Sunday, January 16, 2011

The road goes through Pittsburgh

By Mike Batista

Don't put the cap on the Big Ketchup Bottle just yet.

There's going to be one more football game at Heinz Field.

The Steelers' fourth AFC championship game in seven years, their fifth in 10 years and their eighth in 17 years will be in Pittsburgh against the Jets, who stunned the Patriots 28-21 Sunday.

When I watched the game, I was thinking back to 1986, when as a Celtics fan I was rooting like crazy for the Rockets to beat the Lakers in the Western Conference final so the Celtics wouldn't have to face the Lakers in the NBA Finals.

I couldn't sleep the night the Rockets won the series because it suddenly hit me that the Celtics weren't going to get a chance to beat their biggest rivals to win another championship.

That's actually not the case in this situation, because I honestly didn't know who to root for when watching the Jets and Patriots.

On one hand, I would have liked to have seen the Steelers get another shot at Tom Brady, their biggest tormentor of the past decade. If they win another championship, a win over the Patriots in Foxborough would have been a nice jewel in the crown.

But the Patriots, who have lost their last three postseason games, including the last two at home, have gone from Team of the Decade to a franchise that can't get the job done in the playoffs.

To reach the eighth Super Bowl in franchise history, the Steelers were going to have to beat a team that has won at Heinz Field in the last nine weeks, no matter how Sunday's game unfolded.

The Steelers were without Troy Polamalu when they lost to the Jets 22-17 on Dec. 19. They had Polamalu, although he was mired in a mid-season funk, when they lost 39-26 to the Patriots on Nov. 14 in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicates.

So getting to the Super Bowl should be easier for the Steelers with the Patriots out of the way.

Theoretically, anyway.

At least it might make my decision about where to watch the game easier. It's either going to be Bob Hyland's Sports Page in White Plains, NY or Irish Exit, a Steelers bar in Manhattan.

Since it's going to be the Jets, I'm leaning toward the big city.

Sports Page will be filled with Jets fans. This is the place where Jets fans cheered when Brady tore up his knee in the 2008 season opener.

People are much nicer on the 4 train in the Bronx, although I might have to cloak my Steelers gear with my coat until I'm safely in the Steelers enclave.

It'll be a fun week behind enemy lines.

Got anything to say, Rex?

1 comment:

  1. Keep your head down and be safe. And book your trip to Dallas. Sanchez hasn't seen what's coming before now.