Now, I’m not the “what if” type of guy at all. I like to see how things play out rather than get caught up in hypothetical situations. But with the Super Bowl on its way on Sunday, it’s always fun to think ahead as to how things might play out. While I’m not saying whether the Steelers will or won’t win the big game on Sunday – because, frankly, I go back-and-forth on it from day-to-day, let’s pretend for a minute that they do win. It will be 3 Super Bowls in 6 years for Pittsburgh, which in my mind would qualify as a modern-day, free agent-period dynasty. It doesn’t match the Steelers of the 1970s and their 4 Super Bowl titles in 6 years, but that’s neither here nor there. With a win on Sunday, where would you rank this win compared to Super Bowls 40 and 43?
Let’s take a flashback to 2005. The Steelers enter the season with Ben Roethlisberger entering his first season as a starter and young Fast Willie Parker looking to make his mark on the team by backing up Jerome Bettis. They started off the season 6-2 (a familiar record if you recall my article a few months back) but then went on to lose 3 of their next 4 games. The Steelers were able to grab the 6th and final seed in the playoffs which meant they had to be road warriors during the playoffs. In the playoffs that year, they would have to beat the Bengals, the Colts and the Broncos after Denver shocked New England in the divisional round. The Steelers were able to pull out wins against all three of these teams, including an extremely close win against the Colts, in which Roethlisberger channeled his inner Joey Porter to make a game-saving tackle. As we know, the Steelers went on to beat the Seattle Seahawks 21-10, becoming the first 6th seed to win a Super Bowl and giving Bill Cowher his long-awaited Super Bowl trophy. But all of that can’t compare to giving Bettis the chance to “go home” and win the Super Bowl in his hometown of Detriot, which would turn out to be his last game before retiring.
To start the 2008 season, the Steelers were coming off a 10-6 season and an early first round exit to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the playoffs. In Mike Tomlin’s second season at the helm, the Steelers were faced with the hardest strength-of-schedule in the history of the league. All they did was go 10-6 and clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs. They went on to beat the Chargers and the Ravens en route to the Super Bowl, where they would square off against former Steelers playcaller Ken Whisenhunt and the Arizona Cardinals. In what had two of the best all time Super Bowl plays, this was a game for the ages. James Harrison had his 100 yard interception for a touchdown to end the half and Big Ben led the drive where he found Santonio Holmes tip-toeing in the corner of the end zone to win the game for the Steelers. After having the worst QB rating in Super Bowl history for a winning quarterback in Super Bowl 40, Ben vowed to come to play in Super Bowl 43, and that he did, giving the Steelers an NFL-best 6 rings.
So how would a championship ring this year compare to these recent ones? Regardless of your opinion, isn’t it a great discussion to have? What other franchise, besides the Patriots of recent years, can even hold this discussion? If the Steelers win this year, it would be their most impressive run, in my opinion. In the preseason, if you gave this team a legitimate shot, you were crazy. Of course, the die-hard fans said that they would be fine and are not surprised by the season’s outcome, but that was wishful thinking. Let’s look at the obstacles that had to be overcome by this team to get where they are today.
-First, they lost their franchise quarterback for the first 4 games of the season due to suspension. During the preseason, the coaching staff had to balance reps to prepare both their eventual starter as well as the quarterbacks vying for the short-term replacement job.
- The presumed replacement QB for the first four games, Byron Leftwich, went down in the preseason. Then, the next chosen starter, Dennis Dixon, was injured in Week 1, leaving the team with only the seasoned veteran back-up Charlie Batch as their quarterback until Ben returned.
- They lost both of their starting offensive tackles and had to rely on inexperienced Jonathan Scott and supposedly washed-up Flozell Adams as starters.
- They had a rookie center in Maurkice Pouncey who looked promising but was unproven.
-The only offensive lineman to start each game this year was Adams and Pouncey as injury after injury left the line in constant flux.
-After trading Santonio Holmes, there were questions with the receiving corps, not knowing if Mike Wallace could be more than a one-trick pony, and concerns with the lack up depth behind Wallace and Hines Ward.
-The defense was old and everyone thought they were over the hill after blowing so many 4th quarter leads the season before. Then, for the second straight season, Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith missed significant time with injuries.
-Jeff Reed was traded and Daniel Sepulveda tears his ACL and was placed on injured reserve, out for the season. (Coincidentally, the last time that Sepulveda was placed on IR the Steelers went to and won Super Bowl 43).
-There was a tremendous amount of bad publicity surrounding the fines for “illegal hits” by James Harrison.
What other franchise could possibly overcome all of those odds to make it to the Super Bowl? I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I do think the NFL was targeting the Steelers and James Harrison with the fines. I hope that, if the Steelers do win on Sunday, Harrison will be the player to accept the Lombardi Trophy from Roger Goodell, just to see the look on his face. While it’s like choosing which Beatles album is the best of all time, as they are all great in their own unique way, the Steelers overcame a lot this season and a win on Sunday, will be the icing on the cake.
About the Author
Written by Michael Waterloo
I'm currently pursuing my Master's degree in Communication and Journalism from Clarion University. I currently work for Ohio Valley Athletics where I serve as the West Virginia Football Beat Writer and cover West Virginia Men's Basketball as well. I'm a big Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers and Oregon Ducks fan. Follow me on Twitter at @MichaelWaterloo or visit www.ovathletics.com