By Mike Batista
Steelahs.com's Mr. Irrelevant
April 29, 2008
These are the moments that make it worthwhile to
stay inside on a gorgeous spring day.
When the Steelers
were on the clock with the 23rd pick Saturday in the first round of the NFL draft, ESPN went to a commercial, but just before
they cut away, there was a shot of Illinois running back Rashard Mendenhall talking on his cell phone. The people around him
all started cheering. I think we all knew who the Steelers would get when ESPN came back from the break.
Seeing Mendenhall on his cell phone was a nice bit of draft drama. But nothing
will top the shot of Ben Roethlisberger on the phone with Bill Cowher when the Steelers were on the clock in 2004. Roethlisberger
was just an unassuming kid then. His half of the phone conversation consisted of deferential phrases like "Yes, sir"
and "Yes, coach" and "Beg your pardon."
four years later, Roethlisberger is much more than a fresh-faced young lad. When Big Ben talks, the Steelers listen. So when
he said after the season that he wanted a tall wide receiver, that's just what he got in 6-foot-4 Limas Sweed of Texas with
the 53rd pick. It's another weapon in his arsenal. Now it's up to the Steelers' $102 million man to take full advantage of
that tall receiver and show that the Steelers really do need him.
What do I know?
In Mendenhall and Sweed, the Steelers essentially
got two first-round picks. A lot of mock drafts had them picked ahead of the Steelers in the first round, and the Steelers
ended up with both of them. Saturday might have been the best day to be a Steelers fan since Super Bowl XL.
OK, if you look at the blog that accompanies my columns, you will see that I preferred
South Florida cornerback Mike Jenkins over Mendenhall when the Steelers were on the clock, even though I had previously written
that the Steelers should stay away from Jenkins. Well, I changed my mind. My thinking was that defense wins championships,
and that the Steelers could have used more interceptions than the 11 they had last season. And when do the Steelers ever not
need help in the secondary?
Fortunately, the Steelers didn't
waver nearly as much as I did. Maybe that's why I never got that call asking for advice on the draft. All along, they were
going to take Mendenhall if he was available. Let's thank the Detroit Lions, too. A lot of mock drafts had Mendenhall going
to the Lions and Boston College offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus going to the Steelers. The Lions traded down to No. 17, and
Mendenhall was still available. But the Lions reached a little and got Cherilus. That cleared the way for Mendenhall to fall
to the Steelers. So it was sort of like the Steelers traded up to 17 to get Mendenhall.
With Mendenhall, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin won't have to run Willie Parker until the wheels come off. Parker will
be able to take more pit stops. Mendenhall can run between the tackles and keep the chains moving.
Maybe now the Steelers can get rid of Najeh Davenport. It's amazing that with Davenport as their starting running
back, the Steelers were within two points of getting a second shot at the Patriots. Having Davenport as the featured back
in a playoff game is something that can't happen again. With Mendenhall, it won't.
Mendenhall and Sweed make the Steelers' offense more potent, especially in the red zone. Think of the Steelers in
a first-and-goal situation at the 1-yard line. They could have the bruising Mendenhall lined up in the backfield, a double
tight-end set with Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth, the always reliable Hines Ward and 6-foot-4 Limas Sweed as the wideouts,
and Roethlisberger, who can always use his size to dive into the end zone from a yard out. The defense can't stop all of them.
The Steelers couldn't have asked for a better first day of the draft.
Curb your enthusiasm
The first sign that Sunday wouldn't be good
as Saturday for the Steelers came when the Dolphins made Hampton defensive end Kendall Langford the third pick of the day.
I was hoping the Steelers would get him for their aging defensive line. Apparently I wasn't the only one impressed with Langford.
But the Steelers did get Bruce Davis of UCLA, who is likely to be moved to outside linebacker in the NFL. Davis had 24 1/2
sacks over the last two seasons.
The Steelers took steps to
restore a couple of Pittsburgh traditions in this draft. Mendenhall should help bring back the punishing ground game, and
Davis should help the Steelers bring back the "Blitzburgh" defense.
