Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Pittsburgh Steelers 80th Anniversary: 80 Years, 80 Memories (Vol. 4) - Bleacher Report

The Steelers dynasty began winning championships in 1974-75.  Their era of glory should have begun two years earlier in 1972. In fact, the winning era of Steelers football, namely the second half or latter forty years, began in '72.  It was a year of hard work, an earned turnaround and an enormous miracle

The defense finished fifth in the NFL in points surrendered, and their penchant for gathering up turnoversâ€"including 28 interceptions (team leader Jack Ham had seven picks)â€"allowed a developing, inconsistent offense some leeway.

Terry Bradshaw's dozen touchdowns matched his dozen INTs, though top targets Lynn Swann and John Stallworth would not arrive until the "immaculate" (there's that word again!) 1974 NFL Draft class.  Franco Harris buoyed the offense, eclipsing 1,000 yards and scoring 10 touchdowns, averaging 5.6 yards per carry.

Fan excitement grew as the 11-3 Steelers entered the playoffs for the first time in seemingly forever, doing so playing their best football in years and harboring momentum. 

Steelers Country was ready for the intensity of playoff football in their newly christened Three Rivers Stadium.   When Kenny Stabler scored on a long touchdown run on a broken play, Pittsburgh suddenly trailed 7-6 with little time left.

Then, it happened...the play.

Grandfathers still tell grandchildren about the greatest play they have ever seen by the greatest dynasty they have ever seen.

The only difference between then and now is that at the time, they simply didn't know about that "dynasty" part just yet.  In fact, if you look closely enough at an elder recapping the story, provided you are too young to have experienced it yourself, you may well see the flash of glee reflecting from his eyes.

From hearing Myron's call of "Yoi and double yoi!" during the radio broadcast to carrying on with other fans at the local sports bar, any loyalist present for the most iconic moment in team history will remember exactly where they were for...

The Immaculate Reception!

Many are those who can almost hear the full call by Steelers radio announcer Jack Fleming:

Hang onto your hats!  Here come the Steelers out of the huddle. Terry Bradshaw at the controls. Twenty-two seconds remaining, and this crowd is standing.  Bradshaw, back and looking again. Bradshaw running out of the pocket, looking for somebody to throw to, fires it down field, and there's a collision! It's caught out of the air! The ball is pulled in by Franco Harris!! Harris is going for a touchdown for Pittsburgh!! Harris is going!! 5 seconds left on the clock!! Franco Harris pulled in the football, I don't even know where he came from!!

Bradshaw rolled right, unleashed a desperate heave over the middle toward Frenchy Fuqua, Jack Tatum collided with the intended target, the ball flied backwards in a directly opposed direction to Tatum's momentum (physics, anyone?), and Franco snagged the pigskin before it hits the ground.

Harris ran to paydirt as the Oakland Raiders cried foul, but the play stood as called.  The controversy sparked a new rivalry and began a new era in Steelers football.

If finally winning games served as the foundation for bigger things ahead, this classic contest, which rests in disdain for Al Davis and John Madden, served as the first post for a house of champions.

The exciting Steelers, built on the image of Chuck Noll, were supremely talented, welcoming in a level of excitement to a city that had previously only known the thrill of the World Series pennants.

While the season ended one week later (on the same day that Roberto Clemente passed) in a mistake-riddled 21-17 home loss to the eventual undefeated Miami Dolphins, the up-and-comers served notice to the rest of the NFL that a young new challenger to the throne was rising in Western Pennsylvania, a region where the local football team hadn't ever matched the local homegrown talent.

Pittsburgh Steelers: 3 Things to Expect for Week 3 (Based on Wk 2 Results) - Bleacher Report

The Pittsburgh Steelers needed a boost after a second straight loss to the conference rival Denver Broncos.  They got one, silencing their critics with a 27-10 smackdown of the upstart New York Jets. 

Now Pittsburgh will look to replicate their success against New York in their Week 3 matchup against the Oakland Raiders.

Pittsburgh's D was its typical dominant self against the Jets, playing like an elite unit even without All-Pros LB James Harrison and S Troy Polamalu.

QB Ben Roethlisberger sliced up the vaunted Jets defense en-route to a three touchdown, 27-point performance by the Steel Curtain's offense.

