Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Clear Choice in the Harbowl

This Super Bowl matchup was probably the worst-case scenario for Steelers fans, even from the start of the playoffs. For the second consecutive year, the AFC Championship featured a game between two teams that no one with black and gold in their veins wanted to see in the Super Bowl. To make matters worse, we had to watch that game with the full knowledge that the winner would play San Francisco in the Super Bowl. This left Steelers fans in a bit of a predicament - who do you root for in the Super Bowl?

There is a clear-cut choice, and it is the San Francisco 49ers.

Now, a lot of Steelers fans and radio personalities have made a big deal about the 49ers tying the Steelers mark of six Super Bowls. But when you really think about it, does someone else having six rings really matter?

The first Super Bowl was played in 1967 and was won by the Green Bay Packers. The Packers repeated the next year, setting the pace for all other teams to follow. It was not until six years later that the Miami Dolphins, after their unblemished campaign of 1972, repeated as champions in 1973. Entering the 1974 season, which would end with the Steelers winning their first Lombardi Trophy, both the Packers and the Dolphins led the league in Super Bowl titles with two. The Steelers followed up their Super Bowl IX win with a return trip in 1975. In Super Bowl X they faced the Cowboys who had already been to the Super Bowl twice and were looking for their second title. The Steelers joined the top-tier of Super Bowl Champions in January of 1976 when they won their second title. The Steelers failed to reach the Super Bowl the next two years, and in 1978 Dallas became the fourth team in the league to win a second championship.

The ensuing Super Bowl was one for the ages. Both the Steelers and Cowboys entered with two titles under their belt and one would leave as the only three-time champion. The Steelers defeated the Cowboys thanks to four touchdown passes from game MVP Terry Bradshaw. The Steelers became the first 3-time champion in January of 1979 and followed it up by becoming the first four-time champion the following season. At this point, the Steelers had lapped the field and had twice as many Super Bowls as any other organization.

The 80s brought about the emergence of the San Francisco 49ers and saw them win four titles between the 1981 and 1989 seasons. The 49ers four Super Bowls in the 80s tied the Steelers mark. The Steelers held claim to being the only team with four rings for only 10 seasons from January 1980 to January 1990. Even though the Steelers were the first to win four titles, it was the 49ers who tied their mark only 10 years later.

Four years after the 49ers became the second team to win four Lombardi Trophies, Dallas defeated Buffalo for the second consecutive year to win their fourth title. The Steelers now shared the claim to the top spot with both San Francisco and Dallas. The next season, all signs pointed to an epic showdown between the Steelers and either the 49ers or Cowboys. However, the Steelers lost a heartbreaker in the AFC Championship game to the San Diego Chargers on a failed 4th and 3 pass at the goal line. The 49ers defeated the Cowboys in the NFC Championship and throttled the Chargers in the Super Bowl, becoming the first team to win five Super Bowls. The next season saw the losers of the two previous Conference Championships get a shot at redemption as the Steelers and Cowboys faced off in Arizona for the right to join San Francisco with 5 titles. The Cowboys defeated the Steelers thanks to two horribly thrown passes by Neil O'Donnell and the Steelers fell behind both the 49ers and Cowboys in the list of Super Bowl Champions.

From there, it would be another decade until any of the top three returned to the Super Bowl. The Steelers completed an amazing run in the 2005 playoffs, becoming the first #6 seed to run the table and win the Super Bowl. The Steelers fifth title came in January 2006, tying the mark set by San Francisco in 1995 and Dallas in 1996. Three years later, the Steelers became the first team in NFL history to win 6 titles, defeating Arizona on Santonio Holmes' catch in the corner of the end zone. The Steelers failed to stretch out their lead in 2010 when they lost to Green Bay in Super Bowl XL, but still remained the only team in the league with 6 titles.

Now, some around Pittsburgh think this is a very important distinction or record to hold. But looking back over the history of the Super Bowl, the Steelers were not the first team to win the Super Bowl, nor were they the first team to win two. They were the first team to win their third and fourth titles, but as we know that mark only stood for 10 years. After the 49ers tied the Steelers with 4 in 1990, the two teams shared the top spot for 5 seasons. The Steelers were not the first team to win a fifth title, and it took them 11 years to tie that mark that San Francisco set. The Steelers were the first team to win a sixth ring, and that is and will continue to be a mark of great pride amongst Steelers fans.

Is it nice to be the only team in the league with 6 Super Bowl titles? Yes, it absolutely is. However, is sharing the designation of "Most Super Bowls Won" (something we have done before for 3 years with Green Bay and Miami and for 5 years with San Francisco) worse than seeing the Ravens lift the Lombardi Trophy? Absolutely not. In the 47-year history of the Super Bowl, an individual team has only held the designation of "most titles won" for 23 years. The Steelers have been that team for 15 of the 23 years. In the big picture, the Steelers have been the sole team with the most Super Bowls for less than a third of the Super Bowl era. While it is a nice distinction to have, San Francisco winning will not change the fact that the Steelers were the first team with 6 rings. And as I have said, having to share the distinction of winning six titles is a much, much better option than seeing Baltimore win.

Therefore, I will be rooting for San Francisco next Sunday, and I would implore all of Steeler Nation to do the same.

1 comment:

Justin said...

I really enjoyed this article, and I understand the reasoning behind it, but I'm in a bit of a pickle. As a Steelers fan, first and foremost, the team I always want to see go down in flames is the Ravens, because it means the Steelers open the door on the AFC North crown. However, living in Maryland and loving the city, I have a respect for Ravens fans, their organization and how it's run, and the city of Baltimore. That's something I could never say for an organization like the Patriots, who from the top down are a bunch of holier-than-thou crooks. So while I don't want to see the Ravens win, I was certainly pulling for them in the AFC Title game.

So I'm pulling for the Niners to win this Super Bowl because I appreciate how their team operates (strong run game, phenomenal defense, and a smart, dynamic quarterback) and the class of their organization. But if the Ravens win, I won't be as torn up about it as some because, in the end, at least it's not the Patriots winning.