Steelers AFCCG Recap, The Bus Is Going Home! - By Neal Coolong

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

If you read this site before Pittsburgh's 34-17 thrashing of Denver in the AFC Championship game, you would have quickly learned that the Denver Faithful gave Pittsburgh about as much respect as we give Ted Ferguson - Bud Lite Daredevil.

There were even Steelers fans calling me out for my open letter to Denver and its fans.

For shame...

It was almost anticlimactic. I mean, seriously, you'd think Denver would have bothered to show up. The dozens of negative responses I got to my open letter indicated that not only is their team vastly superior and ready to play, but my intelligence is less than that of a garden slug.

The funny thing was they copied and pasted the satirical letter on a thread of one of their sites ( www.BroncosFreak.com ) and made comments about the wife I allegedly have and my ability as a writer. They even went as far as to Google search me, and make fun of an award I won in college.

Hmmm...

Even with their barrage of negative reviews, nasty posts and a seemingly endless stream of anti-Steelers email I received, I never thought Pittsburgh was going to lose this game. There's too much riding on it. A team that has embraced the underdog role better than any other in the history of the league can't fall after knocking off the No. 3 and No. 1 seeds in the playoffs. They are already the first No. 6 seed to make the title game, there's no way they can falter now.

And it was over almost as quickly as it began. The only worries I should have had was how I was going to put six people in the tight confines of The Starting Gate - the Steelers bar in St. Paul, MN. - and how I was going to convince myself to take the weeks before and after the Super Bowl off to go to Detroit.

12:53 A.M. - SteelersBro and his significant other combined with myself and SteelersGirlfriend and Jon and Sarah - transplant Vikings fans looking for a rowdy environment in which to watch the AFC's best. SteelersGirlfriend and I (yeah, I'm actually not gay, but thanks for asking in that email, Broncos fan "Neib") had been up since 8:30 A.M. and decided against grabbing an omlette at Perkins before the game. We waited for our chicken fingers basket and cheese curds at the 'Gate instead. No, I'm not very healthy.

2:55 P.M. - NFL Great Deacon Jones is going on about something to do with the playoffs. As strange as this sounds, I kind of miss those ads with Don Cheadle - you know, considering he looks like the least athletic actor this side of Keanu Reeves and the dad in Field of Dreams. Always a funny piece of irony.

3:07 P.M. - Jake Plummer strides to the field looking like a cross between Johnny Damon and Giovanni Ribisi - and I wouldn't want any of the three of them playing quarterback on this day. Steelers defense forces a punt after two first downs, QB Ben Roethlisberger walks out on the field with that determined-yet-calm stride of his. He didn't have entrance music, but he should have. He's the best quarterback in the first quarter in the game, which doesn't mean much - unless you mind having your team go up 10-0 in the first eight minutes.

3:44 P.M. - AHHH! Ben - who is NOT going to the Pro Bowl - must be off his game. It took him the ENTIRE first quarter to put the Steelers up 10. After Plummer's fumble, Ben - who is NOT going to the Pro Bowl - hit Cedrick Wilson wide open in the end zone for the game's first touchdown. Boy, I'm sure glad Plummer is going to the Pro Bowl... excuse me...

4:26 P.M. - Ben - who is NOT going to the Pro Bowl - marched the Steelers effortlessly 80 yards, capped off by a 3-yard run by The Great Jerome Bettis. Neither Ben - who is NOT in the Pro Bowl - nor Bus got the message that Pittsburgh wasn't supposed to win this game. See, if they read my column, they would know these things..

4:27 P.M. - Gosh, if I didn't know any better, I swear the Cleveland Browns were on the field. Oh wait, Brown, Ekuban, Meyers...they pretty much are!

Beer was flowing like wine at the 'Gate, and no one was sitting down. It's packed body-to-body, and is getting kind of gross. Most notably, the guy who kept standing between my legs, back facing me, riding me like Seabiscuit during big plays. This practice was quickly stopped with a "hey pal!" like Uncle Buck at the bowling alley.

4:30 P.M. - They showed a clip of John Elway wearing Euro-trash sunglasses in his luxury suite looking like he was about to pull a Bobby Bouchier and come on the field in the second half. It should be mentioned he is the only guy to ever win a Super Bowl, and own an Arena League team that won its championship...Surprisingly, Phil Simms didn't bother to mention this.

