I have sat through countless important Pittsburgh Steelers games in my life. I have witnessed exhilarating wins, heartbreaking losses, important regular season games, wild card games, AFC championships, and two Super Bowls. No game though, has held a special meaning to me like last Sunday’s contest against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Since my first day at Millersville just over three years ago, I had been looking forward to the eventual Eagles versus Steelers matchup. With each passing week the more I compared the two teams, I became involved in heated arguments, endured Eagles chants and sat through a barrage of insults directed towards my team and my city.
In 2006 Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl, and in 2003 they defeated the Eagles at home, ending Philadelphia’s perfect season. Those two victories alone provided me with enough ammunition to defend my team and win quite a few debates. Still, if there is one thing I have learned about Eagles supporters over the last few years is that when it comes to talking sports, Philly fans are persistent and stubborn when presenting their ideas. No matter what the Steelers’ resume looked like, I knew my only hope of maintaining sanity among countless Philadelphia supporters was a Pittsburgh victory on Sunday, then and only then, would I have the upper hand on Eagles fans, right?
As fate would have it, I’ll never find out. The Eagles took it to the Steelers on Sunday in a game that I am still trying to erase from my memory. The Steelers offensive line was putrid. They failed to open up holes for Willie Parker, and they were unable to recognize and pick up blitzes. Ben Roethlisbeger did what he could but often held onto the ball too long resulting in a ridiculous eight times sacked – even though it should have been like 12 – two fumbles lost and a safety. The Pittsburgh coaches failed to make adjustments to the blitzes and they barely called any screen passes or passes that started with only a three step drop. Jim Johnson is a good defensive coordinator, I will certainly attest to that, but he is not the best out there and the Steelers did their part to make it appear so.
I do not understand how a team that operates under a 3-4 defense could not decipher the Eagles’ different blitzes packages. The Steelers too blitz from every angle imaginable, how then I ask, was it so difficult for the team to adjust? Anyone who watched the game knew that a few quick short completions would have bought more time as Philadelphia would have become more reluctant to blitz.
Pittsburgh failed to make use of tight end Heath Miller down the middle until the end of the game when Byron Leftwhich replaced the battered and bruised Roethlisberger. By then it was too little too late. The only thing that kept Pittsburgh in the game was their defense, but they still were not good enough against a team that went most of the game without their star Brian Westbrook.
Three years of trash talking and building the Steelers up was evaporated on Sunday. Now as long as I am at Millersville every time I put on my Hines Ward jersey, talk football with friends, or celebrate a win I’ll always be reminded of how Pittsburgh did not have enough to defeat the Eagles. Unless the two teams meet in the Super Bowl I am doomed for the next four years until the teams meet again. The good news though, time will make the loss a distant memory and I can begin my countdown until the teams meet again, hopefully with better results – at least for me.