Cook: Steelers gave us a wonderful ride

Look past the Super Bowl loss; nobody ever believed the team would advance as far as it did

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ARLINGTON, Texas -- As the NFL season progressed and big offensive tackle Flozell Adams continued to show up for the Steelers despite a new and different part of his 35-year-old body aching every week, his teammates made it their goal to win Super Bowl XLV for him and get him the championship that had eluded him for 12 long years as a pro.

When they came up a little short in the 31-25 loss to the Green Bay Packers Sunday night, the devastation in their locker room was evident in every corner. "It was pretty bad," wide receiver Hines Ward said.

But it was Adams who found the strength to set aside the pain from a loss that cost these Steelers a chance to take on dynastic proportions with a third Super Bowl title in six years, not to mention a bum right shoulder that was badly damaged early in the game. He put things in just the right perspective.

"Even though we lost, it was still a great season."

A fabulous season, actually.

I hope you can see that through your tears.

I know it will take a lot of shocked Steelers fans a long time to get over the Green Bay loss, a lot longer than the players. When the team plane from Dallas landed Monday at Pittsburgh International Airport, the players climbed in their big, expensive cars, went home to their plush houses and resumed their nice lives. Heck, by the end of the week, many will be on a beach in Costa Rica or Maui or some such wonderful locale.

But a lot of the fans?

They long will curse the two interceptions thrown by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the first returned 37 yards for a touchdown by Green Bay safety Nick Collins. I know what some already are saying: That the Steelers would have won if Roethlisberger hadn't gone to that Fort Worth piano bar with his teammates Tuesday night. Honest to goodness, I have a hard time understanding how some people think.

A lot of fans long will moan about a killer fumble by running back Rashard Mendenhall at the Packers 33 on the first play of the fourth quarter when it appeared the Steelers were headed for a go-ahead touchdown. Or they will complain about the defense being unable to prevent Super Bowl MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers from throwing for 304 yards and three touchdowns and having a superb 111.5 passer rating.

I've got just three words for those people: Get over it.

And, while I'm at it, three more words: Get a life.

OK, that might be a little harsh. But, please, take a deep breath and answer these next few questions honestly.

What were you thinking March 5 when Roethlisberger was accused of sexual assault in Milledgeville, Ga.? I remember saying, "Bye-bye, season."

What were you thinking after Super Bowl XVIII MVP Santonio Holmes was given away in a trade to the New York Jets in April and offensive tackle Willie Colon was lost for the season with an Achilles injury in June? I remember predicting a 7-9 record.

What were you thinking when stud defensive end Aaron Smith went down with a torn triceps muscle in October? I remember writing the team would have an almost impossible time winning without the man who's every bit as important to its defense as safety Troy Polamalu.

And the Steelers made it to the Super Bowl?

I repeat: It has been a fabulous season.

There will be plenty of time to analyze what the Steelers need to do before next season, if there is a next season, what with the ugly labor situation between the owners and players. They must address their weak secondary, especially the cornerback position. They also must get better on the offensive line even though Adams and his pals gave everything they had every day of the season.

But, for now, I prefer to take a look back and remember the joy the Steelers brought us the past six months.

The many unforgettable moments ...

Mendenhall's 50-yard touchdown run in overtime to beat Atlanta. Rookie Antonio Brown's 89-yard kickoff return against Tennessee. Fourth-string quarterback Charlie Batch's three first-half touchdown passes and defensive end Brett Keisel's 79-yard interception return for a touchdown against Tampa Bay. Polamalu's game-saving interception in Buffalo. Polamalu's sack of Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco and forced fumble. Polamalu's 45-yard interception return for a touchdown against Cincinnati. Roethlisberger's 56-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Mike Wallace on the Steelers' first play in Cleveland. The late 58-yard pass from Roethlisberger to Brown against Baltimore in the playoffs. Cornerback Ike Taylor's sack of New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez and forced fumble, which was recovered and returned for a 19-yard touchdown by cornerback William Gay in the AFC championship game.

And how about remembering the Steelers' characters, who made Super Bowl week fun right up until the game ...

There was Keisel talking about his extraordinary beard. "It has magical powers." There was safety Ryan Clark talking about playing with Polamalu. "It's like having a front row seat to the circus every week." And there was nose tackle Casey Hampton talking about his ridiculous girth. "I've never been ashamed of my size. I'm a big dude. But I'm a smooth big guy. I'm not like a big fat guy. I got some swag to myself."

You should have seen Hampton's enormous belly jiggle.

The big man knows the truth.

Laughing is good.

Laughing beats crying.


Ron Cook: rcook@post-gazette.com . Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan.


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