Patriots rivalry pains Steelers
Forever on their mind
By Ron Borges | Friday, January 16, 2009 | http://www.bostonherald.com | N.E. Patriots
Photo by AP
PITTSBURGH - The Patriots [team stats] may not be playing in Sunday night’s AFC Championship Game, but their memory lingers on around Heinz Field.
While the focus in Pittsburgh is on the Baltimore Ravens, whom the Steelers must defeat for the third time this season to avoid losing their fifth AFC title game at home since 1994, the disappointment the Patriots and Tom Brady [stats] visited upon them in 2001 and 2004 remains.
The hottest topic in town besides the decidedly frigid temperatures is the heated rivalry that has grown between the Steelers and Ravens. Yet somehow the Patriots found a way to get into the conversation.
“This rivalry goes back a long ways,” Pittsburgh left tackle Max Starks said of the Steelers and Ravens. “They used to be the Cleveland Browns. The bloodlines run deep. It’s always been a tough game. I know, I got hurt in two of them. It’s intense. The intensity is probably tied right up there with playing the Patriots. They’re tied at the top.”
The Ravens rivalry? Tied with a team that didn’t even make the playoffs this year? A team the Steelers beat 33-10 this year before a stunned Gillette Stadium?
The Patriots are tied with a team the Steelers beat twice this season by a combined total of seven points? Tied with a team that the Steelers have been playing twice a year since Art Modell agreed to have the Browns jump into the AFC to help facilitate the NFL-AFL merger 40 years ago?
Yes, tied, because the Pats-Steelers rivalry is the kind that binds in the NFL. It’s tied by pain. Not just the physical pain that comes from banging heads with a worthy rival, but also the emotional pain the Patriots have left the Steelers in 2001 and again in 2004 after having broken the hearts of not just a team but an entire city.
“When we lost the AFC title game (in 2004) the sorrow in the city was so clear,” safety Troy Polamalu said. “It was depressing. You looked up at the sky and it was gray and dark and the sun seemed to set at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. You could just feel it. The whole city was down.
“That’s why it’s such a big rivalry with them. It’s different than the Ravens. With the Ravens, it’s physical. With New England, it’s more of a chess match (rivalry).”
Whatever the nature of it, it was clear yesterday that as much as Pittsburgh may hate the Ravens, what the Patriots have done to the Steelers is worse and never far from their collective minds.
“I heard the people up there in Boston were talking about how they should trade (Tom) Brady,” Polamalu said. “We’ll take him. He’s the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. He goes from being a rookie that nobody is expecting anything from, to taking over with people saying he can’t do it, to winning three Super Bowls and now to being injured and out a year.
“It should already be obvious he’s the greatest quarterback to ever have played, but if he misses next season, too, and overcomes that, it’s not even a discussion. I don’t think it is anyway. Without him, I don’t think they’d be nearly as good. It’s not even close.
“They had a Trojan (Polamalu, like Matt Cassel, played at USC) in there last year and he did great, but where’d they end up without Tom Brady?”
That would be out of the playoffs but still on Steelers’ minds.
I honestly think that hands down when Troy says your the greatest QB this Brady, Manning competition is over Tom has won.