A Steeler Fan's Faith: Believe in the Black and Gold

TJ JenkinsAnalyst IJanuary 5, 2009

Another year, another round of the playoffs done in the NFL. Once again, the Pittsburgh Steelers are alive in the playoffs.

All season long the organization and the fans have endured harsh criticism about our team. “The offensive line can’t stand under pressure,” “Ben Roethlisberger isn’t durable,” “Their schedule is too hard for them to succeed.” Countless times this season, we’ve proved the doubters wrong.

Tough wins against the Ravens, Chargers, and Cowboys were the staple of our season. With all that happiness of victory came the white-hot pain of defeat at the hands of the Colts and Titans.

As fellow football fans, we all understand how heartbreaking a lost game can be, especially a close one.

There’s little solace in the fact that your team gave it their all because at the end of the day, it’s not how you played the game, it’s whether you won or lost.

The first bump in the road to the Super Bowl for the Steelers is the San Diego Chargers. Granted, the Chargers just recently took out the team with the most momentum coming into the playoffs in the Indianapolis Colts. MVP Peyton Manning was only able to get in the endzone one time against the Chargers defense sans Shawn Merriman.

Darren Sproles, playing in place of the once-again injured LaDainian Tomlinson, shook and shimmied his way through the Colts underachieving defense to the tune of 105 yards and two touchdowns.

Obviously the Steelers aren’t the Colts, in fact, they’re near polar opposites.

The Colts rely on their offense putting up points to offset the somewhat less-than-stellar defense giving up points. The Steelers have what could be called a mediocre offense, and a simply phenomenal defense.

To beat the Chargers the Steelers have to key in on the running style of Sproles. He’s not going to power it between the tackles. He’s going to look for the cutback, and look to bounce it outside. Our corners are some of the best tackling corners in the NFL, this shouldn’t be a problem for them. Not to mention the speed of outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley is above average.

Phillip Rivers didn’t throw interceptions in the red zone until he faced the Pittsburgh Steelers in the regular season. Harrison made him pay for an ill-advised throw to stop a scoring threat that could have changed the entire make up of that game.

If we get adequate pressure on Phillip Rivers, we’ll force him to make bad throws. He’s not yet an elite Quarterback in the NFL.

Antonio Gates is his biggest receiving threat, and he’s been having a sub par season to his standards.

The Steelers aren’t going to have to worry about LaDainian Tomlinson, and even if they did, they did a great job of shutting him down in their previous meeting (18 rush, 57 yards, one touchdown).

Another key to the game for the Steelers is to utilize all three of the running backs that we have available. Willie Parker’s not the same back he was two years ago, but he’s still effective.

Mewelde Moore’s an absolute killer catching the ball out of the backfield and Gary Russell is the back that we have to power it up the middle on the 3rd-and-one situations.

If we get into a running routine against the Chargers defense, then we can utilize the play action pass, and the deep threat of Santonio Holmes will become apparent.

Hines Ward has once more surpassed 1,000 receiving yards on the season. He’s got to be the toughest receiver in the NFL. Not to mention the best blocking receiver possibly in the history of the league.

I’m still not sure what irritates opposing players more, the fact that he has no problem getting his hands dirty and making the crushing block to spring a teammate, or the fact that you can lay a horrific hit on him, and he’ll still stand up with a grin on his face.

At no point in the season has Mike Tomlin allowed his players to get complacent. He’s been pushing them to the limit and beyond, and they’ve been responding. Alongside Dick LeBeau lighting a fire underneath the defense, they make a great coaching tandem.

Troy Polamalu has once again asserted his spot among the best safeties in the NFL today, trailing perhaps only Ed Reed and by a slim margin at that.

James Harrison has transformed from a special teams player two years ago to an MVP candidate (finishing fourth in the voting).

This is one of the best teams I’ve seen the Steel City produce in years. It will be a shame if we’re not in the big game. And I firmly believe with every part of me that we will be raising the Vince Lombardi trophy come February 1st.

To steal a line from American History X, "It’s always best to end a paper with a quote, someone else has already said it best. So if you can’t top it, steal it from them, and go out strong."

I myself picked a quote from Hall Of Fame coach of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi. “It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up.”

That is the motto for the Pittsburgh Steelers this playoff season. Any time we get down, we get right back up and let Ben Roethlisberger lead us from behind off the stellar play of our defense.

Believe in the black and gold.