Steelers in Super Bowl is tough for Ravens fans to stomach

Unless seeing Pittsburgh take on Packers serves as validation for Baltimore's season

January 23, 2011|By Peter Schmuck

If you don't want to watch two more weeks of Ben Roethlisberger highlights on SportsCenter, you'll probably have to leave the country because Big Ben and the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to the Super Bowl — pretty much at your expense.

I know, it's time to let it go. The Ravens had their chance to host the AFC Championship game and fumbled it away, and the Steelers have made the most of the opportunities provided in that disastrous third quarter last week.

The title bout is finally set. The Steelers will take on the Green Bay Packers in Dallas in the 45th Super Bowl after Sunday night's victory over the New York Jets, which leaves everyone around here with a decision to make.

Do you double down on your visceral disdain for the Ravens' most hated divisional rival and become temporary Cheeseheads? Or do you take a more neutral approach since another Steelers championship would — in a relative sense — validate the Ravens' season?

How so? Well, when you consider that the Ravens likely would have been in Sunday's title game at M&T Bank Stadium if not for a rare fumble by Ray Rice and the ensuing offensive meltdown that allowed the Steelers to survive the divisional playoff round, you could probably rationalize a Steelers victory in the Super Bowl as proof that the Ravens really were good enough to win the Lombardi Trophy this year.

It would be small consolation, but you take your consolation where you can get it after a frustrating end like that.

I'm guessing, however, that the majority of Ravens fans would trade that for the opportunity to see Hines Ward walking off the field with his head down as the confetti rains on the Packers at Cowboys Stadium. Just a hunch.

No doubt, there were a lot of temporary Jets fans in front of their flat screens throughout the Mid-Atlantic region on Sunday night, partly because of the widespread anti-Steelers sentiment and partly because there is still a lot of affection for Rex Ryan and Bart Scott among local football fans.

The wild-card Jets went a week deeper into the playoffs than the Ravens for the second straight year, but they were not equal to the challenge at Heinz Field. The Steelers ate up most of the first quarter with an opening touchdown drive and were ready to try on their AFC title T-shirts by halftime, but give the Jets credit for not having an ounce of quit in them.

The hard-fought Steelers' victory sets up a Super Bowl showdown between the roughest, toughest team in the AFC and a versatile NFC wild-card opponent that got hot at just the right time.

The Packers barely made it into the postseason, then did what a wild-card team has to do to get to the Super Bowl. They won three straight games on the road, jumping out to a big lead in Philadelphia, throwing up 28 points in the second quarter against the Atlanta Falcons and dominating the first half at Soldier Field in Chicago.

They weren't exactly a dark horse, not with one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the NFL coming off a season in which he had the top passer rating in his conference. Aaron Rodgers had thrown for 546 yards in the first two playoff rounds, and he quickly took control of Sunday's win over the Bears.

It looked like the Packers would do to the Bears what they did to the Falcons in last week's 48-21 victory, but the Bears defense delivered a series of big plays that kept the game from getting out of hand. The Bears even made it interesting when third-string quarterback Caleb Hanie was pushed into the game and drove them to a couple of surprising touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

Rodgers made some mistakes and wasn't quite as effective as he was against the Eagles and Falcons, but the balanced, high-powered Packers offense should give Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau plenty to worry about over the next two weeks.

Obviously, this isn't the matchup Baltimore sports fans wanted to see, but it should be a very entertaining Super Bowl.

Now, where can I get one of those cheese hats in a Size 8?

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon Fridays and Saturdays and check out his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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