By Jason Keidel
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While I abhor Fan Guy, we have something in common. We are both wildly neurotic about our teams. The defining difference is that I see my squad through wholly cynical hues.
Fan Guy thinks Rex Ryan did a great job this year and that if the ball bounced another way in Week 5 they would be in the playoff hunt. And even today he thinks the Jets are a win away from turning that tanker around.
My fandom is the inverse. Despite my beloved black & gold’s six Super Bowl rings and their place in the NFL aristocracy, I watch them with apocalyptic expectations. I think we’re always a play from peril.
So it’s no surprise that I’m actually worried about Sunday, when my Steelers play your Jets, about five minutes from where I’m writing this, about two miles west on Route 3.
Despite the fact that Big Ben is the hottest quarterback on earth, and that the Jets are a handmade mess, tailored for him to toss another six touchdowns. Despite the fact that we have the best wideout in the league, Antonio Brown, who should moonwalk through the Jets’ emaciated secondary. Despite the fact that the Steelers just crushed AFC heavyweights in the Colts and the Ravens. Despite the fact that the Steelers are perhaps the hottest team in the league and the Jets are historically frigid. Despite the fact that there will be more Terrible Towels in MetLife than Jets fans. Despite the fact that the Steelers have had just three coaches since 1969 and are a monolithic franchise with a stable chain of command, while Gang Green fans are renting billboards and flying planes with “Fire Idzik” blazed across the blue sky. Despite the fact that the two teams are eternally in opposite directions. Despite the fact that we’ve dominated the Jets over the last 40 years, going 19-4 head-to-head.
Despite it all … I’m worried that we’ll blow this game. The Steelers love to lose when everyone expects them to win. Fan Guy thinks the Jets are 60 minutes from a Lombardi Trophy, even at 1-8. At 6-3, I see the Steelers gagging to go 6-4 and freefall from contention.
That’s nothing to say of the static I will get from my myriad friends who are Jets fans and will short-circuit my cellphone and laptop with invectives for the next six months should the Jets pull of the epic upset. Even if the Steelers go on to win the Super Bowl and the Jets don’t win another game, I will be reminded of the loss on Nov. 9.
Even the point spread is surreal. Pittsburgh is giving just five points when anyone realizes they’re at least two touchdowns better, no matter where they play the game. If Alex Smith beat you by two touchdowns, what Roethlisberger worth?
No quarterback in NFL history has thrown six touchdowns in consecutive games (with no interceptions, to boot.). And no team is more catered to Ben’s scalding streak than the Jets, who have wide receivers playing cornerback. And if Ben weren’t lethal enough, he has perhaps the NFL’s most underrated running back behind him, Le’Veon Bell, who lights up fantasy boards and runs like Ahmad Bradshaw sans the fumbles.
Snoop Dogg posted a profane but funny video, imploring the Steelers to fire offensive coordinator Todd Haley. And even I wondered if head coach Mike Tomlin had lost his grip on the team. Tomlin is the most grim guy I’ve ever seen on a sideline. His next smile will be his first. And while I respect his skill set, he looks like he could wear on a team. Thankfully, Snoop and I are not wielding the corporate hammer. The Steelers are the most successful team in the Super Bowl era for a reason. Stability. Homogeny. Uniformity. None of the qualities the Jets could ever claim.
It looks like Troy Polamalu won’t play. But even if he does, he’s only a fraction of his former brilliance. And it’s not like we have to worry about Michael Vick, who’s only had a week or so of snaps with the first team. Besides, James Harrison seems to have found the fountain of youth and we’ve been able to pressure far more robust QBs in Andrew Luck and Joe Flacco.
But this isn’t about stats or streaks as much as my jaded, visceral view of my team. I should strut, chest-out, to MetLife and indulge in a public assault in the frosty marsh of the Meadowlands. But instead I will cower in the comfort of my couch, expecting my beloved black & gold to choke.
Fan, truncation of fanatic, rarely lends itself to logic.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel
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