Thursday, June 21, 2007

Ranking the AFC Championship Losses

Before reading this article, make sure to go vote in the Hall of Shame Ballot created by Sam earlier this morning - it's a sure-fire way to get you feeling nostalgic for all your old favorite Pirates players that have caused you so much agony over the years.

Peronsally though, the Steelers have caused me infinitely more pain than the Pirates. Yes, Super Bowl XL was a higlight of my existence as a sports fan, and yes, unlike the Pirates they seriously contend for a championship year after year. But the Steelers have had losses that have made me feel far worse than any Pirates losing season could.

Yes, folks, I am talking about the AFC Championship games. So today, we are rating the AFC Championship losses from least scarring to most scarring. I was foruntate enough to attend them all (if you call that good fortune), so here is my take on them after the jump.


4TH MOST PAINFUL AFC CHAMPIONSHIP LOSS

1998 AFC Championship Denver 24 Pittsburgh 21


The Broncos might have been a lower seed than the Steelers, but that offense had some serious weapons. McCaffrey and Rod Smith were justifiably being picked high in fantasy leagues back then (unlike now, when my dad still takes Rod Smith in the third round, but thats a different story...) and Terrell Davis was just a force of nature. Our offense? The only stat you need to know is this: Kordell had 3 picks and one fumble.

This one personally didnt hurt as bad because the "destiny factor" with Elway seemed to overwhlem every other storyline down the stretch of the playoffs that year. Three Rivers was certifiably insane on 3rd and 14 with chump change on the clock in the 4th, and yet Elway drew up a playground play in the huddle, threw a dart across the left middle to Shannon Sharpe and effectively ended any hope the Steelers had of winning the game. Sure I was screaming my lungs out while the Broncos were in the huddle, but I think everyone was screaming on that play to mute out the unavoidable truth: it was Elway's time.


3RD MOST PAINFUL AFC CHAMPIONSHIP LOSS

2001 AFC Championship New England 24 Pittsburgh 17


The decision between the two Patriots games was incredibly difficult, but I'll explain shortly why I thought 2004 was more painful. It was a balmy 50 degrees at game time in '01, and at game time if you had told me that Drew Bledsoe would come into the game after not playing all year, I would have started selling illegal Steelers AFC Championship regalia in the parking lot. However I also wouldnt have believed it if you told me that Troy Brown would return a punt and a...(ugh)...blocked field goal for touchdowns. I'll never forget how the crowd's groaning was still audible all the way to the next kickoff after the blocked field goal TD.

Kordell sealed our fate with two late 4th quarter INTs (noticing a trend?) and sent the Patriots on their way to dynasty status. The Troy Brown series of events was one of the more improbable and vomit-inducing occurences in Steelers history. And yet I cant shake the feeling that this game was a slightly more tolerable loss than...


2ND MOST PAINFUL AFC CHAMPIONSHIP LOSS

2004 AFC Championship New England 41 Pittsburgh 27

It was 11 degrees at kickoff. Fellow writer Dave Wannstache witnessed an Iron City turn to slush in his can (true story). The Patriots were the most despised team around football by now. Tom Brady had reached new and revolutionary levels of repulsiveness. The Patriots were the team that "won the right way", and it showed today with the Steelers turning the ball over 4 times and the Pats none. The game was barely ever in reach, but this game wasnt painful because of the way the Steelers were manhandled. It was painful because of what it signaled the end of...

That 15-1 season was the most remarkable season I have ever watched from any of my favorite teams, and what's more, it happened during my freshman year of college. Whereas many people go to college and drift away from their high school friends, their hometowns and even their families, the Steelers that year had me on the phone seemingly around the clock. "CAN YOU BELIEVE WHAT BEN IS DOING?!?!" Moreover, as I met new people at college, I couldnt help put puff my chest out at the fact I was from Pittsburgh. "Yeah, its pretty amazing. I know, we are unreal this year. Can Ben keep it up? We'll see, I am just enjoying the ride".

As Rodney Harrison skipped down the far sideline 87 yards, it was clear that the ride was over, the most fun season of my life was over, and that I wouldnt be able to feel my toes for weeks.


THE MOST PAINFUL AFC CHAMPIONSHIP LOSS

1994 AFC Championship San Diego 17 Pittsburgh 13


The stats: Pittsburgh total plays 80, San Diego 47; Pittsburgh total offensive yards 415, San Diego 226; Pittsburgh time of possession 37:13, San Diego 22:47. The reality: the Steelers lost to a clearly inferior team in their first trip to the AFC Championship in years.

Although Tim McKyer being unable to knock down a pass in the end zone resulted in the go ahead Chargers touchdown, the memory my dad will always have of this game is Alfred Freaking Pupunu lumbering down the field for a 43 yard touchdown. Pupunu, the only athlete other than Jarko Ruutu with three U's in his name, was a nobody. I was a fanatical 3rd grade football fan, and even knowing practically all players on each team, I found myself screaming "who is that?! WHO IS THAT?!?!" as Pupunu sloshed down the astro-turf.

Despite letting up 14 answered points, the Steelers had a chance at the end, only to have O'Donnell's pass to Barry Foster fall just short. Never have I wanted to injure someone as badly as I did when Junior Seau started romping around the sidelines with a terrible towel - what a classless prick. The bathroom after the game wasnt quiet, it wasnt silent, it wasnt even dead silent - it was a tomb. No one could talk. No one wanted to talk. As Steelers fans quickly remembered, and as Pirates fans will hopefully experience again, it hurts more to lose huge games than to suffer numerous small defeats.


Disagree with the list? Do you, like Pat's Dad, think that the 2001 AFC Championship game was infinitely worse than the 2004 game? E-mail us at doubtaboutit@gmail.com for a chance to enter the deabte.

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2 comments:

The Bosun said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Bosun said...

Did you expect it to be really loud in the bathroom, or did you watch it in there?