Look: I'm hung over, and it's an Iron City hangover, which somehow always seems worse than the other kinds -- as leaden as a Pittsburgh sky in January. In any case, the only local history I'm interested in talking about was the history that got made on Sunday.
I'll also confess this: I was happier after the AFC Championship. Partly that's because we looked more like Super Bowl champions in the playoffs than we did in the Super Bowl itself. Let's just admit it: Much of that game was ugly. Hell, looking at it statistically -- which isn't the only way to look at football, but still -- Ben Roethlisberger played far worse than Neil O'Donnell did in Super Bowl XXX. O'Donnell's performance is widely regarded as one of the worst QB outings in Super Bowl history, but by my calculations, his stats -- 28 completions on 49 attempts for 239 yards, one TD and three interceptions -- garner him a QB rating of 51.3. That's more than double Roethlisberger's 22.5 QB rating in Super Bowl XL.
Of course, there were great stories as well. Ike Taylor, getting picked on all game long and then turning it around with a key interception. Jerome Bettis having a couple explosive runs, and then crawling for a few feet like he wanted to kiss the turf, like he never wanted to leave it. Everything about Hines Ward. But what really troubles me is this: I know folks in Seattle. They're feeling cheated. They'll admit that Seattle blew the many chances it did have, but still what about that pass-interference call? And they aren't alone. ESPN.com columnist Michael Smith put it this way: "Here's what referee Bill Leavy's crew did, point blank: It robbed Seattle."
It's easy to dismiss this as whining. On Good Morning America the next day, coach Bill Cowher was asked about the officiating and his response was -- and I quote -- "21-10." The thing is if the situation were reversed, I'm pretty sure we'd be saying exactly the same things we're faulting Seattle for saying. I know because I have said those things.
In fact, feeling ripped off and cheated has been so much a part of my Steelers experience that it's hard for me to give it up. When Troy Polamalu's interception was overturned during the playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts, I was outraged but I also felt weirdly righteous. You know, of course the cosmos would find a way to deprive us of our due. I'm just not used to seeing the questionable calls go our way. The chip is on the other shoulder now, and I'm not sure I like it.
Then again, maybe there's a bit of self-loathing in the heart of Steelers Nation, just as there is arguably a self-esteem problem in the city the Steelers call home. If Pittsburgh had lost instead of Seattle, bitching about the officiating would only be the start. We'd be insisting Bill Cowher couldn't win the big game. We'd all be mentioning "Ben Roethlisberger" and "Neil O'Donnell" in the same sentence. We'd grouse about the refs, sure but more than that -- we would blame ourselves.
And you know what? That's what they should be doing in Seattle. We overcame the Polamalu interception, why couldn't they overcome their setbacks?
And of course, it's only the calls that went against Seattle that are being remembered. Nobody bother to mention that Jerramy Stevens -- the Seattle tight end with leaden hands -- clearly fumbled a pass the officials ruled incomplete instead. Pittsburgh might have recovered that fumble if the refs hadn't waved it off.
But you think anyone over at ESPN.com cares? You think the people trying to put an asterisk next to our victory would be doing that to the Colts, had Indy beaten us and gone all the way?
Dammit, in Indianapolis, they tried to take away our victory. Now they're trying to take away our enjoyment of it. After being the No. 6 seed and all the rest, we're still not getting respect. We may have gotten the Super Bowl trophy, but we're still getting the ass end of the stick. We still have something to prove. There. I'm starting to feel better already.