The Steelers sacked the opposing quarterback 36 times last year, tied for 13th in the NFL. That's not going to cut
The fourth round is where the Steelers' draft starts to
disappoint. In March, the big debate was whether the Steelers would pick Jeff Otah or Branden Albert to address their needs
on the offensive line. Then as the draft drew closer, it became apparent neither would be available to the Steelers, so I
figured they'd settle for Gosder Cherilus, and I slowly but surely became a fan of Cherilus. Of course, we can't be upset
about not getting Cherilus when we got Mendenhall. So I figured the Steelers would get an Anthony Collins, a Mike McGlynn
or a Carl Nicks on the second day. All were available to them in the third round. Or maybe they could get Roy Schuening to
compete for Alan Faneca's old job at guard. Apparently the Steelers really like Chris Kemoeatu. So no Otah, no Albert, no
Cherilus, no Collins, no McGlynn, no Nicks, no Schuening. With Nicks still on the board in the fourth round, the Steelers
ended up with Tony Hills, a left tackle from Texas. Hills is finesse blocker who doesn't have that Cherilus-like mean streak.
He could use more aggressiveness He also has to clutch and grab his opponents, so he might end up being flagged for holding
an awful lot.
If the Steelers can't keep Marvel Smith, I'm
a little worried about Hills being the guy to protect Roethlisberger's blind side for the duration of his eight-year contract.
Hills has shown some heart and determination to overcome a career threatening knee injury in high school. But then his college
career was cut short by a broken leg, which probably dropped his stock. He needs to get better if he's going to be the next
Marvel Smith. The Steelers should have used that fourth-round pick to grab Virginia Tech defensive tackle Carlton Powell.
Calling for backup
letdown of the fourth round gave way to outright bewilderment in the fifth round when the Steelers picked Oregon quarterback
Dennis Dixon. I understand that Charlie Batch isn't getting any younger, and that if the Steelers are going to throw all that
money at Roethlisberger, they want to have an insurance policy in the form of a damn good backup. But with only seven picks,
the Steelers didn't have the luxury of picking a future backup quarterback, especially one who tore his ACL last season. Yes,
he was a Heisman Trophy candidate before the injury, and he probably would be a first-day pick had he not been hurt. But it's
maddening that the Steelers still could have had Schuening and Nicks in the fifth round. The Rams had the next pick and got
Schuening. The Steelers also could have had Trae Williams, who teamed with Jenkins to form a fearsome cornerback tandem at
South Florida. Williams went to the Jaguars three picks later. I wish the Steelers had picked a cornerback somewhere, but
as Kevin Colbert said, they couldn't get everybody, and the prevailing wisdom in the NFL these days is that a good pass rush
will make any secondary look good. Nicks went eight picks after Dixon to the Saints. USA Today labeled Nicks as "aggressive."
I'd rather have him than Hills.
One thing that's clear in this
draft is that the Steelers better have some damn good doctors. Dixon, Hills and Sweed all had injuries in 2007. That's three
out of the Steelers' seven picks who probably dropped because of medical concerns.
The Steelers acquired an extra sixth-round pick in a trade with the Giants. That slightly increases their chances
of getting that hidden gem in the late rounds. They got Iowa linebacker Mike Humpal and West Virginia free safety Ryan Mundy.
From what I read, Mundy seems like a smart player. That's a good starting point. At least the Steelers got some secondary
help. Humpal could be a good special teams addition.
Making the grade
I haven't forgotten to give the Steelers a grade for their draft. You
didn't think I was going to unveil it without making you read my column, did you? Shame on anyone who scrolled past my insightful
paragraphs just to get the grade. You know who you are.
I would have given the Steelers an A if they had taken a defensive
lineman. With Aaron Smith, Travis Kirschke, Casey Hampton and Chris Hoke all 30 or older next season, that was their biggest
need. So that's going to hurt their grade. But the Steelers aren't exactly young or deep at linebacker. You can start to see
the next generation taking shape with LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons and Davis. Good job addressing that need with two linebackers
taken. The offensive line might not be as bad as it seems, and they got a body there. Taking that into consideration, along
with the undeniable success of the first day, the Steelers get a ...
Day Two Downer
By Mike Batista
April 28, 2007
Any Steelers fan with visions of the 1974
draft dancing in their head got a reality check on Sunday.
The first day of the 2008 draft couldn't have gone any
better for the Steelers. They essentially got two first-round caliber players in Illinois running back Rashard Mendenhall
and Texas wide receiver Limas Sweed. But their fortunes leveled off on the second day of the draft.
to address the defensive line, which was their most glaring need. They picked an often-injured offensive tackle even though
better ones were still on the board. They picked a quarterback even though that's the one area, along with tight end, where
they don't need help. They picked a safety even though they might have been better served taking a cornerback.
