It is Sunday morning prior to my departure to Heinz Field to witness what promises to be an epic battle between the Steelers and the Patriots. I look out of my dining room window at the low lying fog that has settled over the rear deck. The low constant hum of the whole house air conditioner has been silenced by the cool mist of autumn. There is a faint rustling of leaves outside made by the fat wobbly groundhog as he raids the tomato plants of the “stragglers” that were left to become part of the natural compost, waiting to become fertilizer for next year’s crop. “Mr. Groundhog” seems to be thinking that the mist is concealing him looking like “Dick Dastardly” standing straight up reminding me of one of his meerkat “cousins. In spite of his paranoia, he is intent on adding more girth to his existing layers of “insulation” that will help him to weather the brutal winter months that are surely to come.
During the days leading up to the Steelers/Patriots clash everyone talked about how Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had mastered and dominated the Steelers over the past few years. In the seven games leading up to Sunday’s clash, Brady sported a 6-1 record, averaging around 337 yards per game, throwing 14 touchdowns along with just 3 interceptions. However this was not going to be Brady’s night. He completed 24 of 35 passes for 198 yards which doesn’t mean much when your squad resembles a “one trick pony.” Pittsburgh won the game, 25-17 and if they beat their hated rival, the B-More Ravens Sunday night, well I don’t know about you, but Monday morning I will be making my reservations for Indianapolis, post haste.
Oh, but wait. There were plots, sub-plots and even more plots that were screaming and begging to be let out. A serious chess match was developing behind the scenes between Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. During the past five years the Steelers had a better won-loss record (2-1) in Super Bowls than they had going up against Brady (1-6) during the regular season.
I arrive at the stadium as they are setting up the buffet in the press cafeteria and everyone has their very “impotent” person hat on because today, hey this game is truly “national.” I immediately run into one of my colleagues from a very prominent Boston newspaper. “Looks like you guys have the Steelers number” I say with trepidation and resignation. “With our defensive secondary, that remains to be seen” replied my friend from “Beantown.”
At this point my mind begins to race, not about the game but about the huge decision that I was forced to make before the start of the game; “should I eat dessert before the appetizer or the entree?” Hey too many choices, not enough time. At that point sugar deprivation was about to set in and as everyone should already be aware of, hallucinations are generally the first sign. I flashback to the Steelers practices during the week. Were those small aircraft that I spotted circling the Steelers practice facility just a father and son enjoying their hobby of building and flying model planes or were these aircraft actual miniature pilotless remote controlled drones used by the Patriots to record the walkthroughs and simulations of the game plan of the Black and Gold. But all of my fears and apprehensions would be for naught. See boys and girls I have finally figured it out. You can cheat until the cows come home, but you must ultimately have the horses if you plan on winning the race. You can own Alabama’s most prized blue ribbon mule, but the only task that the mule will successfully complete at Churchill Downs will be pulling the hay wagon that provides the pre-race feed for the thoroughbreds. Your mule no matter who sired him will not compete for or win the Kentucky Derby.
The Steelers did not beat the Patriots because of some new and innovative defensive game plan devised by Lebeau nor did the Patriots lose because their game plan on offense was lacking. Pittsburgh won because they simply had the players and New England did not. You can design the greatest automobile on earth, but if you cannot provide the raw materials for your machinists and technicians to build it well it will remain just a grand theory in your mind and a waste of paper.
The Steelers seemed to have cleared the air and removed the shackles of the Patriots “mystique.” They appear to have removed the fog of the past while at the same time personnel discrepancies may have clouded the immediate future of the Patriots which at this point in time just has become a bit more uncertain.
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-583-6741. Bruce can also be heard on ‘The Odd Couple’ sports show Live on Wednesday’s from 11-11:30am on Fox Sports Radio WCWA 1230AM Toledo, Ohio)