Pittsburgh Steelers' Home-Field History Raises Questions

Bryan Hollister@too_old_4stupidAnalyst IJanuary 14, 2009

Take a good look at the picture, Steelers fans: This is the guy who could come in and ruin your dreams of a sixth Super Bowl ring.

The fact that he might do it at home just makes the thought even worse.

Pittsburgh faces the Baltimore Ravens Sunday in a showdown for the AFC Championship and a shot at yet another Super Bowl victory. Pittsburgh is one of only three teams who have won five Super Bowls, and should they succeed against the Ravens on Sunday will face the NFC Champions in a battle for No. 6.

There's a problem though.

They are playing at home.

In the 10 years prior to their odds-defying road run to Super Bowl XL, Pittsburgh hosted the AFC Championship game five times. The only time they got a ticket to the show was 1995, where they lost to the Dallas Cowboys.

A home championship record of 1-4 has to be weighing on the minds of players and coaches of both organizations. It most assuredly is on the minds of the fans.

"It's big," Ben Roethlisberger said when asked for his thoughts on the game. "The last time we were here in my rookie season, I didn't play so well, so I'll be looking for a little redemption."

In that wonderful season, if you will remember, Ben Roethlisberger went undefeated as a starter, and won his first playoff game in decisive fashion. But then came the championship against the Tom Brady-led Patriots, and the Steelers lost their fourth straight home game in the last stop to glory.

No other team has done what they did so quickly. Only the erstwhile Buffalo Bills can match them in futility when it comes to winning The Big One. Buffalo went 3-0 at home during their Super Bowl run of the early 1990's—the '93 game was played in Miami—only to suffer heartbreaking loss after heartbreaking loss in the Super Bowl four straight years.

To be sure, the quarterbacks the Steelers have faced in Pittsburgh have been top-notch play callers.

Stan Humphries—holder of a Hall of Fame slot in both the San Diego Chargers and Louisiana Sports organizations, and might one day make it to Canton—beat them in 1995 when he rallied the Chargers from behind in the fourth quarter to defeat the heavily favored Steelers.

Hall of Famer John Elway beat them in 1997 to go to the first of his two career-closing Super Bowl Championships.

Drew Bledsoe—not necessarily Hall of Fame material, but good enough in his time—played well enough in relief of injured Tom Brady to beat the Steelers 24-17 in 2002.

Tom Brady brought the Patriots back to Pittsburgh in 2005 and beat the Steelers soundly by a score of 41-27 before winning the Super Bowl that year.

In fact, of the teams that beat the Steelers at home in the AFC title game, only the Chargers did not go on to win the Super Bowl.

San Diego had the misfortune of running afoul of the San Fransisco 49ers. When they actually make it to the Super Bowl, they win it.

Enter Joe Flacco, the rookie-who-isn't-really-a-rookie, playing for rookie coach John Harbaugh. If that isn't an affront to your sensibilities, it should be. Rookies just don't do what these two have done.

But do it they have, with an unflappability and air of confidence you would only expect of a player and coach who had been together for years. Their luck should have run out before the season was over, but they somehow slipped into the postseason.

Then they had to travel to Miami, and the high-flying attack of the Dolphins was sure to put them in their place.

Nope. Won that one 27-9, and Pennington was horrible.

On to Tennessee, where the Titans' top-ranked defense was sure to close them out and make things right in the football universe.

Nothing doing. Tennessee stood strong on defense, but offensively they blew it big time, and "Joe Cool" provided just enough to get them the win.

Now they face the hated Steelers at Heinz Field. Ask any team who has been there: This is not an easy place to play. And the Ravens have failed twice this year already.

This is a grudge match. Baltimore will be coming in hot, ready to take back the dignity they feel was stolen from them earlier in the year. Flacco has been nearly perfect in his playoff debut. The rookie mistakes he was supposed to make are non-existent.

The Steelers are likely hoping he saved them all up for this game. If not, he could be the odds-on favorite to pull off what no rookie quarterback has ever done.


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