Ben, Steelers fans tire of Dallas' 'America's Team' moniker
Ben Roethlisberger will face the Dallas Cowboys for only the third time in his nine-season career, but like Steelers players of many generations, he long ago wearied of the “America's Team” moniker.
So when the Steelers kick off against Dallas at 4:25 p.m. Sunday, he expects Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to be surprised by the sight of thousands of Terrible Towel-waving fans at Cowboys Stadium. As Roethlisberger knows, Steelers fans extend beyond geographic boundaries.
“He plays for ‘America's Team,' right?” Roethlisberger said. “I think the Steelers are the world's team. We just want to go beat them.”
That's been a Pittsburgh rallying cry since the 1970s: Beat the Cowboys.
The interconference rivals meet only occasionally — even if their three Super Bowl matchups are a record — but every game is meaningful, and many of the 30 all-time matchups (each team has won 15 times) were pivotal in that season.
Just as the last two were.
On Dec. 7, 2008, the Steelers (then 9-3) trailed the Cowboys (then 8-4) by 10 points late in the fourth quarter. But Roethlisberger threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Heath Miller with 2:04 remaining to tie it at 13, and Deshea Townsend's interception of Romo and 25-yard return for a score 24 seconds later gave Pittsburgh the win. The Steelers went on to win the Super Bowl.
Four seasons earlier, in Roethlisberger's fourth career start, the Steelers also trailed by 10 points late. But they came back to win, 24-20, on a Roethlisberger-to-Jerame Tuman touchdown pass, a Kimo von Oelhoffen fumble recovery and a Jerome Bettis touchdown run with one minute left.
The Steelers went 15-1, and Roethlisberger began to build his reputation as a big-game quarterback.
And, of course, the Steelers' Super Bowl wins over Dallas in the 1970s — 21-17 in the 1975 season and 35-31 in the 1978 season — stamped them as the Team of the Decade, not the Cowboys.
The Cowboys got a measure of revenge by winning Super Bowl XXX, 27-17, during the 1995 season to give them a then-record fifth Super Bowl win and breaking a tie with the Steelers.
And that “America's Team” nickname?
Hall of Famer Mel Blount disliked it back in the '70s as much as Roethlisberger does now.
“Any time you're playing a team or an organization that thinks they can compete with yours, they think they're better than you, it's always special,” Blount said. “At that time the Cowboys were self promoters of ‘America's Team,' and that motivates guys.”
It still does.
“Well, I would even say we're the universal team,” safety Troy Polamalu said.
As usual, this game could prove meaningful to both teams. The Steelers (7-6), losers of three of four, are trying to rebound from last week's 34-24 upset loss to San Diego and right themselves before next week's key AFC North home game against Cincinnati.
“It's all about when you get hot and when you start playing good football,” Roethlisberger said. “For us, the time is now. We need to start playing our best and try to put together a little run here.”
The Cowboys (7-6) already did that, winning four of five to move back into NFC playoff contention. Romo has been especially good of late, averaging 306.8 yards passing during those five games, and he'll go against a top-ranked but depleted secondary that could be missing injured cornerbacks Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen.
“It's going to be a big showdown,” cornerback Keenan Lewis said.
Then again, isn't nearly every Steelers-Cowboys game?
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.