Thursday, September 10, 2009

STEELERS: LOVED BY STEELER NATION, HATED BY EVERYONE ELSE

ABOVE: Terrell Suggs of the "hated" Ravens displayed this shirt in training camp that caused quite the sensation among the Baltimorons.

Once again, Pittsburgh is opening up the season tonight with an NFL extravaganza that should be one of the best ever. Tim McGraw and the Black Eyed Peas will perform in Point State Park followed by our favorite, fireworks. Harry Connick Jr. will sing the national anthem and recent Hall of Famer, Rod Woodson will handle the coin toss. Then the entire football world will sit back to enjoy the highly-anticipated collision between the Steelers and Tennessee Titans.

All afternoon, as a primer for the season, the NFL Network has been showing Steeler hights of SuperBowl-winning seasons. If you're a diehard Steeler fan, it almost doesn't get any better than this (except at the SuperBowl). If you're not a Steeler fan though, it doesn't get any worse than this. They can't stand seeing our team on top of the heap...again. With the team that broke camp this year, it's also safe to say that the Steelers may even have a stronger team than the one that won the SuperBowl last year! These are truly halcyon days for Steeler fans.

But make no mistake about it, there's plenty of loathing and envy going around the NFL and I'm not just referring to the fans either. Hatred of the Steelers and jealousy over their continual success is rampant around the country. While no other team may have as many fans around America as the Steelers, believe me, there are plenty of Steeler haters out there as well.

Evidence of this can be found through various subtle internet references that you find when researching the NFL season. For example, Ben Roethlisberger is now referred to as "Ben Rapistberger". The Baltimorons wear shirts that spell out their plans at getting the Steelers back over last year's defeat in the AFC Championship. Of course there are also those players for Cincinnati and Tennessee who will stomp on a "Terrible Towel" or shine their shoes with it. Indeed, there are those who hold Pittsburgh in the greatest degree of contempt such as Carson Palmer, whose career was derailed by a blow to the knee by former-Bengal-turned-Steeler, Kimo van Oelhafen.

How about Hines Ward? Who can be hated more around the league than him? He goes around, smiling, catching passes and knocking people's blocks off. He's one of those guys that you hate when they play for someone else, but absolutely love when they're on your team. 

This Steelers team is loaded with experience, talent, speed and brutality. They are coached by one of the brilliant young coaches in the game as well as by possibly the greatest defensive coordinator ever. In short, this team should be the favorite to win the SuperBowl again, their seventh ever, and if ever there was a time where the Steelers resembled the team they have now, it was 1976, considered by most as their strongest team ever.
Ironically, that team didn't win the SuperBowl, but made it to the AFC Championship losing to the Raiders after Franco and Rocky were injured the week before. Can this team pull it off again? In my mind this could very well be the most balanced Steelers team ever. Let the hating begin.  
ABOVE: Former XFLer Rod Smart wore this famous jersey because, according to him, "He hate me, he hate me and he hate me," he said while pointing to opposing players.

GAME NOTES: Lawrence Timmons is not expected to go because of a high ankle sprain. Big Ben should be close to 100%. For the Titans, former Steeler Nate Washington has a hamstring problem and probably also will not play. The Titans are a formidable team and should certainly challenge again for a berth in the SuperBowl. Don't be surprised if these two teams meet again in the AFC Championship.