Last year, I wrote a wildly popular (i.e. got more than 25 pageviews) post about who Steelers fans should root for in the playoffs. Rather than going matchup-by-matchup this season, I'm going to rank the 12 playoff teams in order of preference for who Steelers fans should or should not root for to ultimately hoist the Lombardi. In my post last year, I detailed three criteria for helping to rank teams when trying to choose a non-Steelers team to root for:
Baltimore, Cincinnati and New England go to the bottom of the list. Always. I didn't include Cleveland or Oakland in this list because the thought of them making the playoffs would cause this post to lose all legitimacy.
2. Super Bowl Rings
As Steelers fans, we love holding the "Sixburgh" or "First to Six" or "How Many Yinz Got?" over fans of all 31 other teams. Therefore, we don't want to see anyone else get to 6 or even get within striking distance of 6 Rings. Looking at the 12 playoff teams this year, San Francisco leads the pack with 5 rings, followed by Green Bay with 4, New England with 3, Denver and Indianapolis with 2, and New Orleans and Kansas City with 1.
3. General Jagoffery
Does the team have a player that it's really easy to hate (i.e. Tom Brady)? Does the team have someone it's really easy to cheer for (i.e. Adrian Peterson)? Is their coach a Harbaugh?
So with those criteria in mind, here is your list, in descending order to preserve some drama, of the teams you should be rooting for this year in the playoffs. I also included some recommended blogs to read and folks to follow on twitter. They're good people who are knowledgeable about their teams, so don't troll them too hard.
12. New EnglandRecommended Blogs: Foxboro Blog
What to like: The Patriots losing.
What not to like: Rooting for the Patriots violates all 3 of the Steelers Fan criteria. They are a rival that has beaten us in Championship games in the past, they have 3 Super Bowl Rings and a win would tie Brady/Belichick with Bradshaw/Noll at 4, and their team and coaching staff are chalk full of jagoffs.
The Verdict: Under no circumstance should you root for the Patriots
11. San Francisco
Recommended Twitter Follows: @jamesmann23
What to like: The way they run the ball. Colin Kaepernick is a cool dude. They have one of the best groups of linebackers in the league.
What not to like: The only rule they don't violate is #1. A Super Bowl win for the 49ers would tie them with the Steelers with 6 Lombardis. Also, they are coached by a Harbaugh.
The Verdict: Colin Kaepernick's coolness does not outweigh Harbaugh's douchebaggery. Also, there's that Super Bowl thing. The 49ers were my favorite NFC team when I was growing up, but on this list they get placed close to the bottom, mostly because of Rule #2.
Recommended Blogs: Cincy Jungle
Recommended Twitter Follows: @whodeybaby, @OhioBrian
What to like: Andy Dalton throwing interceptions. Also, Marvin Lewis, who is from Fort Cherry. He's a Pittsburgh guy and a good coach that had to deal with a pack of douchebags for years before the organization finally cut ties with most of them.
What not to like: They are in our division and are a rival team. If you're considering rooting for any team from Cincinnati, go watch videos of Reds pitchers beaning Andrew McCutchen.
The Verdict: Unless you have money riding on the Bengals, who were 25-to-1 before the season started, don't root for them.
Recommended Blogs: Inside the Iggles
Recommended Twitter Follows: @VoiceofthePhan, @InsidetheIggles, @MattThorntonNFL
What to like: LeSean McCoy. Also, Nick Foles if he helped you win a Fantasy Football Championship.
What not to like: They are from Philadelphia. Chip Kelly is one of the under-rated jagoffs of the coaching world, which makes him fit perfectly in Philadelphia.
The Verdict: The only reason to align with a team from Philadelphia would be if they are playing a team from Boston or New York.
8. Kansas City
Recommended Blogs: Arrowhead Addict, Arrowhead Pride
What to like: An underdog story riding a strong defense through the first half of the year. They did enough in the first half to get them into the playoffs and slept through the second half. If you had Jamaal Charles on your fantasy team, lots to like here.
What not to like: There is plenty for Steelers fans to hate about the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs. For starters, Andy Reid prolonged a meaningless preseason game against the Steelers by kicking a field goal and sending the game to overtime. Then there was Ryan Succop against the Chargers.