Steelers did choose two outside linebackers to remedy their lack of depth in that area. But besides that, the Steelers' Day
Two strategy was a head-scratcher.
Bruce Davis of UCLA was the Steelers' third-round selection, a 6-foot-2,
252-pounder who can get to the quarterback. They could have had Kansas offensive tackle Anthony Collins or Oregon State guard
Roy Schuening. In the fourth round, they got Texas offensive tackle Tony Hills, who at least has shown some heart overcoming
a career threatening injury. But they could have had Virginia Tech defensive tackle Carlton Powell, who went in the fifth
Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon was their fifth-round selection. The only rationale I can think of
is that Charlie Batch won't be around forever, and the Steelers want to groom someone to be an insurance policy for their
$102 million quarterback. But my heart sank when I saw some of the players chosen after Dixon. Schuening, ranked by USA Today
as the second-best guard in the draft behind Branden Albert, was chosen immediately after Dixon by St. Louis. Three picks
after Dixon, Jacksonville took South Florida cornerback Trae Williams, who teamed with first-round pick Mike Jenkins to form
a dynamite cornerback tandem.
The Steelers took Iowa linebacker Mike Humpal in the sixth round. He isn't
much of a pass rusher and figures to play inside. Then they got an extra sixth-round pick in a trade with the Giants and chose
West Virginia safety Ryan Mundy.
To be a championship team, you need to get future stars on the second day
of the draft. I saw stars on Saturday, but not on Sunday.
A double steal
By Mike Batista
April 27, 2008
too good to be true. On the first day of the 2008 NFL draft, the Steelers got the players ranked No. 11 and No. 26 in
USA Today's overall rankings.
Illinois running back Rashard Mendenhall fell to No. 23, and the Steelers grabbed
him. Good thing they didn't trade out of the first round. The 5-foot-10, 225-pounder is someone who can get the tough yards
between the tackles, something the Steelers had trouble doing last season.
Then in the second round, at No. 53,
the Steelers picked 6-foot-4 wide receiver Limas Sweed of Texas, giving Ben Roethlisberger the tall receiver he's looking
for. At least one mock draft had Sweed going to the Steelers in the first round, and they got him in the second round. Not
a bad first day for the Steelers.
There are some knocks on Sweed, but he was too good for the Steelers to pass
up late in the second round.
Now the Steelers have to tackle the defense. A good start would be defensive end Kendall
Langford of Hampton this morning in the third round. Then in the fourth round, guard Mike McGlynn of Pittsburgh might not
be a bad pick to address the offensive line. Maybe Oregon State guard Roy Schuening will still be available. After that, they
could use a cornerback and another defensive lineman or a linebacker.
I'm sure Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert slept
well last night.
Big Ben turns 150;
April 11, 2008
Big Ben celebrated the big one-five-oh yesterday,
and the Steelers were left wondering how they could have signed a 150-year old quarterback to an eight-year, $102 million
"What a bunch of ding-dongs we are. He looked a lot younger when we drafted him," said Steelers
chairman Dan Rooney, who is now asking all of the Steelers' 2008 draft prospects to provide birth certificates and be accompanied
by a parent at their workout.
Rooney went on to say that the Steelers drafted Big Ben in 2004 because
they were so impressed with his towering height that they looked past some obvious shortcomings, like the fact that he
had a big hand and a little hand. They did say, however, that he's shown a lot more mobility than they expected.
Attempts to reach Big Ben in London were unsuccessful.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said that the organization
can't dwell on this blunder. "We're not going to throw a pity party," he said.
Tomlin and general
manager Kevin Colbert are now focusing on the upcoming NFL draft. They want to be prepared when their pick comes
up at No. 23 because, after all, they'll be on the clock.
But seriously ...
to to find out why the Steelers have to rethink their draft plans.
(Thanks to Photobucket!)
By Mike Batista
Not sure what to get that special Steelers fan in your
life? How about a 2004 Steelers playbook? It's available on eBay for $10. The Steelers don't appear to be the ones putting
the playbook on the market, but maybe they should be. In fact, they should sell all their old playbooks, because in the years
to come, they might need the extra cash.
Folks, it looks like the NFL salary cap might go the way of the single-bar facemask, and that might not be
the greatest thing for the Steelers.
In an NFL where big-market teams can spend freely to sign the game's best players, teams like the Steelers
would struggle to keep their stars. It could become an environment like Major League Baseball, a league of haves and have-nots.
