Hello, my name is Scott and I’m a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. I’ve been on
the bandwagon ever since I was four or five years old after watching
the Steelers defeat the Vikings in Super Bowl IX and I have no plans of
ever leaving Steeler Nation. I make that announcement for all of you
who read the first line and said “Here we go, another guy who likes
Pittsburgh because their the Super Bowl champs.”
I have to admit I was very surprised when the Steelers rattled off wins
in nine of their last 10 games to claim the Lombardi Trophy for the
sixth time last year. I guess I just didn’t think they had the “Stuff”
Super Bowl champions are made of. You know the “Stuff,” it’s the
ability to switch on the fly in the middle of game, the ability to
shrug off disaster and focus on what’s next instead of what might have
been. It’s the ability to bear down when the game is on the line and
get it done, someway, somehow.
The Steelers did exactly that last year during their title run and no better example of my point was Santonio Holmes’ toe-tapping, game-winner in last year’s big game. Not only was it one of
the best catches you’ll ever see, Super Bowl or otherwise, it was also the epitomy of the Steelers character.
made Holme’s catch even more spectacular was the fact that just three plays
earlier, Holmes had dropped a very catchable ball and it briefly
appeared that the miscue could lead to one of those haunting moments that
defines a player’s career (see Jackie Smith, Dallas Cowboys SB XIII).
But seconds later, Holmes put the setback in the rear view and
concentrated on the task at hand and made a catch other receivers can
only dream, erasing the drop and etching the catch in our minds forever.
Fast forward to Thursday Night’s 2009 opener against Tennessee and the
“Stuff” the Steelers are made of came shining through once again.
Despite a running game as non-existent as Chris Berman’s
insightfulness, several costly penalties and turnovers, and a defensive
effort that looked mediocre at best, Pittsburgh still managed to pull
out the 13-10 win.
A prime example of the Steelers “Stuff” was displayed by Pittsburgh
receiver Hines Ward. During the final two minutes of a 10-10 game, Ward
caught a pass over the middle around the Titans’ 20 yard line, broke
free and was one missed tackle from scoring the game-winner. Instead,
Ward was ball-jacked from behind by Tennessee’s Michael Griffin near
the five yard line and fumbled with the Titans recovering to end the
threat. Ward was obviously distraught after going from hero to goat in
the matter of seconds and had to be consoled by teammates on the
sidelines in the plays leading up to the overtime session.
But unlike others who had come up empty in similar clutch moments, Ward
was able to stop sulking and put the disaster behind him long enough to
contribute two first-down receptions in overtime which helped set up the game-winning field goal. How many times have you
seen a player in a similarly adverse situation compound the problem by
losing focus, losing his cool, and he and his team ultimately losing the game?
Other examples of the Steelers “Stuff” were demonstrated by the
Pittsburgh coaching staff for abandoning its anemic running game in favor
of an up-tempo, no-huddle offense down the stretch. Not really Pittsburgh’s preferred style of play but recognizing the situation and adjusting before its too late are always preferred over losing. Now this move
didn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out but we’ve all see the
bull-headed coach who continues to run the ball despite having no
success and Mike Tomlin and his staff deserve credit for recognizing
their team’s inefficiencies and changing gears.
Losing All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu to a second-quarter knee injury
would have spelled disaster for many lesser teams and initially it did
for the World Champions, too. With Polamalu in the locker room, Ryan
Clark replaced him and Tennessee’s offense was quick to take advantage
of the dropoff in talent. But as he has so many times before,
Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau made an adjustment (Steelers blitzed
less and limited Clark’s role in the zone coverage schemes) and the
crisis was averted. See, making adjustments and the ability to play with the cards they’ve been dealt, two more exapmples of the Steelers “Stuff.”
I guess my point of all this is the Steelers don’t have more talent
than all of the other teams in the league. In fact, it could be argued they’d probably rank
in the middle of the pack as far as star-caliber players go. But what
they do have is tenacity, resiliency, metal toughness and perhaps above
all else, short memories. Oh yeah, and having a cold-blooded pump-faking signal-caller with a propensity to come up big when it matters most also helps but you get my point. That’s the kind of “Stuff” needed to win the
big games and that’s what Pittsburgh had last year and what 31 other
teams lacked. It appears that despite all the changes made in the
offseason and all the new faces in new places, Pittsburgh still has the
“Stuff” needed to become a champion.