By Tom E. Curran
DALLAS – I think we can agree that, when appraising any situation, the only question that demands answering is: “What does this mean to meeeeee?”
And there were things that occurred in Dallas Sunday night that had relevance to people residing in the Northeast corner of these United States.
Christina Aguilera leaving out her ramparts during the National Anthem? Interesting. Not impactful.
The Pittsburgh Steelers bumbling away a chance at their third Super Bowl win since 2005? Impactful.
I know enough Steelers fans to be aware of their searing hatred for all things New England Patriots. Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, Danny Woodhead’s adorable three-legged basset hound? Hate. Hate. And hate.
It’s born of their agitation with the Patriots usurping Pittsburgh as the dominant AFC team. From 1975 through 2000, no AFC franchise approached the legacy the Steelers built in the 1970s.
The Broncos kinda did, but even those two Super Bowl wins in 1997 and 1998 didn’t erase their four Super Bowl losses (a few by beatdown). And the Bills were – despite being the most consistently excellent team of the 1990s - really just lovable losers.
When the Patriots came along and won three Super Bowls in four years, going right through Pittsburgh (at Pittsburgh) in two conference championship games, Steelers and their fanbase lost their identity. Or at least the ability to indisputably claim the Steelers were the most important AFC franchise.
And when the Patriots got caught videotaping defensive signals after being asked (along with the rest of the league) to stop the practice, that relatively minor act (the major act was their defiance of the edict), Steelers fans had their hammer to discredit the Patriots legacy.
Had Pittsburgh won Sunday night, they would have basically matched what New England did from 2001 through 2004 – winning three titles in a very short span.
But they didn’t. Instead, they spit the bit in a very winnable game. Their very good quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, failed to cross the threshold into all-time greatness. Their amazing and admirable safety, Troy Polamalu, was a liability. The Steelers failed to beat a team that had lost important players on both offense (Donald Driver) and defense (Charles Woodson).
And now their hammer remains Spygate, instead of three rings for Roethlisberger and seven Lombardis for the franchise (including three from 2001-10 . . . same as the Pats).
They will use that hammer. This post-Super Bowl Monday, I’ve been fielding irate e-mails from Steelers fans for saying Roethlisberger failed to achieve all-time greatness when the opportunity was laid out in front of him.
And failed in spectacularly inefficient fashion.
This assertion, apparently, is not made in a vacuum because the e-mails I’ve gotten have usually included the words “Spygate,” “Brady” “Cheating” and “[expletive] Belichick.”
It’s not just about their Steelers. It’s about their Steelers’ place in history. Same thing as the Patriots and their fans’ concerns.
And on this particular Monday, nothing’s changed for the Patriots. Given the alternative if Pittsburgh had won, that probably means a lot.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Tom on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tomecurran