Pittsburgh fans have to be worried that the Steelers would become the Pirates of the NFL.
But the Pirates aren't the only team that's
suffered under baseball's economic structure. I'm afraid the Steelers are going to follow the path of another team.
The Kansas City Royals.
These two franchises
already seem to be operating in parallel universes, two decades removed, in terms of their fortunes on the field.
Like the Steelers today,
the Royals were considered a class organization during their heyday. Both teams play in distinctive stadiums that serve as
a backdrop for their identity. A giant crown decorates the top of the scoreboard at Royals Stadium, as it was called in the
1980s, and the water fountains beyond the outfield fence add to the scenery. The seats at Heinz Field form a sea of yellow,
one of the Steelers' colors. A giant Heinz ketchup bottle, representing a brand name synonymous with Pittsburgh, sits on top
of the scoreboard at one end of the stadium.
Let's take a look at what's gone on inside those stadiums. The Royals lost the American League Championship
Series three straight years from 1976-1978. The Steelers lost the 1994, 1997, 2001 and 2004 AFC championship games. The Royals
did make it to the World Series once during the ascent to their eventual world championship, losing to the Philadelphia Phillies
in 1980. The Steelers made it to Super Bowl XXX in 1995, losing to the Cowboys.
The Royals remained competitive in the early 1980s, but slipped below .500
in 1983. They bounced back and lost to the eventual champion Detroit Tigers in the 1984 American League Championship Series,
then finally won the World Series in 1985 when no one expected them to.
Exactly 20 years later, the Steelers drew up the same three-year blueprint
to win a championship. They fell to 6-10 in 2003, bounced back and lost to the eventual champion Patriots in the 2004 AFC
championship game and won the Super Bowl in 2005.
Both the Steelers and Royals flourished as underdogs in their championship seasons. The 91-71 Royals came back
from a 3-1 deficit to beat the 99-62 Toronto Blue Jays in the American League Championship Series. Then they faced the 101-61
Cardinals and again came back from a 3-1 deficit, becoming the first team to win the World Series after losing the first two
games at home.
The Steelers became the first No. 6 seed to win a Super Bowl, upsetting the Indianapolis Colts along the way.
The Royals remained competitive
for a few more years after winning their only world championship, but since the strike year of 1994 (they were 64-51 before
the work stoppage), they've had only one winning season, finishing 83-79 in 2003. Since then, they've won less than 70 games
every year. Yeah, I know they're 2-0 right now, but it's a long season.
Basically, these two respected franchises were perennial contenders in their
respective leagues for about a decade, then finally won championships in surprising fashion.
Let's hope the similarities end there.
It looks like the owners are going to vote to opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement in November. That would
eliminate the salary cap after the 2009 season, and the players have said that once the salary cap is lifted, they'll never
accept a cap again. The collective bargaining agreement wasn't on the agenda at this week's NFL owners meetings, but it was
certainly on everyone's mind.
The Steelers probably wouldn't do business much differently if there were no salary cap. They've never been
big players in the free agency market. They don't throw much money around in prorated signing bonuses, like many other teams
do, to circumvent the salary cap.
Under the current system, the Steelers can operate that way and still be on even footing with the big-market
teams. But if there were no salary cap, the Steelers could be in a situation similar to the one they were in before they had
the revenue generated by a new stadium in 2001. There was an annual exodus of free agents in the mid-90s. Bill Cowher doesn't
get enough credit, by the way, for leading the Steelers to three AFC championship games and a Super Bowl in four years while
losing the likes of Eric Green, Chad Brown, Brentson Buckner, Ray Seals, Leon Searcy, Willie Williams, Kevin Greene and of
course Neil O'Donnell along the way.
There could be a similar revolving door in Pittsburgh if there's no salary cap.
The Steelers wouldn't be the only team
that's affected. The salary cap is one of the things that's ensured parity in the NFL. It's helped teams like the Los Angeles/St.
Louis Rams go from having nine straight losing seasons, including 4-12 in 1998, to winning the Super Bowl in 1999. Such rags-to-riches
stories would quite likely be a thing of the past.
Step away from the ledge
OK, before everyone starts crying in their Iron City, I'm going to back off
my sky-is-falling stance a little bit. Even though it might be harder to stay competitive, the Rooneys will continue to put
the best team they can on the field. They have too much respect for the league and the game to be like their neighbors at
PNC Park. Besides, a salary cap doesn't keep everyone from trying to buy a championship.