The Verdict: The bads outweigh the goods here. The Chiefs are not a recommended team.
7. Green Bay
Recommended Twitter Follows: @PackersTherapy
What to like: Aaron Rodgers' mustache. Mike McCarthy is from Greenfield. Dom Capers used to coach for the Steelers.
What not to like: The Packers beat the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. If you're still hung up on that, you may not want to root for them. A Super Bowl win would give them 5 which would put them in striking distance of the Steelers 6.
The Verdict: Toss-up. This is a middle-of-the-road choice. It really all depends on how much Super Bowl XLV still irks you.
Recommended Twitter Follows: @empulse
What to like: The Peyton Manning face. The Broncos had one of the most explosive offenses in the history of football. It would be fun to see them take on an elite defensive team like Seattle or Carolina in the Super Bowl.
What not to like: The thought of Peyton Manning playing in the Super Bowl and just having to listen to all the talk about his legacy in the two weeks before the game.
The Verdict: Another middle-of-the-road choice. Manning has been much less of a jagoff since he left Indianapolis, but it is totally legitimate to not root for Denver simply because of Manning.
5. San Diego
What to like: Ken Whisenhunt is their offensive coordinator. They closed the season strong with two wins over Kansas City and wins over Denver and Indianapolis. They are one of the few teams with an offense that can keep up with the Broncos.
What not to like: Phillip Rivers plays like a petulant child.
The Verdict: Steelers fans shouldn't hold it against the Chargers that the officials sucked in their season finale against the Chiefs. The Chargers did what they needed to do (and got some calls along the way).
Recommended Blogs: Colts Authority, The Blue Mare
Recommended Twitter Follows: @NateDunlevy, @ColtsAuth_Kyle, @MarcusDugan, @TheBlueMare
What to like: Andrew Luck's beard. Robert Mathis' 19.5 sacks.
What not to like: Chuck Pagano used to coach for the Ravens.
The Verdict: If an AFC team is going to win the Super Bowl, the best option would be for it to be the Indianapolis Colts. Andrew Luck is a lot of fun to watch and there isn't a lot to dislike about their organization.
3. New Orleans
Recommended Blogs: Saints Nation
Recommended Twitter Follows: @SaintsNationBlg
What to like: Black and Gold. Keenan Lewis.
What not to like: Drew Brees playing outside in January. Rob Ryan is their defensive coordinator.
The Verdict: The Saints are a dome team, and the prospect of them going into Philadelphia and winning a game in the freezing cold seems like a bit of a stretch. That said, there isn't a lot to dislike about the Saints and they are a totally viable option for your rooting interests.
Recommended Twitter Follows: @mimiwootiewoot
What to like: The way they play defense. The Panthers have one of the most dominating defensive fronts in the league and Luke Kuechly might be the best inside linebacker in the game right now. The Panthers haven't been blowing teams out but have cut their teeth with some late-game wins.
What not to like: Panthers running backs in Fantasy Football, for their total unpredictability. However, in the playoffs, it is an asset to have 3 different backs that can shoulder the load.
The Verdict: There is nothing wrong with rooting for the Panthers, as long as they don't wear their teal uniforms.
Recommended Blogs: Seahawk Addicts,
Recommended Twitter Follows: @30AcreFortress, @pkc808
What to like: Everything about the way this team operates. They run the ball. They play defense. Their secondary abuses receivers. Richard Sherman might be the second coming of Mel Blount. The best home crowd in football.
What not to like: Pete Carroll could be a bit of a jagoff from his days at USC, but he has built a good team that believes in his system and genuinely has fun on the sidelines.
The Verdict: They run the ball. They play defense. They have a young quarterback that makes ridiculous plays in the pocket to get away from pressure and find open receivers. Does that sound familiar? It should. That was basically the formula the Steelers used in 2004 and 2005. The Seahawks have never won a Super Bowl before and have built a team out of blood, sweat and work ethic. Sure some of their players have big mouths and talk a lot (Sherman), but they back it up with their play on the field. The Seahawks have the best secondary in the league with Sherman and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. I fully endorse rooting for the Seattle Seahawks in every game they play this postseason.