In short, the Steelers looked dominant against the Jets, a team that blew out the new-look Buffalo Bills just one week prior.

Next week's matchup against the Raiders is one they should win. Oakland is clearly a team on the downswing (they lost seven starters from last season), and Pittsburgh's D should be able to overwhelm the middling Raiders offense.

Let's take a look at what Pittsburgh fans can expect from their team following their Week 2 blowout of the Jets.

1) Roethlisberger Will Rule the Day Again

Look for Big Ben to have a big day against the Raiders defense.
Look for Big Ben to have a big day against the Raiders defense.
Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE

Though the Jets didn't have CB Darrelle Revisâ€"the league's best defensive backâ€"on the field in Week 2, they still boasted a strong secondary headed by CB Antonio Cromartie and man-child S LaRon Landry.

That's a lot more than the Raiders defense can put forth.

Oakland lost CB Stanford Routt and didn't re-sign Lito Sheppard this offseason, leaving them with holes at both starting corner positions. Their luck at defensive back has taken a turn for the worse this year, with both starting corners Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer out with injuries. 

That's not a recipe for stopping Big Ben and the Steelers offense.

Roethlisberger was a relentless 24 for 31 for 275 yards and two touchdowns in Week 2. That's good for a 77 percent completion rate and a 125.1 passer rating (good for third-best in Week 3). All that against a very good Jets defense, even without Revis.

Look for him to dissect the Oakland secondary like a high school chemistry student dices a live worm.

To call this a favorable matchup for the Steelers would be a glorious understatement: Roethlisberger might throw for four touchdowns in Week 3. 

2) The Defense Will Have a Field Day Against Carson Palmer

After all these years, Pittsburgh's defense is still elite.
After all these years, Pittsburgh's defense is still elite.
Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Carson Palmer's star has fallen far since his Pro Bowl days. 

The Raiders unloaded a first and second rounder for Palmer in the hopes he'd return them to the playoffs last season. It didn't pay off: they finished 8-8 for the second straight year, good for third in their division.

Now Palmer, who at this point is just a shell of his former self, faces a fast and physical Pittsburgh defense that won't have much trouble stopping him.

On the first drive of the Steelers' Week 2 matchup, Jets QB Mark Sanchez marched his offense down the field, going 4-for-5 for 80 yards and a touchdown.  On the last Jets drive, when the game had already been decided, Sanchez went 3-for-5 for 36 yards.

In the nearly 50 minutes in between those two drives, Pittsburgh held Sanchez to just three completions in 17 attempts for only 22 yards. 

That is a phenomenal defensive performance against a quarterback who, at this point, is fairly similar to Palmer.

Bleacher Report AFC West Lead Writer Christopher Hansen penned a great article detailing Palmer's current performance issues.  Palmer has a strong arm, but, as outlined by Hansen, he's indecisive in his reads, he's prone to overthrows and he tends to lock in on receivers.

Sounds a bit like the profile of a certain Jets QB whom the Steelers just shut down (no, not Tim Tebow).

Though it's tough to expect any defense to totally neutralize a passer like the Steelers did to Sanchez in Week 2, look for them to have a fantastic performance against Palmer and the Raiders. 

3) Pittsburgh Will Win Big

Mike Tomlin will have plenty of reasons to smile in Week 3.
Mike Tomlin will have plenty of reasons to smile in Week 3.

The Raiders don't match up well against the Steelers. They really don't match up well against many teams, actually.

To paraphrase the old adage, they're bringing a spoon to a gunfight, and it won't be pretty.  

The Steelers D should be able to throttle Palmer and a struggling RB Darren McFadden, leaving the Raiders with little recourse on offense.

When the Steelers have the ball, they'll have troubles along the line, where the Raiders D will be able to put pressure on a patchwork Pittsburgh front that has already allowed eight sacks this season.

But if Roethlisberger can get the ball off in time, he'll pick apart a Raiders secondary that wishes it could be called "patchwork."

This is a game that shouldn't be close, and it won't be. Pittsburgh beat up on a Jets team that has a legitimate shot at the playoffs. The Raiders, by all accounts, will be on the outside looking in come January.

Look for the Steelers to win by more than two touchdowns in Week 3.

Prediction: Steelers win, 31-13

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