Remember the 2000 Washington Redskins? Owner
Daniel Snyder went on a spending spree that year, signing Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith and Mark Carrier and doling out $47 million
in signing bonuses. The Redskins also traded up so they could have the second and third overall picks in the draft. They got
LaVar Arrington and Chris Samuels.
All that, and they didn't even make the playoffs. It was the Steelers who mathematically knocked them out of
the playoff race. In the last game played at Three Rivers Stadium, the Steelers defeated the Redskins 24-3, officially foiling
their bid to buy the Lombardi Trophy. The Steelers didn't make the playoffs that year, either. But shoving it up that spoiled
brat Snyder's ass made their season as far as I was concerned.
The Redskins finished 8-8 that year and the year after and didn't have another
winning season until 2005.
Perhaps it isn't as easy to spend your way to success in the NFL as it is in Major League Baseball. A few good
pitchers can put a baseball team in the upper echelon. In football, you need 22 guys, and you can't forget special teams.
There are many more parts to the machine.
Let's assume there's no salary cap after the 2009 season, my doomsday scenario comes true and there are teams
in the NFL who have as much a chance of making the playoffs as the Pirates and Royals.
Well, I have a solution: Expand the playoffs
to 16 teams.
That would give the struggling franchises a better chance of making the playoffs, and thus more incentive to be competitive.
Under this plan, there would be no byes. The big-market teams will have enough of an advantage. They shouldn't have a chance
to get a free ride into the second round of the playoffs. The NFL wouldn't even have to add an extra week to the postseason,
just have eight games instead of four on what is now wild-card weekend. The only drawback is that games would be played simultaneously,
so not all games would be available to every TV viewer in this opening round.
Some might say this would put too many teams in the NFL playoffs and make
it like the NHL and NBA playoffs. Well, there are a few differences. One of the problems with the NBA and NHL playoffs is
that they go on for more than two months. As I said, the duration of the NFL playoffs wouldn't change. Also, the game of football
isn't as susceptible to upsets. So much of the game boils down to the strength and technique of the men in the trenches. It's
not given to the vagaries of basketball, with the rhythm and lucky bounces needed to get the ball through the hoop. The better
team will emerge more often in a 60-minute football game.
Could a 16-team NFL tournament actually happen? Well, we know the owners
are resistant to change when it comes to this stuff. They didn't even approve a rule that would have reseeded the playoff
teams in terms of records, regardless of division winners. I'd have been in favor of that. The Jaguars beat the Steelers in
Pittsburgh during the regular season and had a better record than them. They deserved to have their playoff game against the
Steelers at home. They won anyway, so it was a moot point.
But a 16-team NFL playoff format isn't unprecedented. Probably in an effort
to recoup some lost TV revenue, the NFL went to a 16-team playoff when a strike reduced the 1982 regular season to nine games.
Anything that increases revenue has a chance of passing.
As bad as it would be if the Patriots' payroll was twice as large as the
Steelers', it would be even worse if there were no games to watch. Unfortunately, a strike after the 2010 season is a real
One reason the NFL has a leg up on the other three major sports leagues in terms of popularity is the fact that there hasn't
been a work stoppage since 1987. All the other leagues have had at least one since then.
NFL has to realize that it has a good thing going. Let's hope they're smart enough to not screw it up.
By Mike Batista
March 5, 2008
It’s nice to see that the Steelers are
finally breaking the bank to keep a star player. Ben Roethlisberger will remain in black and gold through 2015 after signing
an eight-year, $102 million contract.
Roethlisberger is worth every penny of it – as long as he
helps the Steelers add to their collection of Lombardi Trophies.
After a quarter century of Mark Malone, Mike
Tomczak, Kent Graham and Kordell Stewart, the Steelers had to do everything they could to keep Roethlisberger. To say he’s
a franchise quarterback is an understatement. I think Roethlisberger has the potential to combine a Namath-like aura with
a Bradshaw-like resume and work his way into the discussion of the best quarterbacks of all-time.
became bigger than life when he backed up his bold prediction that the Jets would defeat the heavily favored Colts in Super
Bowl III. Not only did that feat define Namath’s career, but it gave him a certain swagger.
worked while Namath was playing, Boston sports talk radio host Eddie Andelman undoubtedly would have said that Namath had
“It.” Andelman used to complain that former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe didn’t have “It.”
