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02-09-2009, 06:13 AM

Steelers took tough road to title
Buzz up!
Monday, February 9, 2009
About the writer

Guy Junker is the co-host of the Stan & Guy Show, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. weekdays on 1250 ESPN.

When the Steelers schedule was released last year, it started a buzz that continued right through their win in Super Bowl XLIII.

The Steelers had the most difficult schedule in the NFL based on opponents' records in 2007. In reality, the Steelers wound up with the seventh-toughest schedule based on the more accurate record of opponents during the 2008 season. Their opponents had a winning percentage of .525 and that is still the second toughest schedule ever for any Super Bowl Champion.

But don't give away those bragging rights. The toughest schedule ever faced by a Super Bowl Champion was the 1979 Steelers who won Super Bowl XIV after playing against teams with an overall .527 winning percentage.

So, the two toughest roads ever traveled to a Super Bowl title were both traversed by the Steelers. In 1979 and 2008.

It must also be pointed out that the Steelers' schedule for next year is one of the easiest in the league based on opponents records in 2008. The combined record of the Steelers' opponents for next year is 110-144-2 with a .428 winning percentage during the 2008 season. It's the fourth easiest schedule in the NFL. The Miami Dolphins replace the Steelers with the toughest schedule next year.

While most of you were still basking in the glow of the Steelers' sixth Super Bowl win, director of football operations Kevin Colbert and the rest of the brass were already having meetings to discuss free agency. At the end of the month, Max Starks, Bryant McFadden, Marvel Smith, Nate Washington and Chris Kemoeatu are among those who can leave for greener pastures.

McFadden and Washington should be the main priorities there. But, perhaps more important, is the list of players who have just one year left on their contracts.

They include James Harrison, Heath Miller, Jeff Reed, Brett Keisel, Hines Ward, Ryan Clark, Casey Hampton, Larry Foote and Deshea Townsend. It would be nice if the Steelers could lock some of these players up before they have the chance to test the open market next year.

Harrison, Keisel, Miller, Reed and Clark would seem to be top priorities there. Anyone with a history of injuries or getting up there in age needs to be looked at closely, or allowed to play another year before a decision is made on them.

With a resurgence in local college basketball and a new arena ready to open next year, it's time to examine bringing a tournament to town, perhaps between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Pitt has been ranked No. 1 this year and has had a great program for a long time now. Duquesne could be headed to the NIT for the first time in 15 years, and Robert Morris is on top of the Northeast Conference and will go to the NCAA Tournament if it wins its conference tourney.

Pitt plays Robert Morris and Duquesne every year anyway, so maybe those three, and a top-ranked team, could play two doubleheaders similar to the old Steel Bowl. It would be a great showcase for local college basketball. West Virginia and Penn State could figure into the mix as well.

If you wanted to really blow it out, add some women's games, as well. Agnus Berenato has built Pitt into a top-25 program, and Suzie McConnell-Serio is building up Duquesne.

The NCAA Tournament games have been well attended here. Pittsburgh is an event city. It could be big. As John Belushi would say in "Animal House," "Let's do it!"

Speaking of good ideas in basketball. It was 64 years ago Saturday, that the 3-point shot was used for the first time in a collegiate game. On Feb. 7, 1945, Columbia and Fordham used the 3-point line as an experiment.