With our beloved Pittsburgh Steelers set to play in the AFC Championship Game this weekend, I’ve had some time to reflect and to appreciate. While some teams have been on vacation for nearly a month, only four remain and the Steelers are among them. It’s important to note that this isn’t easy and as fans we should never take our position for granted.
After the win over the Miami Dolphins I was walking down the hall at work and a Detroit Lions’ fan asked me as seriously as they could, “what’s it like to win a playoff game?” Initially I laughed and said, ” We’ve come to expect it.” I smiled and I kept walking without missing a beat. I eventually made it to my desk where I sat down and thought more deeply about what I’d been asked.
This person was a die-hard Lions’ fan (there’s really no other kind if you look at their history since 1957) so I put myself in their shoes. Since 2012 the Steelers have played in five postseason games and have won three. Since 1957 the Lions have won ONE postseason game. Even the Cleveland Browns have been in more and won more postseason games over that time.
So I made my way back down the hall and I said to the Lions’ fan, “What I said probably wasn’t fair. Do we Steelers’ fans have high expectations every year? Damn right we do but fans who truly know the team and understand the history of the Steelers NEVER take the postseason for granted.”
Because so many fans were born after the 1970 merger, many have not taken the time to educate themselves about the pre-Super Bowl Steelers who were a work in futility. To be fair, there are many fans who know this and respect it but typically it’s the older generation who truly appreciates the postseason runs.
I was returning bottles this past weekend and next to me this gentleman, who clearly saw all the Steelers’ gear I was wearing, said, “I’ve been a Steelers’ fan since 1965.” Strange year I thought…. “I was in the Punt, Pass and Kick competition that year when I was eight years old. I won my age group and although I was from New York state, they gave me a Steelers’ coat and I’ve been a fan ever since,” he said.
“Must have been kind of tough being a Steelers’ fan in those pre-Noll years especially being a kid,” I said. “You have no idea,” he said. “Kids can be mean and boy did I hear about it! But I wouldn’t go back and change it for anything though,” he said. He told me to enjoy the game tomorrow as he left.
Those are the people the rest of us sometimes need to help us keep perspective. Yes, it’s Super Bowl or bust every single year for us while some fan bases would be thrilled just to get to .500. That’s the nature of sports and life in general I suppose. But as we prepare to take the field in New England on Sunday, don’t forget how special a postseason run is.
It’s OK to expect it each year but don’t ever take it for granted.
Photo courtesy Explore Pittsburgh