Big Lead Sports Bar



STEELERS (12-4) 31
PARKER 23-116, 1 TD
WARD 6-70

It's been way too long since I've attended a Steeler game in person. In fact, in the three years that I've authored this site, my record was a perfect 0-for-23. In other words, very Detroit Lion-esque. On Sunday, I took advantage of a pair of second-level tickets that I purchased at a charity auction back in August and brought along my camera. It was field trip time. And for those of you who attend games on a regular basis, bear with me if I point out the obvious along the way. I's been a while.

Sunday's parking selection of Allegheny Center, at a cost of $20, guaranteed I'd be getting a healthy and colorful walk to and from the game. It also guaranteed that I'd save at least $10 from what seems to become the norm of $30 parking spots surrounding the Big Ketchup Bottle also known as Heinz Field. And it also reminded me to get into the parking lot business someday.

On the walk to the stadium, the crowd seemed festive but under control. Maybe it was the holiday spirit, maybe it was the fact that this was a glorified homecoming game on the schedule, but there was little sense of any ill will in the air. Of course, this did little to drum up business for the world-famous 222 Bar, which has admittedly seen better days....

Our walk up to the stadium continues, as I marvel at the percentage of Steeler fans wearing jerseys to the game. Look at this picture. I count 10 heads and 10 jerseys. And there's a nice variety, too: Lambert, Roethlisberger, Polamalu, Ward; Steeler fans spread their love around.

Yes, that is an NFL Playoff banner hanging on a lamp post. They usually blossom this time of year.

The pre-game entertainment was popular on the street outside the stadium. Not "Wu-Tang in Millvale" popular, but popular nonetheless. These guys play a mean bucket.

Finally, the Heinz Field entrance is on the horizon, and with 20 minutes until kickoff. Unfortunately, I estimate there are roughly 50,000 people in line ahead of me to get patted down by Heinz Field security, so making the seats by kickoff might be a photo finish.

Of course, on the good side, this cuts down the odds that someone will blow up the stadium today, with the only real casualties of the checkpoint being a few Steeler flasks full of vodka. All in all, the whole experience was sort of like going through airport security, the only difference being that at Heinz Field you're surrounded by slightly intoxicated Steeler fans who may or may not push to get ahead in line.

Finally in the door, and the first jersey I see? That's right, #14 in your programs, and #1 in your hearts, Limas Sweed. Which reminded me, with all of our recent talk about jerseys to buy or avoid, an experience over the Christmas break at a sporting goods store in Century III Mall... I watched in amazement as some guy asked a store employee to get the metal jersey-grabbing stick and retrieve a Terrell Owens Eagles jersey. Which was followed moments later by another guy asking (and I kid you not), "Do you have that Duce Staley in a double XL?"

In the door and with a few seconds to spare before kickoff, the first thing I spot is an attention-monger with a Cowher/Browns/CBS related-sign. I hope the desperate attempt at getting a camera to point in their direction paid off. And for the record, their equation is wrong. Nothing plus Browns could ever equal Super Bowl.

All in all, it was a long day for the few Browns fans that were there. Honestly, I counted less than 10, my favorite wearing a Charlie Frye jersey. In case you've forgotten, he's the guy who started one game against the Steelers in 2007 and was so bad that he was traded to Seattle by week two. I'd endorse a Limas Sweed over that any day.

The official Steelers/Heinz Field welcome means we're ready for some football. The first quarter awaits.
The first 15 minutes of Sunday's contest were pretty uneventful, to say the least. Cleveland actually drove to the Steeler 36, and facing a 4th-and-three, Romeo Crennel showed some guts and...lined up Phil Dawson for a 53-yard field goal. Nothing like playing it conservative in your last game as coach. What a gambler's mentality. It's also worth noting that this was as deep in Steeler territory as the Browns would get all day.

As I noted earlier, the crowd was pretty lively and into the game. My theory is that a decent number of tickets were dumped at discounted rates and a lot of fans who don't usually get a shot to attend were in the house. How did the Steelers respond to these crazed towel-wavers? A timely Ben Roethlisberger interception in the Heinz Red Zone to end the first quarter. Yuk.

Hines Ward gave the crowd some excitement by going over 1,000 yards, which was announced in-between quarters. The Steelers have drafted not one, not two, but three receivers in the first round during Ward's time in Pittsburgh (Troy Edwards, Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes), as well as a variety of others in high spots (Antwaan Randle-El, Sweed, etc.), and at the end of his 11th season, Hines is still leading the team in receiving yards. Unbelievable. And to top that, he got his 800th career catch later in the game, which ranks 22nd all-time.

We thought Big Ben atoned for his INT with a 41-yard touchdown to Fast Nate Washington, but wait, that's a flag on Willie Colon. Seven points come off the board. Easy come, easy go. Luckily, the Steelers came back on the next drive with a three-play, 57-yarder highlighted by Willie Parker getting a 10,000-pound monkey off his back with a 34-yard TD. The Browns were the Browns in their next drive, and happened.

That's right, 63,000-plus had their hearts in their throats as Ben Roethlisberger got carted off the field with a few minutes remaining in the second quarter. It was like a bad dream. Even worse, fans in my section were wondering just moments before why Roethlisberger was still in the game. But we'll get back to that later. It's Leftwich time...

Well, that was fast. Seven plays, 33 yards and roughly a minute later, Leftwich trusts his legs enough to run eight yards for a score. It's now 14-0 Good Guys, but no one is thinking about the scoreboard. By the way, the photo below was supposed to be the end zone celebration, but the lineman in the bottom right corner sort of enveloped Leftwich.