SteelersBro and I were just debating whether or not the guy next to us wearing the white No. 47 Scott Shields Steelers jersey was, in fact, THE Scott Shields himself. We agreed it had to be, as no one would have ever PURCHASED a Scott Shields jersey. Is it worse to wear a Scott Shields jersey, or to pick your own number and put your last name on the back? Because he's here, too. Discuss for a minute, and continue reading.

In a tribute to Plummer's never-wavering love for the Dallas Cowboys, he re-enacted Neil O'Donnell's performance in Super Bowl XXX. Ike Taylor was surprised by the relative ease of his first playoff interception, and had to be wondering what would have possessed a Pro Bowl quarterback to make such a read. It caused me and SteelersBro to begin the conversation of when exactly this game will be official.

"We're going to Detroit , baby!"
"Not yet, it's not over yet."
"Did you forget Jake Plummer is the quarterback?"
"We saw what happened last week."
"...Good point."

Ok, so my celebration was a bit premature, but let's be honest, when the Broncos defense seemingly forgot about a wide-open Hines Ward in the back of the end zone, giving the Steelers a 24-3 lead going into halftime, you could have put a combination of Joe Kane, Mike Winchell and RoboCop under center and Denver wasn't winning this game.

(Quick sidenote: was anyone else frustrated with the fact that David S. Ward - the guy who wrote Major League AND The Program was the man behind the remaking of The Bad News Bears? I would only be more disappointed if you told me Sylvester Stallone was making a Rocky VI. Oh wait...)

4:45 P.M. - Most of halftime was spent with me and SteelersBro discussing what the coolest blowout game score is. 41-0 sounds very nice. 38-3 rolls of the tongue very well. But personally, I like 55-10. That's almost putting the word "rout" into numerical form. As you can see, it's time for another pitcher. Oh, SteelersGirlfriend...

5:15 P.M. - Hey, I KNEW Ashley Lelie suited up today! I was wondering what happened to him. He couldn't complete his quest to become Alvin Harper to Rod Smith's Michael Irvin if he doesn't score in the playoffs. 24-10 Steelers.

5:25 P.M. - SteelersBro never watches Jeff Reed kick field goals. You can't blame him. He suffered through Kris Brown AND Todd Petersen just like we all did. Some of us just aren't able to overcome such frustrations, and develop incurable nervous disorders. As per usual with Jeff Reed, I yelled "Moneyball!" as he sailed through the uprights, and SteelersBro celebrated with the rest of us.

I just realized that's probably the stupidest game tradition I have.

5:45 P.M. - FINALLY, Plummer eats turf, Steelers ball! Roethlisberger - who is NOT going to the Pro Bowl - has no passing option, dives head-first for the clincher!

"HERE-WE-GO-STEELERS....HERE-WE-GO!! is being yelled (ok, I did the Motown part. Geez, I'm really a dork during these games, aren't I?), but it's mathematic now. The Bus is going home...THE BUS IS GOING HOME! PITTSBURGH IS IN THE SUPER BOWL!

6:14 P.M. - Tears are shed. Champagne stings the eyes of anyone sitting close to the cork. Hugs are given all over, bridging all past differences. And the Steelers seemed to be celebrating as well.

I can't remember a three-game stretch where the Steelers played better than this. The only issue now is what Steelers-Haters are going to blame this win on. First, it was Palmer's knee. Then it was a missed field goal. Broncos fans tried to combine the two of these excuses along with Denver's mighty 14-3 record. It used to bother me. It really did. I went to war with Bengals fans, with Colts fans, with Broncos fans. But now, it's inspiring. I WANT to be the underdog! THIS is what has been missing over the last 10 years. We're ALWAYS favored (except for last year). Cowher has got the Steelers so convinced people believe they shouldn't be there, all they do is go out and destroy their opponent (outscoring their opponents 86-52 in three playoff games). That's seven wins in a row now, and five of those were on the road, four of them against teams with records over .500. Can we begin to petition the NFL to allow the Steelers to wear their white road jerseys against Seattle Feb. 5? Can the Steelers announce that Ben Roethlisberger - who is NOT in the Pro Bowl - has another "injury," leading the Seahawks to be three-point favorites?

Not that they'll need it. With the Pro Bowl-less Ben Roethlisberger throwing the way he is, and the Pro Bowl-less Casey Hampton blowing up the line of scrimmage on every snap, I can't find too many reasons people will pick Seattle to win this one.

So just wait until the open letter to Seahawks fans is written. I'm sure they'll come up with a few delusional theories.