I hope this feeling of excitement never gets old. The Pittsburgh Steelers are back in the Super Bowl for the third time in six seasons. Six years ago I could only hope that this team would make it back to the championship game after a long drought. Now, with two rings and another within our grasp, I'm just as giddy as I was in 2006 and 2009. I can't believe I'm going to watch the Steelers play the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV in Dallas in two weeks.
I watched Sunday's AFC Championship game in Maryland with my family, as I owed them a visit after missing them at Christmas. My stepmother and I screamed at the TV on almost every play, which was more screaming than might have been completely necessary. As we built a seemingly insurmountable 24-3 lead before halftime, we all dared to dream about what we'd do for the Super Bowl: where we'd watch the game, who would travel, and so on. I tried to keep calm. There's plenty of football left. I took comfort from CBS's note that the Steelers led the Broncos 24-0 in the AFC Championship in 2006 and went on to win.
Then the New York Jets came out after halftime and cut the lead to 24-10 and ultimately to 24-19. My heart was pounding (although that might have been from the giant sandwich and metric ton of seven layer dip I'd consumed in the 1st quarter). I watched the clock tick down, moving far too slowly. Like the Patriots did last week, the Jets took their time marching down the field in the 4th quarter. With 3 minutes left, they kicked off deep instead of kicking it onside (my greatest fear at that point was that they'd recover an onside kick). I kept thinking “one more first down. Just one.” The Jets used up their timeouts before the 2-minute warning. One more first down was all we needed. And when Ben Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for those precious few yards, my dad said “that's the game!” and I laughed and stood up and waved my Terrible Towels (I have two now) and everyone thought I was going to cry. Ike Taylor threw his hands in the air, Rex Ryan threw his headset, and the Steelers kneeled to seal the game.
Now we move on to Dallas and the Packers. Green Bay is a solid, dangerous team and I am not about to underestimate them. The Steelers have experience on both offense and defense and a coaching staff that knows what it's like to play on the game's biggest stage. I'd like to think those are advantages, but New Orleans came into last year's game against Indianapolis and proved that they could beat a talented quarterback and a recent Super Bowl champion. Green Bay will not let Pittsburgh have a 24-0 lead by halftime. We are in for a fight in two weeks. We played these Packers on my birthday last year (a game I was supposed to attend until a snowstorm kept me in New York) and we only beat them at the last minute. These are two evenly matched teams. I think it's going to be a great game. I'm thrilled to be a part of it.
One more thing: my superstitions might be getting out of control. When I'm at home by myself, I wear my Steelers shirt, a Harrison jersey, carry two Terrible Towels, and I make chili (and watch the game from the kitchen sometimes) and that usually leads to victory. Since I was at my dad's house, I couldn't make chili or watch the game from the kitchen. Instead of ignoring my superstition for the foolishness that it is, I came up with a new one. We all stayed seated for for most of the first half as we were eating and drinking, and the Steelers looked like world-beaters. In the second half, my brother and his girlfriend got up to get drinks and dessert and spent a few minutes in the kitchen. The Jets scored a touchdown. Then my brother got up to get another drink in the 4th quarter and the Jets got a safety. I realized that we'd been in our seats in the first half and the Steelers had played well. I nearly ordered everyone to sit where they'd been sitting in the first half, because who knew if that had been helping the team? I tweeted that I was threatening to tie everyone to their chairs. My father had to use the bathroom and waited until the 2-minute warning to get up. OK, I felt a little bad about that one. But a trip to the Super Bowl was on the line! You do whatever it takes to help the team.
I will try to calm down a bit for the Super Bowl, but it's going to be tremendously difficult. We're going for our seventh championship. I need to remember that nothing I do can affect the way the Steelers play. Except for what I wear, and where I watch the game, and where I hang my Steelers banner, and what I eat....