He was in his Steeler-fandom prime during the 1970's and ever since the team drafted Gabe Rivera, he's been searching for the team that will win the fifth ring. My dad has seen more than his share of bad Steeler teams, good Steeler teams gone bad, bad Steeler teams gone good, improbable comebacks and more incredible flops.
My dad and I have had a 15-year history of sharing the Steelers. It was 1989 and the Steelers met Houston in the wild-card game. It was in that season the Steelers started 0 - 2 with blowout losses to the Rams and Browns. On the other hand, that season also saw the return of the Terrible Towel to Steeler lore. It was also in that season that I for the first time saw my dad's love for the Steelers.
Maybe I hadn't noticed it before, maybe it always had been there, but it wasn't until Gary Anderson's game-winning 50-yard field goal in that wild-card game that I knew. I'll never forget my dad leaping out of his chair and dancing in our family room. It was at that moment that I became a die-hard Steeler fan. That game can also be considered the birth of a new generation of Steeler fans that witnessed the end of the Emperor's Era and the first Golden Age of Cowher Power. This was the first new generation of fans since the Immaculate Reception gave birth to the greatest age of Pittsburgh sports.
Over the years, my dad hadn't said too much about the team in a disproportional way, in fact he seemed to always be more animated when the team was playing badly, kind of like protecting himself against getting his heart broken. He would say, "Yeah, they looked good" or "They played pretty well" or my favorite "Ehh...we'll see." But when he called on Sunday right after the game had ended he had a tone in his voice that I hadn't ever heard. I really don't remember what he said. I was still in my own daze. But it was that tone of disbelief, that he had just watched a miracle on the football field. It was as if he knew the moment that game ended that he had no choice but to believe that this team could be something special. It was at that moment that I thought, "If my dad believes, maybe it's time I believe that a Super Bowl is a real possibility."
I don't think anyone really thought that the Steelers would be in this position and would have had a chance to stop the Patriots' winning streak. Nobody predicted the Steelers would so easily defeat the Patriots. Yet, defeat them with a resounding "thump" they did. And no fan would have thought a trip to the Super Bowl was possible at the end of this season. But, now I'm a believer.
The Steelers fan base needs more young believers. It needs more new blood. It needs the fans that joined the parade after a miracle field goal in the Astrodome, and that rode that miracle through the playoff boon in the 90's, to turn their love of this team on to their children.
Imagine it if you will. Somewhere in this country, a young boy of 13 watched his dad leap out of his chair and dance for joy when Deshea Townsend returned a Tom Brady interception for a touchdown. And that boy at that moment became a die-hard Steelers fan and a believer.
Apple Six-Pack Recap
1. Philadelphia 15 Baltimore 10 – Without Brian Westbrook the Eagles are going to have trouble finding any sort of balance on offense. The issue is that when teams double team T.O. the pressure is once again on the underachieving Todd Pinkston and the rest of the "other" receivers. That wouldn't be a problem if they were consistent, but when Owens accounts for half of the team's touchdowns, consistency is a major factor. The Ravens, on the other hand, at some time are going to have to take long shots down the field. Asking Kyle Boller to manage 5 or 6 10-play drives in a game is like asking a claustrophobic to stand in a crowded elevator for 6 hours. At some point he'll implode and make rash decisions and the same goes for Boller.
2. NY Giants 34 Minnesota 13 – The Minnesota Vikings have been found out. Without a healthy Randy Moss, teams no longer worry about the passing game. They also aren't the most physical of teams and when a Giants squad that thrives on ugly rather than fancy lines up opposite, the men in purple will need to find some sort of strength of resolve. This game was over when Mewelde Moore made the rookie mistake of giving up on the backwards pass, which by rule was a fumble. Actually, the whole Vikings team gave up on that play.
3. Kansas City 45 Indianapolis 35 – Do either teams play defense? Does it really matter? Not when they play each other, but neither team will go far when they face a superstar defense.
4. Atlanta 41 Denver 28 – Something awful is happening in Denver. Jake Plummer makes plays, but he also throws too many interceptions. The running game has sputtered and Ashley Lelie isn't becoming the force at receiver that he should. All of this while, the defense, while tough, is a little too small.
5. San Diego 42 Oakland 14 – San Diego will win the AFC West. Not just a prediction, but this team has it all right now. Strong running game, energetic quarterback and adequate defense. What could go wrong? Oh, by the way, did you know Warren Sapp plays for the Raiders? Never has there been a season where Warren Sapp has been forced into silence.
6. Dallas 31 Detroit 21 – How ‘bout them Cowboys. They needed a win to salvage any hope at the playoffs and there they go beating another team that has high hopes for a wild-card seed. Terry Glenn's injury really hurts this squad and Vinny can't be counted on to win games by himself. The real key was Eddie George's 99 yards.
