The last time the Pittsburgh Steelers came to Ford Field was February of 2006 and they left the field after 60 minutes with another Super Bowl victory.
Well, once again the Steelers left Ford Field with a victory as they held on to beat the Lions 28-20. Detroit’s record now stands at 1-3 and they will play Green Bay Sunday 2-0 in Green Bay.
During Super Bowl XL in Detroit, the week was highlighted by all the Steelers fans that made their way to the Motor City.
Well, they were here again by the thousands with their yellow towels waving inside Ford Field, and they were loud.
“It was good t o get a victory in a hostile environment,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said in the post-game press conference. “I appreciated the support of Steeler Nation and they traveled awesome today. It’s spectacular to stand on the visiting sideline and see the fan support we had in this building today.”
Added Steelers receiver Hine Ward: “We’re Steeler Nation. Wherever we travel, we travel well. Playing in the Super Bowl here brought back a lot of memories. We had just as many fans as we did back then, so that’s what we love about playing for this organization. They’re the best fans in all of football and wherever we go they show their support. Our fans helped us get our first road win and hopefully we can build on it.”
The Steelers are football royalty, no doubt about it.
The Dallas Cowboys anointed themselves America’s Team, but the fact of the matter is the Steelers are probably the true America’s Team.
Coming in to battle the Lions, the Steelers are the defending Super Bowl champions, having outlasted the Arizona Cardinals in a classic game in February. The Super Bowl XLIII victory placed the Steelers on a pedestal as the only NFL franchise to win six Super Bowls. They were tied with Dallas and the San Francisco 49ers with five championships each.
The Steelers story lines are multiple.
Not only do they win Super Bowls, their coach, Tomlin, became only the second African-American to coach a team to the NFL championship. And at 36, he became the youngest coach to win “the Big Game.” He followed Tong Dungy, who broke the Super Bowl coaching color line barrier in 2007.
Covering XLIII in Tampa Bay earlier in the year I noticed that during the pre- and post-game press conferences, race was less of an issue with Tomlin than it was with Dungy.
In Dungy’s case, in the 40-year history of the Super Bowl, no African-American had ever led a team to the pinnacle game of the NFL, until he with his Indianapolis Colts and Lovie Smith with his Chicago Bears did it in the same year.
After 40 years of exclusion, African-American coaches have won two of the last three Super Bowls.
When he assumed the head job, Tomlin knew that expectations were going to be great and that winning was what the fans demanded.
“The number one thing I did when I took over the team was establish a sound base of what our football would be and laying the groundwork of our core beliefs,” Tomlin said.
I remember as the valued Vince Lombardi trophy was being passed around during the post-game celebration, Tomlin said he never got to touch the trophy: “I guess I see five of them every day when I go to work. I know what they look like. I’m just glad I did my part in terms of contributing to that trophy case.”
Another story line was Lions linebacker Larry Foote lacing up the cleats against the team that drafted him in 2002. He helped the Steelers win two Super Bowls.
“He’s always a Steeler,” Ward said. “Last night a couple guys went to his house and ate dinner with his family, so we still love Foote. I was out there joking with him and stuff like that, trash talking him. It’s unfortunate things couldn’t work out so he could still be with this organization, but regardless of whatever you say, he’s still a part of this organization and we love him.”