Wilson: Why I'm thankful

During this holiday season blogger Ryan Wilson gives you 51 reasons he's thankful to be a Steelers fan. So grab another plate of turkey, sit back and enjoy. It'll help take your mind off the fact that your cable company isn't carrying the NFL Network's Thursday night game.

Happy Thanksgiving folks. Since it is better to give than receive (or something like that), here are 51 reasons I'm thankful for being a Pittsburgh Steelers fan (in random order, of course):

1. In Week 17 of the 2003 season, the Ravens playing to get Jamal Lewis the single-season rushing record against a hapless 6-win Pittsburgh Steelers team. Baltimore would win, but they'd lose the wild card game the following week and worse, the Steelers would take quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with the 11th overall pick in the 2004 draft.

2. Joey Porter predicting a win against the Colts in last year's AFC Divisional game. I'd be lying if I said I believed him at the time.

3. Nick Harper's wife stabbing her husband in the leg the day before the AFC Divisional playoff game.

4. Ben Big making arguably the biggest play of the season on a shoe-string tackle of Nick Harper.

5. Antwaan Randle El being the second-best quarterback on the team for most of his four-year Steelers career.

6. The Bus retiring in style and all his detractors pouting after the fact. Next stop: Canton.

7. Coach Cowher finally getting that Super Bowl ring. Next stop: Canton.

8. Trading up to get Santonio Holmes.

9. Signing Ryan Clark instead of re-signing Chris Hope.

10. Ken Whisenhunt turning down the train-wreck-that-is-the-Oakland job to stay in Pittsburgh.

11. Dick LeBeau reciting "The Night Before Christmas" to the team.

12. Dick LeBeau sporting that gold chain like he's Tony Manero.

13. Cowher's prescience when it comes to surrounding himself with smart coaches.

14. Jay Hayes. By comparison he makes Kevin Spencer seem like the Vince Lombardi of special teams' coaches.

15. Weekly crappy special teams play reminding us that there's only one way out of this problem: Free Chidi Iwuoma!

16. Dan Rooney Jr. moving to Clinton, NC and hearing about some high school kid named Willie Parker.

17. UNC head coach John Bunting sitting Willie Parker on the bench so no NFL team would even think about drafting the kid.

18. My wife, who at one time didn't know the difference between a quarterback and a backboard, asking for a "Football for Dummies" book to better understand the game.

19. Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu looking super dreamy, thus initially piquing my wife's interest in the Pittsburgh Steelers.

20. Heath Miller embodying what it means to be a good football player and an even better person. He's the guy the league should offer as Exhibit A on how to act like a professional athlete during those rookie symposiums.

21. Nate Washington progressing faster than anybody ever imagined. Probably even Nate Washington.

22. Cedrick Wilson facilitating the rise of Washington and Holmes.

23. Last Christmas Eve, James Harrison body-slamming a Cleveland Browns fan and then sitting on his face. Best. Christmas present. Ever.

24. Hines Ward re-signing with the team in 2005. Say what you want, but this offense goes as Ward goes. ACL or no ACL.

25. Duce Staley getting a Super Bowl ring even though his career in Pittsburgh unofficially ended after eight weeks of the 2004 season.

26. Jeff Reed giving every Joe Schmo hope that they too can go from laying bricks to playing a professional sport. And for being really good at his job … at least the last two seasons, anyway.

27. Bob Smizik being like your crotchety old grandfather who also likes to poke the bear in his spare time.

28. Tim Benz and Joe Bendel hosting the worst radio show on the planet. When I feel sorry for myself, I just think about these two clowns and then I feel better.

29. Brian Jackson impersonating Brian St. Pierre. This is just such a great story it's almost too silly to be true. But in Pittsburgh, like Fantasy Island, anything can happen.

30. Coach Cowher wearing Cosby sweaters at his press conferences. It's the only thing that makes the actual Q & A bearable.

31. Sean Morey returning kicks like it's a Brown-Penn game. If they ever make a movie about Morey's life in the NFL, I vote for Sean Astin to get the lead role. You know, since he has the experience.

32. Chukky Okobi rebounding from a serious neck injury to play well in Jeff Hartings' absence. If 2003 showed us anything, it's that the offensive line is pretty important.

33. Russ Grimm coaching up the offensive line. Anybody who can make Keydrick Vinent and Oliver Ross look competent must be pretty good at his job. Now if he could only work his magic on Kendell Simmons and Max Starks.

34. Dan Kreider playing as one of the most underrated fullbacks in the league. He makes Willie Parker's job infinitely more manageable, and I thoroughly look forward to his twice-annual steamrolling of Ray Lewis.

35. Ike Taylor re-signing with the Steelers. He's had an off-year, but nobody works harder, is more humble, and truly wants to get better than Taylor. I expect him to bounce back for the rest of the year and who knows, maybe he won't drop every pass that hits him in the hand.

36. Aaron Smith quietly dominating opponents and becoming maybe the best defensive end against the run in the league.

37. Brett Keisel picking up where Kimo von Oelhoffen left off, but with more energy and quickness.

38. Casey Hampton dominating hapless interior linemen like he was a Hungry Hungry Hippo and they were the marbles.

39. Charlie Batch being the best backup in the league and who knows, before it's all said and done, saving the Steelers' season.

40. Tyrone Carter re-enacting his favorite Chuck Norris scenes on unsuspecting wide receivers.

41. Chris Gardocki going two zillion punts without a single block. Even if he's 60 years old and can only kick the ball 20 yards in the air.

42. Najeh Davenport taking a poop in a clothes hamper (allegedly, of course) because it's just funny. Well, unless it's your clothes hamper.

42. Bill Cowher opting not to wear a suit but instead going with a sideline ensemble that includes a cousin Eddie dickie, high-water britches and hospital-white Seinfeld sneakers.

44. Mark Madden making everybody else seem reasonable (and skinny) by comparison.

45. Big Ben quitting his motorcycle-riding habit.

46. Clint Kriewaldt loving the movie "Joe Dirt" and having the nickname 'Buddy Lee." How can you not love a guy like that?

47. Kevin Spencer getting the most out of former Detroit Lions like Hartings, Kriewaldt and Iwuoma after Matt Millen couldn't.

48. Never living in Baltimore.

49. Never living in Cleveland.

50. Never living in Cincinnati.

51. That turkey giving its life so I can stuff my face like Mark Madden at a pie-eating contest, and then sit back, unbutton my jeans and watch nine hours of football.


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