So far, so good in the 'burgh. Ate a pastrami and egg sandwich at the original Primanti Brothers in the Strip District on the way to the hotel. And, yeah, the shimmery green No. 19 jersey got a few long looks from the black and gold clad patrons. The rest of the evening, spent mostly at an Irish pub in the Southside Works included a lot more green, though. Jets fans are here in force. And with the exuberance and joy of that Braylon Edwards backflip in each pint that we shared.
Except for one surly, portly guy with the freshly printed "Sanchez swallows" shirts, just about everyone was gracious. Few more so than Donald of Steelers Today, who was kind enough to answer a few questions about the game.
WWOD?: I feel that no one knows a team's weaknesses better than the club's own fans, so, what do you think is the key to beating the Steelers on Sunday?
ST: The Steelers' have two potential weaknesses. One is on offense, and one is on defense.
On offense, the Steelers' offensive line is a beat up group. They have been shuffling players in and out all year. Their starting left tackle (Max Starks) and their starting right tackle (Willie Colon) are both on injured reserve and out for the season. The remaining offensive linemen have been injury-riddled all season long. Before each game, Steelers fans simply pray that we will make it through the game with enough healthy offensive linemen to snap the ball.
On defense, the Steelers' weakness is their cornerbacks. Bryant McFadden and William Gay both need to be upgraded. The Steelers' cornerbacks have repeatedly been shown to be susceptible to the short pass. Tom Brady has used this tactic successfully against the Steelers for years.
WWOD?: Does the name Doug Brien ring a bell?
ST: Sure. He was the Jets' kicker who missed a couple of potentially game-winning field goals the last time these two teams met in a playoff game. But I don't understand why Jets fans blame him. He folded under the pressure of facing the power and mystique of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Isn't that what 99% of humanity would do? Heck, 99% of NFL players do the same thing. It's nice to be the Steelers.
WWOD?: Do you think that fans (or maybe just the local media) in Pittsburgh felt even the slightest bit let down by the lack of vitriol between the teams this week?
ST: Not on our end. Unless we're playing the Baltimore Ravens, Steelers fans don't seem to be driven by vitriol. They are a pretty friendly bunch. They typically welcome the fans of visiting teams into their own stadium. Sure, they may kid opposing fans a bit, but those fans will never feel as though they are in any danger. I've been in plenty of opposing stadiums where I've felt unsafe wearing Steelers gear.
WWOD?: While pockets of Pittsburgh still seem to divided about Ben Roethlisberger, I get the impression that everyone is pretty down on Santonio Holmes? From a distance, it looked like he was the mostly-harmless fall guy during a scandalous offseason, but how do most Steelers fans feel about the MVP of Super Bowl XLIII these days?
ST: Harmless? Not at all. While Steeler Nation was disappointed with Ben, the reality is that Ben was NEVER convicted of anything. Santonio Holmes, on the other hand, has a history of drug convictions. He has been caught by the police. He has been caught by the NFL. He even had audacity to "tweet" about his drug usage. That's just stupid. Moreover, it's an insult to every one of his fans.
Santonio was a talented receiver, who had an ability to rise to the occasion during key moments. But he had an equal ability to dog it during stretches during the game. He could disappear for quarters at a time. I'm sure Jets fans are making the exact same observations about Santonio.
While I was disappointed that the Steelers didn't get more for Santonio, I agreed with their decision to get rid of him.
WWOD? From one sports fan to another, what do I need see/do/eat/drink/experience while in the 'burgh?
ST: Pittsburgh is one of the great hidden treasures of America. It's true greatness lies in it's people. Pittsburghers are basically friendly mid-westerners at heart. We're very different from our eastern neighbors in Philadelphia.
As far as things to see, Obviously the Steelers are high on the list. The Steelers and the city seem to be reflections of one another.
Other things to see/do include riding the incline up Mt. Washington. There are two inclines across the river from downtown Pittsburgh. Don't ride the one near Station Square. Ride the one that is across the river from Heinz Field and PNC Park. The view from the top of that one is much better. If you have an opportunity, try to take in a Penguins game while you're in town. Pittsburgh takes as much pride in their hockey team as they do in their football team (Okay, ALMOST as much pride). Also try to visit the "Aviary". It's a hidden jewel in Pittsburgh.
WWOD?: Lastly, I got my tickets off eBay from someone in Maryland who I can only presume was a Ravens fan. Thoughts?
ST: Tickets to a Steelers game can be hard to come by. The Steelers' home games have been sold out for generations. You have a much better chance of seeing the Steelers on the road than you do seeing them in Pittsburgh.