Power Core Power Rankings (Top 12)
Note: This is the final week of power rankings. Next week this spot will be taken up by a post-season monitor.
- Philadelphia Eagles – The Eagles are kings for the week. However, this giant can be slain by the giant-killers.
- Pittsburgh Steelers – The giant-killers.
- New England Patriots – The streak was bound to end, but I'm worried about their injuries.
- NY Jets – This is way too high, but there are so many top teams falling.
- NY Giants – Help start a repeat of the Viking downfall of '85.
- San Diego Chargers – Right now this team may win the AFC West.
- Indianapolis Colts – They are only this high because that offense is special.
- Atlanta Falcons – After getting whacked by the Cheifs, they beat up on the quickly fading Broncos.
- Kansas City Chiefs – The offensive line is finally playing up to its ability.
- St. Louis Rams – The Rams by virture of a bye and so many teams losing jump into the top-10.
- Minnesota Vikings – This team is dead without Randy Moss.
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Is it safe to say that this bandwagon is just that…a bandwagon…
1. New England Patriots at St. Louis Rams – Once again, the Pittsburgh Steelers own the GOTW honors so the Six-Pack starts with the next best match-up. The Patriots have a ton of injuries and have to play on the turf in St. Louis with a depleted secondary. If Corey Dillon cannot play this team is in grave jeopardy of losing for the second time in a row. The Rams are still fighting the Seahawks for the NFC West title and can't afford a loss at home.
2. Minnesota Vikings at Indianapolis Colts – This is a huge game for both teams. The AFC South is no longer a two-horse race now that the Texans have played themselves into the division. The Colts' losing spurt couldn't have come at a worse time. Nor can the Vikings' loss to the Giants come at a worse time. Green Bay seems to have remembered how to win and look to retake this division. Whoever loses this Monday night game will look back on this game as an opportunity lost.
3. Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens can't afford to many more losses with the Steelers grabbing a two-lead in the division. The Browns on the other hand need to win to stay in the hunt for a wild-card. The Ravens could lose and recover, but the Browns can't. Simple enough. The Cleveland season comes down to this game.
4. Houston Texans at Denver Broncos – The Texans have hopes of stealing the AFC South away from the Jags and Colts. The Broncos are currently the 2nd best team in the AFC West. Their record might not show it but they are playing much worse than the Chargers. If they aren't careful they'll fall behind the Chiefs too.
5. Washington Redskins at Detroit Lions – The Lions need to find a way to win at home. They'll be hard pressed to run the ball against the Redskins' tough run defense, but if Roy Williams plays, they'll have a shot at winning the game through the air. The Lions actually could very well lose this game, which would be a huge blow to their season.
6. Kansas City Chiefs at Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Can the Chiefs keep this pace going? Priest Holmes is running extremely well, but it's the play of the offensive line that has K.C. abuzz with a newfound sense of excitement. But, is it too late for the Chiefs unless they run the table and win their division? Maybe, but they won't go down without a fight.
Seeds Of Wisdom From the Girl Apple
The Girl Apple's on a "bye" this week. She will return next week with more wisdom.
Apple's Fantasy Football Results
TheDallasCowboysSuck 151 (4 - 4) Los Loco Leprehchauns 148: Next Week vs. Sweatin Sopranos (6 – 2)
The Monday night game almost killed me. 3 more receptions by Pennington and I would have lost.
The Woodside Geminis 29 (8 - 0) vs. The Charmed Life 21: Next Week vs. The Lemmiwinks (6 - 2)
I have no idea how I won this game. I needed some big numbers from Randy McMichael and Curtis Martin. James, the coach of The Charmed Life, also got hurt when he started Corey Dillon.
DCFB 74 (2 - 6) vs. Glenolden Gold Diggers 123: Next Week vs. The CCSC (3 – 5)
Thomas Jones out after five plays, Roy Williams scratched after the lineups are frozen and Todd Heap still not back. It all adds up to a painful, painful microcosm of the season.
- I haven't heard Heinz Field that loud in its history. That was the loudest crowd since the 1995 AFC Championship Game. I have also never seen so many fans going berserk.
- Speaking of fans, I have had random school acquaintances emailing me congratulating the Steelers. One even said she might become a fan now that the Steelers seem to have a "vibe" of coolness to them. Apparently it is now "cool" to be a Steeler fan.
- Another big reason for the Steelers' success on Sunday was that Big Ben spread the wealth on offense. He completed passes to 5 receivers with not one player getting more than 6. That makes it clear that Ben was seeing the field very well.
- Peter King is having a very bad season. First he predicted Bettis would be a better runner than Staley. He was in Seattle this week to watch Carolina lose to Seattle. I don't care if that was planned. You change your destination or at least write a portion of your column for the big game of the week. At least he made up for the Tuesday edition of his popular column. I'd be shocked if he's not in Pittsburgh next week.