so many things jumped out to me. While the Steelers first two championships were defensive tour-de-forces, Terry Bradshaw really stepped up big time in the final two. In fact, all the Super Steelers wins were fairly tight games, with the first against the Cowboys and the last against the Rams being particularly close. I’ve seen these highlights in various forms over the years and you need to see some of the catches Lynn Swann made to appreciate what an incredible talent he was.
Fast-forwarding to the 90s, I totally forgot Super Bowl XXIX where the unbearable Steve Young finally won a title of his own by absolutely humiliating the over-matched San Diego Chargers. The Chargers, of course, upset the Steelers in the AFC Championship game (DAMN YOU, TIM MCKYER!) and I have to think the Steelers would’ve put up a much better fight. The next season was arguably our darkest hour, losing to the Cowboys thanks to Neil O’Donnell’s ineptitude. This was the first time in probably ten years I’ve had the stomach to revisit XXX and it still riles me up to see Jay Novacek wide open in the end zone thanks to an (illegal) pick play by Moose Johnston and Neil’s two boneheaded interceptions. On the first one, there wasn’t a black jersey within 15 yards while, and believe me I hate to say this, I can almost forgive the second one since it came on a blitz. O’Donnell made the hot read and got rid of the ball but the receiver (I believe it was Andre Hastings) never broke off his route.
Then we have our recent run of success. The Super Bowl XL highlights are particularly amusing when you hear ‘ol Walrus Mug Mike Holmgren whining about Ben’s controversial touchdown dive. And even though we’ve seen The Catch that brought us to Sixburgh, I’ll never stop marveling at how Big Ben was able to drop that game-winning touchdown pass over THREE Cardinals in order for Santonio Holmes to make his toe-dragging catch. Ben Roethlisberger should’ve been MVP for even attempting that throw.
Anyway, every year around this time ESPN begins running the NFL Films Super Bowl highlight programs one after another for almost twenty-four straight hours in anticipation of kick-off. If you don’t have the time or patience to sit in front of the boob tube for literally an entire day, this DVD is the perfect distillation of all those programs. While this disc is called Greatest Super Bowl Moments, it’s more like a comprehensive history of the Super Bowl. Currently on sale for $12.99 on Amazon (or you can find it at your local Best Buy or Walmart), you really get maximum bang for your buck. So if you’re interested in football history in general or Steelers history specifically, check it out.
And in the meantime, let’s hope when the next edition comes out updated with highlights from Super Bowl XLVI, it’ll end with a shot of Eli Manning hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.