Here we are. It is Championship Sunday again and unfortunately the Pittsburgh Steelers are not contending for the AFC Championship. Only if….
- Ben Roethlisberger had been at 100%
- Antonio Brown hadn’t suffered a concussion
- Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams could have played
- Fitzgerald Toussaint hadn’t fumbled the ball…
And on goes the list. That’s unfortunate, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. The Steelers aren’t playing, so what are Steelers fans to do? Who should Steelers Nation root for?
For that, we present the annual Steelers Nation Championship Sunday Rooting Guide.
With the Steelers out of the playoffs, there is one imperative, and it is the same imperative as in years before. Someone needs to be the New England Patriots. Yet this year this rallying cry takes on greater urgency. Last year, thanks to Russell Wilson, the Bill Belichick tied Chuck Noll as the only coach to win four Super Bowls.
- Bill Belichick must not get one for the thumb.
Yes, Spygate and Deflategate have tarnished the Patriots legacy. Yes, Chuck Noll beat Bill Belichick in his final game before he retired. Yes, Chuck Noll never cheated, Bill Belichick most certainly did cheat.
But still, the numbers will be the numbers. So for the AFC Championship, the Steelers Nation needs to pull for Peyton Manning to pull out one final great game. Last week he didn’t look up to it. Not even close. Can he summon it for one more shot? The Black and Gold must twirl their Terrible Towels hoping he can.
God knows it would be unwise for the Steelers to bet on the Denver Broncos to beat the New England Patriots, but root for the Broncos we must.
Steelers Nation and the NFC Championship
The NFC Championship is more interesting. On the face of things, Pittsburgh West aka the Arizona Cardinals would seem like the natural choice for Steelers Nation. You have former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, Tom Moore and Larry Foote as an assistant coaches, local favorite and member of the Steelers 2009 draft class and later a practice squad player, center A.Q. Shipley and LaMarr Woodley. You also have former Pitt standout Larry Fitzgerald.
- So Pittsburgh West is a sentimental favorite.
But if they get past the Panthers, can the Cardinals beat the Patriots? That’s a more troubling question. Bruce Arians’ rehabilitation of Carson Palmer is an incredible success story, but he has yet to prove his a big game quarterback. And Bill Belichick won far more outings against Arians offenses than he lost.
- Therefore Steel Curtain Rising recommends that Steelers Nation roots for the Carolina Panthers.
Panther’s owner Jerry Richardson has been described as “a special friend” by Steelers owner Dan Rooney, although most fans will be unconvinced by that argument. But the Panthers do have Jerricho Cotchery who was a fan favorite while he was with the Steelers. They also have Chris Scott, whom the Steelers drafted in the 5th round of the 2010 NFL Draft (you didn’t know he was still floating around the league, did you? Neither did I.)
- The Carolina Panthers have been impressive this year, their near-collapse last week not withstanding, and probably have a better shot at beating the Patriots.
Steelers Nation will be forgiven if they pull for Pittsburgh We… ur, um, the Arizona Cardinals, but the smart money on stopping the Patriots should ride on the Carolina Panthers.