Steelers-Redskins “Rivalry” Sweetens Win @ FedEx Field for DC Area Steelers Fans

The Pittsburgh Steelers last visited Washington in 1988, making the Steelers romp over the Redskins in their own home all the more special. The Steelers and Redskins are not rivals, in the traditional sense, but in a lot of ways they should be natural rivals. Consider:

  • Blue collar vs. White collar
  • Art Rooney Sr. vs. George Preston Marshall – Let’s just say their attitudes on “social issues” were… distinct
  • Jack Kent Cooke vs. Art Rooney Sr. – The former’s flair for flamboyance stood in stark contrast to the later’s disdain for “putting on the dog.”
  • Joe Gibbs vs. Chuck Noll – Two of the greatest coaches of all time: One built his reputation on offense. He took very good talent and did great things with it. The other’s team defined dominating defense. He found exceptional talent and established standards of excellence.
  • The draft vs. free agency – No team, since 1969, has been more committed to the draft than the Steelers. Even before the days of free agency Jack Kent Cooke spent lavishly to bring in back ups cast off from other teams.
  • Dan Rooney vs. Daniel Snyder — Need we explain?

Special for Steelers Fans Living in the DC Area

That game is significant for me, and most probably to other Steelers fans living in the DC area. Although I grew up in the DC area, never having lived in Pittsburgh, I’ve been a Steelers fan all my life. My formative football years were spent there during the height of the Joe Gibbs era, but I was not to be swayed. As my father used to say:

  • “my son has no divided loyalties whatsoever, he bleeds Black and Gold.”

I really wasn’t old enough to follow the team until about 1987 or so, and the Steelers didn’t make national TV much in those days. So in effect, the Steelers 1988 visit to Washington was one of the few games I got to see at an age when I was really old enough to understand.

It was the second game of the season and the Redskins were coming off of their second Super Bowl and the Steelers were coming off an 8-7 season, and the hope was that with Bubby Brister replacing Mark Malone under center, the Steelers would improve in 1988.

For a time it looked like those hopes would be realized. Brister hooked up with Dwight Stone and Louis Lipps for long touchdown plays and the Steelers were leading up until the last moments of the game.

Alas, the Doug Williams burned the Steelers secondary for 400 plus yards, and led them to score in the final moments as the Steelers lost 30-29. (Interestingly enough, a bobbled snap caused Gary Anderson to miss an extra point that day. I remember telling my father that would be the difference in the game, only to be chided for being too pessimistic….)

  • 20 years later the memory remains fresh, which makes the Steel Curtain’s dominate performance on Monday night something to cherish.

Redskin Territory….?

James Harrison lifting his hands up to get the crowd cheering while the Redskins were in the red zone was a sight to behold, for me and for any Steelers fan who has ever lived in the DC area.

I’ll limit my comments about Redskins fans (they have their quirks, but so do all of us) to this: Redskins fans are loyal. But they would certainly be the NFL’s most loyal fans if they were as devoted as they think they are. (I’ve talked to several DC natives who’ve moved out of the area who’ve all told me variations on: “You know, I followed them with a passion for a while, but after Gibbs left I just gradually lost interest….”)

Fortunately Steelers fans are more loyal, and that was on display Monday night. On Tuesday the Washington Post ran an article titled “Steelers Make Themselves At Home.” Wednesday Michael Wilbon followed up with another column titled “Fan Deprecation at FedEx.” Wilbon’s critique is telling:

I got a text message during the first few plays from a friend in Chicago asking me when the NFL started staging neutral-field games. I assured him we were at FedEx Filed. They like an infestation of cicadas, the Steelers fans, so loud they effectively drowned out Redskins fans. They were like a storm of pirates who satisfied themselves at the expense of home folks who just sat and watched. That the Redskins had to use a silent count because they couldn’t hear signals through all of the Steelers nose is, well, alarming. It remains the lasting impression of Monday night’s Redskins-Steelers game….

….The Redskins like to say the have the best fans in the league. Please, they’re not even in the game for consideration of that distinction. You think Steelers fans, no matter how late the game time or how much they hate the stadium, would sell their tickets and let Redskins fans gobble them up?

Wilbon’s actually wrong, because the lasting impression of the game is of the Steelers linebackers repeatedly planting Jason Campbell on the turf.

Nonetheless, the sight of the Terrible Towel waving in FedEx field did exorcise one lasting impression from my youth.

One of the things that kids did throughout elementary school (and into Jr. High, if the truth is to be told) would be to ask:

“Are you a Redskins fan?”


“Well then you’re a Cowboy* trapped in Redskins territory.”

Pithy wasn’t it?

20 years later we have a retort:

FedEx Field might be Redskin territory, but its still part of Steelers Nation!

*That’s right, at least in the 1980’s it was taken as an article of faith that if you didn’t root for the Redskins, you HAD to be a Dallas fan.

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