I set up a point-counterpoint with my two college roommates. Hank is a Steelers fan. Jon is a Giants fan. Unfortunately Jon had trouble following directions. So, here are Hank's thoughts on 5 burning questions.
1. Ben Roethlisberger v Eli Manning. Who has had the better career thus far? Who is currently the better Qb? When all is said and done, who will have the better career?
It was nice of the Steezbros to throw me a softball for the first question, though it shows their bias against my pro-Giants foe. This is a better setup than if Bob Scheiffer started off the presidential debate with "Lets discuss your running mates…."
Allow me to provide a timeline:
Draft Day 2004
The Rooney's get sick of trying to win without a quarterback and take a chance on a no name from "The U" (of ohio). Nice back story, having not played quarterback until high school after being over looked by his coach, his talent was only recognized by a small college and then the venerable Rooney's. The town of Pittsburgh is excited having drafted what appears to be a blue collared player with great up side.
HA! We all know the story. Footballs version of the silver spoon still firmly inserted in his mouth, Eli is drafted by the Chargers. He made it clear he wouldn't play there, which he gets to decide because of his amazing career at… Ole Miss? He appears to be pouting when he takes the podium but we learn later that is how he always looks. The Giants give away too much for what turns out to be the same quarterback as Phillip Rivers… and that's not a compliment.
Down goes the starter and in steps The Rookie. A fans greatest fear, a rookie starting at quarterback. The Rookie manages to go 13-0 and wins a playoff game, surpassing all expectations and historical precedents
"Eli Manning or Kurt Warner, Eli Manning or Kurt Warner. Well we gave away everything for this guy so lets give him a shot."
Eli blows. He loses the locker room and talk of "Bust" begins to emerge. To make things worse he has to face Big Ben in the middle of Ben's historical season. He loses. Steelers 33 Giants 30
Super Bowl Season
Both teams had similar stories… wild card coming in. Sweep through some tough challengers. The difference is Big Ben was the reason we made it to the super bowl. We had no running game, and we came out throwing all playoffs. I am aware of the shitty Super Bowl Ben had, but he also had a play that rivals "The Helmet Play" ; "The Tackle".
Nice run by the Giants… but this was not on the backs of Eli. His most memorable play was memorable because the receiver made a nice catch. Have you seen an athlete look more awkward amidst a great play than Eli and "The Helmet Catch".
Ben will win one or two more Super Bowls and will be Hall of Fame bound. More importantly he will have hooked up with 78% or Pittsburgh's female population and have given the other 22% to Jeff Reed.
By week 10 we will be watching Merrill Hodge freeze frame and say "You see! He is throwing off his back foot. That is the old Eli, not the one we all fell in love with after 4 good games.
2. Better owners: Maras or Rooneys?
Rooney's. No family represents a franchise like the Rooney's represent the Steelers. The initial grief around the rumors that the team may be sold is more proof of the Rooney's superiority than anything else. And of course the team was never sold. The Rooney's have done a lot of good for the NFL, always having a focus on the good of the league, but I think what best typifies their great ownership is the consistency at the head coaching position. Three coaches in almost 40 years! And they made a bold, but wise, decision on the latest hire.
Mara's are solid but uninspiring and are not revered by the fans of the New Jersey Giants nearly as much as the Rooney's are in Pittsburgh.
3. The Steelers and Giants had similar Super Bowl runs. Thoughts/reflections about those playoff runs?
This question would appear to lean towards the Giants as much as the first question leaned towards the Steelers. The Giant's run is fresh in people's mind and they knocked off the despicable Foxboro Patriots. However, here is what frustrates me about the Giants run. The regular season. When the Steelers made their run, they had to squeak into the playoffs and do the whole go on the road thing. However, throughout the season there was not talk about firing Cowher or Ben is a bust. With the Giants that was not the case. Tom Coughlin was the worst coach in football (only because Fassil didn't have a job) and the team was never going to win with Eli. My fellow author, Jon Perrelle, who claims to be a diehard even though he roots for a team in New Jersey when he lives in upstate New York, even said after week 2 "The Giants are the worst team in football".
I guess what I am saying is that I am happy the Steelers fans didn't have to do a 180 when their team did, unlike New Yorkers who were scrambling for seats on the bandwagon that was headed across the East River to New Jersey.
On top of that, if you think back to 2006, we had some great story lines (The Bus retiring and winning in his hometown) and we won a seemingly unwinnable game (Colts in the RCA Dome). Most importantly, we saved all NFL fans from having the Seattle Seahawks as World Champions.
4. How many sacks will the Giants/ Steelers have on Sunday?
I hope the return of Willie keeps the Gents boys up front off balance enough to keep the sack total in double digits. Yes I said double digits.
5. Thoughts on this weekend's game. Who will win this Sunday and why?
Where should I start? I know, the Steelers will win.
This belief that the NFC East is the best thing since, well the NFC East circa 1990, has been put to bed the last few weeks and now the Steelers will tuck it in. After being manhandled by perennial powerhouses such as the Brownies, St. Louis, and the Cardinals people are realizing that the NFC East is not the NFL's greatest division but instead a good division that happens to play in the NFL's largest markets.
Well the Pittsburghers are going to welcome the Giants to the NFL's most passionate market. I am sure the Heinz Field grounds crew has the sprinklers out right now, turning what used to be a football field into a soggy mess, neutralizing the mismatches such as Justin Tuck against or JV offensive line. This will be the type of game where Hines Wards 8 yard grabs will be more critical than Holmes and Washington stretching the field. Ben will shake off enough hits and scramble for enough big first downs to put up 17 for our boys.
Meanwhile our D will eliminate Brandon Jacobs from the game plan early and beg Eli reincarnated to win the game. The line backing corps will stop focusing on the run and start teeing off on Lead Legged Eli, matching the vaunted Giants D Line sack for sack. On this day, Eli's standard 18-33 for 182 will not be enough. He will be left standing on the sidelines as Ben gets his jersey dirty one more time, taking a knee at the 40-yard line. Steelers 17 – Giants 6
Bonus Question: Plexico Burress, thoughts?
The thing with Plex is… he's an idiot. You would think Steelers fans would be irate that we let him walk. I mean, Big Ben spent the offseason begging for a big receiver and there was still no mention of the fact that we had let Plex leave. For good reason. Plexi-glass'es inadequacies stood out to much when he shared a field with Hines Ward. It becomes intolerable for a Steelers fan to watch this contrast.
Plex booked his ticket out of Pittsburgh early when, in his disappointing rookie year, he finally made a catch. Naturally he fell to the turf untouched, because after all, who really wants to get tackled. It hurts! Well, unfortunately for Plex, his mind was still in college (or high school for that matter), so he got up and spiked the ball. Now Steelers fans already hate anyone who celebrates after a 15 yard catch, but it really irks them when you celebrate before you are down. Well we happened to be playing the Jags, who turned out not to be as stupid as Plex. They pounced on the ball, and all those in Pittsburgh started counting the days until this clown was sent packing.
The author, Hank Watson, is a Pittsburgh native who currently spends his days as a Healthcare Consultant in Washington D.C.