Following a rousing halftime performance by B.E. Taylor that I missed due to the eight-deep lines at the urinal trough (and no, I didn't take pictures), it was on to the third quarter. I would call this the Browns' worst quarter of the season, but that would be an insult to the final 15 minutes of this game. Let's say things weren't pretty.

Of course, all the Steelers could muster was a Jeff Reed field goal, so obviously it wasn't their finest hour either. Their first drive featured Willie Parker running to the right on five of the first six plays. That's some creative play-calling, Bruce. When they got the ball back again, Parker ran it two consecutive the right. Are you sensing a theme yet? The quarter ended with the Steelers starting what would turn out to be a lengthy touchdown drive completed in the fourth quarter. And for a photo interlude, here's one from Matt H. of Ellwood City (who was also at the game) of a guy with a Pirate tattoo. Now that's devotion you don't see everyday.

Nursing what is now a 24-0 lead during a TV timeout, the powers that be felt that it was the right time to play the Styx "Renegade" video highlight reel of the defense. If you've never seen it, let me set the scene with a few random objects from the video: bass absolutely thumping, James Harrison slamming a Bengal on his head, about 1,000 different sacks, and the video stopping with a photo of Wes Welker on the ground. At that point, Steeler fans were drunk on defense. And alcohol.

As play resumed, I fully expected to see Bruce Gradkowski exit the game in the same fashion Ben Roethlisberger did thanks to the newly-inspired defense. The crowd reached a fever pitch. And then Jamal Lewis shut each and every one of us up with what was probably a season-long run of 13 yards. Oh well. Then, Romeo Crennel went to his bag of tricks and dialed up a wildcat formation pass from Josh Cribbs, which went pretty much the way you would've expected. Way to keep that momentum going. On the next play, Gradkowski gave the Steeler fans what they wanted: a pick-six for Tyrone Carter. 31-0, and all is well once again in Steeler Nation. Yoi, double yoi, and dare I say, triple yoi.

Cleveland got the ball back with four minutes and change remaining, and since that was too much time to start kneeling down, the Browns called for some incompletions to get the ball out of their hands as quickly as possible. Mission accomplished. And finally, Steeler fans start heading for the exits. I give them credit; sometimes they take a bad rap for leaving early, but this crowd hung around till the very end of a meaningless game, cheering the entire time.

Dennis Dixon was in the game and ended the regular season like the Steelers have ended many a Browns contest, in the victory formation. 31-0 and 12-4. It was an incredible regular season.

Game Notes:

--Firmly lodged in postgame traffic, I was switching the dial between 102.5 and 1250 after the game. They couldn't have been more different in their analysis. Craig Wolfley was all in favor of Mike Tomlin's gameday philosophy, citing the long layoff some players would've experienced had they not played on Sunday. On the other hand, Stan Savran was critical of leaving key players in the game too long.

My thoughts fall somewhere in between. I thought Roethlisberger's regular season should have ended the moment the Steelers went up 7-0. And I disagree with giving Willie Parker so many carries, to give himself and the offensive line confidence going into the playoffs. Sorry, but you were playing a Browns team that mailed it in weeks ago. That's going to do nothing to help you once you step on the field in the playoffs.

--I mentioned it before, but Cleveland's effort was really beyond belief. Gradkowski finished 5-for-16, with 18 yards and 2 interceptions. A passer rating of one. One! Their longest pass play was 12 yards. And at one point, I wondered if Braylon Edwards was even playing. Turns out he was, and he had five yards receiving. Their offense was awful, their defense wasn't much better, and the coaching staff went out in the worst way possible.

--The score was 31-0, but it actually could've been worse. The Nate Washington touchdown was negated, as was a second defensive touchdown on a controversial catch/no-catch that the refs ruled in favor of the Browns. In case you were wondering, the spread was Steelers by nine.

--No Favre, no Romo, no Belichick in the playoffs this year. Any thoughts on that, Steeler Nation?

--Sorry this took so long to post, but I had it written, bumped the "don't save changes" button by accident, and had to re-write it. As you could've guessed, I was thrilled at this turn of events.

--The deadline for the Hope/Cope Photoshop Contest has been extended one week due to the Christmas break. For more info, please click here and scroll to the bottom of the post.

--These photo journals are a lot of work but are extremely fun to put together. If you enjoyed this, feel free to check out a few others I've put together over the years.
And check back throughout the week for more holiday and year-end goodies.

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RedHawks Hockey said...

Limas! It makes me smile he was represented at heinz field. He's a really good blocker too.

SantoGold said...

Interesting fact I looked up myself: Steeler offense struggled mightily this season, but if you look at the 11 best defensive teams that follow the Steelers in terms of defensive rankings, the Steelers played 11 games against them. That's a pretty stiff schedule, making it all the more amazing that we went 12-4 and Ben didn't' get killed (maimed yes, but not killed).

AJ said...

The 222 Bar... aka: The Triple Deuce.

I've probably purchased more 6 packs from that place than any other bar in Pittsburgh. I don't usually stick around the enjoy them there.

Unknown said...

12-4...amazing. Love the time pics of the urinal please. Never been in there.

can't wait till the playoffs.

Sweed needs so much work, it's mind blowing.

Anonymous said...

great recap

Unknown said...

the guy with the CBS Cowher sign actually made it on TV. As well as the guy wearing the powder blue Crosby jersy

Unknown said...
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