A Super pick that's super tough to swallow
By Zac Jackson
FOX Sports Ohio
February 5, 2011
Typing out loud on the Super Bowl...
1. Here in Browns Country, this is a tough day. Always is, kind of, but especially today. Because Those Guys, the Pittsburgh F. Steelers, are playing in the Super Bowl again. You may have read the thoughts of my colleague Jeff Seemann, and there's a chance you feel the same way. Browns-Steelers isn't just a rivalry, and the Steelers' recent domination of the series, recent run atop the league and the fact that they've done with guys from Ohio and guys who aren't exactly likable human beings to the average fan watching at home and reading the paper, well, it all adds up to frustration. And anger. And though working in the NFL for as long as I did knocked a lot of the "fan" out of me, I understand. I think Terrible Towels are terrible. I was only kind of joking when I took to Twitter a few weeks ago and wrote that seeing my Steelers season-ticket holding neighbors arrive safely back to their driveway each Sunday night gave me mixed feelings. I really feel for Browns fans who have to show up in an office, a shop or at a school bright and early Monday and hear their Steeler fan coworkers playing that deep song from the great thinker Wiz Khalifa. I'm afraid the Steelers are going to win again.
2. Bengals fans hate the Steelers because the road to their '05 Super Bowl went through Cincinnati and the infamous game in which a shot to Carson Palmer's knee ended any chance for the guys in stripes. And because the Rooneys are everything that Mike Brown will never be, and just because one of the best divisions in the NFL always seems to go through Heinz Field. When the Bengals get in a mess with players making bad decisions or have a bad season on the field, it seems to turn into an avalanche and take years to recover. The Steelers get in a mess? They clean it up. They bounce back. They turned one bad year into drafting Ben Roethlisberger earlier in the decade. They turned a bad year last year into making the Super Bowl this year. They got fed up with Santonio Holmes and shipped him away. They got a pledge from Roethlisberger that he'd be a better person and, well, it's not easy to root for the guy. But he's had the season of his life.
3. People are always going to hate Roethlisberger for his off-field actions, and I understand. And it's not like Hines Ward and James Harrison are the easiest guys for neutral fans to root for, either. Knowing Harrison like I do, though, I can assure that the last thing in the world he cares about is what people think about him. And it's that chip on his shoulder that's driven him to not only things like Super Bowl hero and NFL Defensive Player of the Year, but to being the perfect fit for a team that's built an identity and long-term success through guys like him. And Troy Polamalu, who was considered an undersized and one-dimensional safety coming out of USC. And Ward, who loves to tell people he was a third-round pick who became the franchise's all-time leading receiver and is someday going to be enshrined in two Halls of Fame -- the Cheap Shot Hall of Fame and the Big One in Canton. And the latest, greatest, fastest third-round pick, Mike Wallace. And a whole bunch of "next man up" guys besides Harrison, guys like Doug Legursky, Brett Keisel and Antonio Brown. These are the Steelers, folks. A first-class organization that outshines the Browns and Bengals, year in and year out, on every level of the organization all the way to and through the place it really counts, on the field. Grit your teeth -- I am too -- but it's true.
4. If I was one of those diehard Browns fans, I'd be way more angry that the Browns allowed the Steelers to draft Roethlisberger and spent second-rounders on Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie the round before Wallace went than I'd be at Steeler Nation in general. I understand, I'm just saying. And I'd probably be super angry that a guy named Clay Matthews is playing on the other team, too, because, well, you know the story. And Bengals fans know that 14 or so months ago their team was good enough to run the table in the division but now is picking fourth in the draft. It hurts. It burns. We'll certainly dive much more into the challenges the Browns and Bengals face going forward here over the next few months.
5. As for the game itself, I really am a big Aaron Rodgers fan. And with his receiving corps, his talents and the guys on defense, the Packers are in position for this to be the first of many Super Bowls over the next seven or eight years. And I truly believe that Rodgers will make some plays down the field, and that the defensive front will get after Roethlisberger. But as we've all seen so many times, getting after him and getting him to the ground are entirely different tasks altogether. And we've seen that Rodgers is even better when the run game gets going and sets things up for him, and it's next to impossible to run on the Steelers. I just think that, for as good as Rodgers, Matthews, Greg Jennings and Mr. Woodson are, the Steelers just win, baby. The bigger the stage, the better they play. The more they embrace it. The better they are when it really counts, and I think they win it in the fourth quarter tonight.
Zac's pick: Pittsburgh 31, Green Bay 27