I think that many Seattle fans have completely let go of any hate or contempt that they once had for the Steelers. I mean, count me among that hated everything about them, from the smugness of Hines Ward to the... well... the potentially "law-breaking" ways of Ben Roethlisberger.
"Hey, you got something that I think should have rightfully been our thing!"
"Well, then come and get it!"
The more successful they became, they angrier we got. The mere sight of Ward smiling, especially when it came seconds after a brutal hit that you thought for certain would end his season, made me angrier than Al Bundy during a 24 hour Big & Bigger shoe sale. They were so smug. Their fans made it seem like success was rightfully theirs, as if it was a throne bequeathed to them centuries before their birth. Well, fuck that. Dirty Steelers fans. Stupid... dumb-dumb head-
Ehhh, I really don't care anymore. In fact, when I was a kid I liked Pittsburgh. I was rooting for them in the 1995 Super Bowl, which was at the dawn of my NFL fandom. Super Bowl XL sucked and it was terrible and the refs fucked us and hey that's not fair the Steelers fans should be like "Yeah, we didn't deserve that!"
Wait... a football team getting screwed by refs and then fans wanting them to apologize for it? Hmmm....
For many of us we have had "Fuck the Steelers" tattooed upon the fores of our heads for many years but after awhile who really cares anymore? We played Pittsburgh last season and I felt not a tinge of anger, I want to win that game just like any other game. That indignation, that resentment that people have for teams like the Steelers, teams that you feel are too cocky for their own good, fans that encourage and love the hell out of... what would you call it... Swwaaaaagggggeerrrrr??!?!?!
I am having a hard time coping this week, just like the rest of you I assume, and so I'm still looking for those silver linings. For instance, I just watched Silver Linings Playbook and though it is good, I am not sure that it's really the best picture of the year or close to it but the silver lining of that movie is "Wow, have you guys seen Jennifer Lawrence?"
However, even the most cynical Seahawks fan (the illogical moron notwithstanding) can see that the future is bright for Seattle. Young quarterback. Good, young quarterback. Great, young players everywhere. There is no reason to think that this team hasn't just opened a window that even Winnie The Pooh could fit through. I really do love this team, just like most Hawks fans, I love it so much that even Winnie Cooper couldn't match up to this kind of love I feel. I find myself looking for potential comparisons in past season around the NFL that look like perhaps what the 2012 Seahawks look like. And where do I find myself? Welp, with the one building project (It's not really a "rebuild" so I guess this is what I am calling it) that managed to dash our hopes in back XL. Which I am 100% okay with if true, obviously. And it all starts a year earlier than that, way back in 2004.
(The most amazing thing I'm finding when doing this is that 2004 doesn't feel that long ago but holy shit look at the ages of these players.)
Some similarities between the 2004 Steelers and the 2012 Seahawks:
- A 22-year-old rookie phenom named Ben Roethisberger that went 13-0 as starter and completed 66.4% of his passes for 17 TD, 11 INT and 8.9 yards per attempt. He only had a little over 21 attempts per game. Russell Wilson finished with 24.5 attempts per game.
- A veteran receiver in Hines Ward. A talented open-field player and punt-returner in Anwaan Randle El.
- The top young safety in the NFL. Troy Polamalu was only 23. Free safety Chris Hope was 24.
- The Steelers went 15-1 and finished the year with a 41.4% Weighted DVOA. (Second in the NFL behind.... Buffalo?) They were a balanced team: 8th in Offensive DVOA, 3rd on defense, 10th on special teams. They had jumped up from being 19th in DVOA in 2003 to 1st in 2004.
- This year the Seahawks went 11-5 and finished the year with a 46.6% Weighted DVOA. It was not 2nd in the NFL behind Buffalo, it was 1st. They were a balanced team: 4th on Offense, 4th on Defense, and 3rd on Special Teams. They had jumped up from being 19th in DVOA in 2011 to 1st in 2012.
- The Steelers went into the playoffs as the hottest team and then narrowly escaped the Jets in the divisional round, winning 20-17 in overtime. The Patriots took good care of them in the conference championship, winning 41-27 and ending the most promising season that the Steelers had in a very long time.
- The Seahawks went into the playoffs as the hottest team and then struggled against the Redskins in the first round but won. The Falcons almost took good care of Seattle but needed a near-miracle to beat the Hawks at the end of the game, in case you missed it. If you did miss it, I will call time out just before so you can see it again no wait that's a terrible idea. And it ended one of the most promising seasons that Seattle has had in a very long time, if not the most promising.
- Or how about head coaches that you can't stand? I love Pete Carroll but after reading a few comments on a Pro Football Talk story, I started to get sort of an idea of how much the country hates him. He's such a nice guy though!
Okay, here is the good news: The Steelers have gone to the playoffs in six of nine seasons with Roethlisberger. They won a Super Bowl in years 2 and 5. They were young and talented and though they were full of disappointment in 2004, they were one of the most dominating teams during this stretch while their players were either young, in their prime, or only a bit past their prime. The Steelers have been led by a defense that's finished first in total defense five times in nine years. They have stayed consistent through two different head coaches and a number of different assistant coaches (Ray Horton, Ken Whisenhunt, Bruce Arians.) What Roethlisberger provides is efficiency and trustworthiness on the offensive side of the ball while managing a great running game.
Sounds very similar to Wilson, they're just achieving the same result in different ways. Actually, let me scratch that because they are not necessarily achieving the same result. This is the part that makes me even more hopeful for the future:
The 2012 Seahawks are better than the 15-1 2004 Steelers in many ways:
- They are younger.
- They are better on offense.
- They have Marshawn Lynch. The Steelers had a 32-year-old Jerome Bettis and then churned through a few running backs, mostly Willie Parker.
- James Farrior was 29. Bobby Wagner is 22. Joey Porter was 27. KJ Wright is 23. Richard Sherman is better than any corner on that Steelers roster.
Now, back then the AFC was still the dominating conference. Look at 2005, when the Seahawks had the top DVOA ranking for any team in the NFC. They were 3rd, just ahead of the Steelers at 4th. However, the next NFC team was the Redskins at 7. It was an uphill battle for Pittsburgh to climb in the AFC playoffs, it's an uphill battle now for Seattle to climb in the NFC playoffs. But if they get to the final game at any point in the next five years, I believe that the NFC will have the advantage with the AFC currently only having two viable "Great" teams. (And I question the validity of "great" for any team that competes against the AFC right now.)
I believe that Seattle is at a similar place in development now as the Steelers were in 2004. Rookie quarterback coming off of a fantastic year. Great defense. Solid running game. Talented but young star safety. Talented linebackers. What the Hawks need to do now is bulk up in the trenches, especially on the defensive side of the ball. They will also probably look to add a playmaker on offense, a receiver or tight end, that increases the offensive explosiveness of the team. The 2005 Steelers added Heath Miller at tight end, Parker at running back, and Ike Taylor became a full time player at corner.
Seattle really doesn't have as many needs to fill as the '04 Steelers did. Which is especially scary because they have very little work to do to retain their few free agents, they have ten draft picks, and they got money to spend. A team without many holes has so much opportunity to fill said few areas of need that it i quite scary and exciting. Plus all of this adds up to the Seahawks being one of the most attractive free agent destinations in the NFL right now. Yes, that's right, I said it: Seattle = attractive. More attractive than Winnie Cooper and Winnie the Pooh in a 1967 honey wrestling contest.
So the next time someone mentions the Steelers, and your first thought is "Fuck the Steelers" remember that we could be entering an era where people are replacing "Steelers" with "Seahawks" instead. And to that I say...
Fuck the Seahawks indeed.