This weekend’s match-up in Pittsburgh between the Oakland Raiders and the Steelers turns back the years. It is old school. It is in your face, smash-mouth football and it has us all drooling again after years of starvation.
The AFC may have been dominated in recent years by high-powered passing offenses run by Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, but looking back on the history of the AFC Championship, two teams stand tall – the Raiders and the Steelers.
In the early years of the AFC, these two teams were utterly dominant. In the first 11 years of the Lamar Hunt Trophy, the Raiders or the Steelers featured in 10 of the Championship games, on three occasions 1975-1977 pitting their wits against each other.
Indeed, despite Oakland’s recent fall from grace, the Raiders or the Steelers have still appeared in six of the last 10 Championship games.
Overall, 22 of the 40 AFC Championship games have involved these two old-school rivals, with Pittsburgh leading the way 14 games to Oakland/LA’s 11.
To be into the second half of the season and see these two franchises once again on top of their divisions and challenging for AFC honors brings joy the heart of all those fans who like “real football”.
As has been the theme down through the years, these two will go after each other with aggressive, nasty defenses. They will try to pound the rock down the throat of their opponents and they will also look for the big play down field to speedy receivers.
Two organizations steeped in history and tradition, two teams that like to wear black at home, two similar philosophies on how to win a football game, two sets of partisan fans and the AFC title again on the agenda for both teams.
But on Sunday, there can be only one winner. When the dust settles at Heinz Field who will prove to be the last men standing? Will Pittsburgh re-assert their authority after last week’s loss to the Patriots, or will Oakland’s hot streak continue?
Who would bet against another Sebastian Janikowski field goal winning a low-scoring game and sending the Raider Nation wild?