He couldn’t define what “It” was, but he said that quarterbacks like Joe Montana, Dan Marino and John Elway
had “It.” Andelman turned out to be right, because Bledsoe’s injury in 2001 opened the door for Tom Brady,
another quarterback who has “It.”
I’m convinced that Roethlisberger has “It.” After
all, mortal human beings aren’t supposed to win their first 14 games as a rookie, become the youngest quarterback to
win a Super Bowl, come within a minute of dying in motorcycle crash and play three months later, then make the Pro Bowl the
following year despite playing behind an offensive line that stinks worse than all the Swiss cheese in Roethlisberger’s
Now it’s time to get to work on winning more championships. Anything less would be a disappointment.
Farewell to Faneca
I know the Steelers couldn’t afford to sign both Roethlisberger
and Alan Faneca to mega-contracts. That said, I think the Steelers will regret letting Faneca go. I admit I’ve changed
my stance on this since last May. I figured at 31, Faneca would begin an inevitable decline. But the more I think about it,
the more I think he has about five more good years left in him. And wouldn’t you know it, the Jets signed him for five
years and $40 million. It would be tempting the think that Faneca will fare as well as the last big-time free agent to bolt
the Steelers for the Jets, Neil O’Donnell. But I think Faneca’s going to do a little bit better. I think he’ll
be polishing up his Hall of Fame credentials down there in Jersey.
Now it’s time for the Steelers to address
the offensive line, which was a mess even with Faneca. To do that, the Steelers need to get as many bodies as possible to
compete for spots on the O-Line. They need to get a couple of guys in the draft and hopefully get lucky by finding someone
decent on waivers or through a trade during training camp.
The Steelers made their annual trip to the free agency dollar store and picked up Vikings running back/kick returner
I wish they would have cashed in their loose change, restructured a few contracts to stay under the salary
cap, and acquired Patriots safety Eugene Wilson.
The Steelers need a better kickoff returner and they need talent
at running back to complement Willie Parker. Moore addresses that weakness. But I’m starting to wonder if Steelers coach
Mike Tomlin realizes that the NFL isn’t limited to players he’s seen in person. This is another example of the
Steelers getting a guy who played for or against the Vikings and Buccaneers while Tomlin served on their coaching staffs,
like kick returner Allen Rossum, who’s already gone, and former Buc Sean Mahan, who’s been a bust so far at center.
By favoring players he’s familiar with, Tomlin seems to have tunnel vision when it comes to acquiring players by trade
or free agency.
A Terrible loss
Did anyone catch Seth Meyers of “Saturday Night Live”
waving a Terrible Towel in honor of Myron Cope at the end of the show’s newscast last Saturday? Like me, Meyers grew
up in New England and roots for the Red Sox and Steelers.
The reason I’m more than a week late with
a take on the passing of Myron Cope is because, literally, I was at a loss for words. Being a Steelers fan from the Northeast
outpost of Steelers Nation, there’s not much I can say about Cope because I never heard his voice during live Steelers
action. I rely on the NFL Sunday Ticket to see most Steelers games.
Of course, I know what Myron Cope is all about.
I know what “double yoi” means. What I was surprised to find out in reading about him was the fact that, like
me, he was a wordsmith. He wrote for newspapers and magazines before he became a broadcaster. I also know that he invented
the Terrible Towel. The best I can do to honor Myron Cope is reflect on the time I purchased my cherished Terrible Towel.
It was January 1996. The Steelers had barely beaten the Indianapolis Colts to earn a berth in Super Bowl
XXX against the Dallas Cowboys. The morning after their win in the AFC championship game, I ordered my Terrible Towel.
Keep in mind the early-to-mid 1990s were tweener years in terms of technology. The Internet was well known by 1996,
but it wasn’t as universal as it is today. And in 1996, I didn’t even have a computer, so I called 1-800-TEAMTUF
to get my Terrible Towel. This being the day after the Steelers earned their first Super Bowl berth in 16 years, the phone
lines were flooded. Ordering items online wasn’t as common a practice as it is today. I certainly wasn’t the only
one who had yet to grasp the Internet. So I waited and waited to order my Terrible Towel. This was good practice, because
being a Steelers fan in the years to come would require a lot of patience.
Finally, I got my Terrible Towel, and waved
it proudly in a pro-Cowboys house when I watched the Super Bowl.
Last but not least
R.I.P. Buddy Dial. Speaking of patience, some fans had to wait 40 years for the Steelers’ first championship.
Dial helped make the wait a little more entertaining.