Since the AFL/NFL merger in 1970, the Pittsburgh Steelers have won six championships, finished over .500 in all but eight seasons and won 33 playoff games. The only conclusion the Steelers Nation can draw from this: the NFL is out to get us.
This is painful for me, because I was born in Pittsburgh and love the Black 'n Gold. However, as much as my heart wants me to embrace this kind of thinking, my brain pulls me out of the fog.
Once Chuck Noll transformed the Steelers into the most dominant franchise of the '70's, Steelers fans have developed a hypersensitivity to the ups and downs of the game that make more reasonable devotees eternally grateful that the Rooney's don't share the same emotional volatility. We love or hate our players and coaches on a day-to-day basis, but reserve a dark, freaky cynicism for the NFL and it's referees.
This syndrome was born from the Los Angeles Raiders' protest of the "Immaculate Reception," inflamed by accusations of steroid use directed at the Steel Curtain defense and transmitted into the blood-stream of the players after the New England Patriots 'Spygate' scandal.
Throw in various questionable calls by officials, including the overturn-by-challenge of Troy Polamalu's interception in the 2006 AFC divisional catchup against the Indianapolis Colts, and a tapestry of paranoia is woven.
The idea is that the NFL has a vendetta against the Steelers based on some nefarious motive to keep the franchise down.
Former Steelers linebacker Joey Porter got the party started when he declared that the Patriots cheated their way to victory in the 2005 AFC Championship, but the current crop—specifically Ryan Clark and James Harrison—have gotten into specifics.
Harrison has on several occasions accused commissioner Rodger Goodell of targeting the Steelers with both the new rules regarding illegal hits as well as punishments meted out to offenders...like Harrison.
Clark has echoed the same sentiment and also claimed that the power problems that disrupted the 2011 game against the San Francisco 49ers—which the Steelers lost—were an act of sabotage designed at putting Pittsburgh at a disadvantage.
As much as I want to gravitate to this perspective, I can't get past the disconnect with reality. Teams get screwed all the time; by the officials, scheduling, mother nature and the players themselves.
Based on this vendetta concept, if any franchise should feel targeted, it should be the New Orleans Saints. Bountygate arguably turned a contender impotent almost purely at the will of Goodell.
How about the Green Bay Packers and any other team that was undermined by the replacement referees at the start of the '12 season?
The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the most successful franchises in NFL history and if the league is trying to knock them down a peg, the strategy hasn't worked very well.