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Old 02-06-2011, 12:12 AM   #1
A Son of Martha

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Default Pittsburgh Steelers are worth rooting for -- for one night

(This article is from the Cincinnati Enquirer. - mesa)
Pittsburgh Steelers are worth rooting for -- for one night

By Paul Daugherty • pdaugherty@enquirer.com • February 5, 2011

CINCINNATI -- Sunday night and Sunday night only: Could you root for an owner who, back in the day, would empty the ashtrays in the lobby of his stadium, not far from the glass case containing the Super Bowl trophies? How ’bout his son?

Any love for a guy who, when he wasn’t serving as U.S. ambassador to Ireland, sometimes would walk with the rank and file fans to the new stadium, from his modest row home near downtown?

Recently, responding to a question about a suggested 18-game regular NFL season, the son said, “I would rather not have the (extra) money.’’

I know you could wrap your heart around that.

Need more than Art Rooney – aka The Chief – and his son, Dan?

How ’bout an organization that respects its fans, its traditions and its town? That doesn’t just encourage the town-team synergy to flourish, but is intrinsically the heart of it? That lets its high school football teams mush up its grass field every November, so the kids can have a cool and memorable place to play their championship games?

Am I leaving anything out?

Maybe the notion that the team is smart, well run and secure in its identity. That it has had three coaches in 42 years. (The Washington Redskins have had seven since 1999.)

Is that worthy of your affections for three hours Sunday night?

Ladies and gentlemen, your Pittsburgh Steelers.

Could you do that, just for a day?

I know, I know.

It’s like asking you to root for higher taxes, root canals and Democrats. It’s not like asking you to adore Nancy Zimpher. Nothing could be like that. But it’s close.

But for one night, renounce your football religion and cheer for an organization that has it all figured out. Or at least as close to figured out as it gets in the National Football League. The Steelers and the Packers are everything that’s right about the NFL, where shared revenues offer little guys a big chance, and fan passion fuels the local need to be great.

The difference is, Pittsburgh is more like we are than Green Bay is. We can identify with a river town, a modest town of earnest folks. Plus, the Bengals play the Steelers twice a year. More than any other NFL team, the Steelers hold a mirror to the Bengals imperfections.

Pittsburgh is who Cincinnati could be, if Cincinnati had its own Rooney family.

It’s not the winning in Pittsburgh. OK, it is: Six Lombardis in seven tries, 25 playoff appearances in 39 years. In a league that strives for the more perfect 8-8, the Steelers are the elephant in the red zone. They, not the screwloose Oakland Raiders, just win, baby.

But it’s more than the winning. Truly. The Steelers simply don’t stray. They win games now the way they won them then. 1978: Bradshaw, Harris, Webster, Swann. Greene, Lambert, Ham, Blount.

2010: Roethlisberger, Mendenhall, Pouncey, Ward. Harrison, Woodley, Polamalu, Hampton. The Steelers are timeless, in a very progressive way. You don’t succeed in the NFL by standing still (such as a certain local football business). The Steelers have progressed enough over the years to win a lot. It’s not good luck.

Confession: Lots of who I am comes from Pittsburgh. Not downtown (“dahntahn,’’ if yunz are from there) but close enough. Burgettstown, Aliquippa, Mount Lebanon. Relatives who worked at Jones and Laughlin, the seven-mile steel mill (“still mill’’) along the Ohio River, and Weirton Steel, who lost their jobs when America abandoned manufacturing and started driving lots of vehicles made in Japan.

The city itself belies its own image. There are no steel mills left in Pittsburgh proper. My dad would tell of waking each morning to dust the mill soot off the windowsills and the car windshields. Black and grainy evidence of what Pittsburgh was. My folks still have a coffee table book of the city that includes black and white photos of Pittsburgh at noon, dark as Jack the Ripper’s London.

That was a long time ago. If they wanted to be accurate now, Pittsburgh would rename the Steelers the High-Techs or the White Collars. The people haven’t changed, though. Still as hard-headed and stoic as ever. More than a little like their football team.

These are qualities we admire. Especially in football teams: Unyielding, traditional, proud, successful. Three coaches in 42 years. The same helmets, with the iconic trio of starbursts only on the right side of the helmet, a logo borrowed from Republic Steel of, yes, Cleveland.

All football players are tough. The profession demands it. The Steelers own a different brand of toughness, though. They push through, they don’t doubt. They do what they do, without apology.

It’s good stuff, in Pittsburgh. On Sunday night, the Steelers deserve a shout.
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