Kevin Gorman: Steelers need to stop watching and wishing they were Patriots
The last time the Pittsburgh Steelers opened the season in Foxborough, the New England Patriots didn’t just unveil their fourth Super Bowl banner.
They trotted out their trophies, too.
New England owner Robert Kraft was joined by Patriots greats Troy Brown, Willie McGinest and Ty Law in carrying their four Lombardi trophies onto the field at Gillette Stadium.
The Steelers could only watch — and wish.
“I think it’s cool to be part of, honestly,” Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said of seeing another Super Bowl ceremony when they open against the Patriots on Sunday night in Foxborough. “You go out there, and you watch it and you sit there and try to channel it and say, ‘That needs to be us next year.’
“That’s the way I look at it.”
The Steelers haven’t had much choice but to look at it any other way. They have watched and wished, then lost to the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady and the Patriots. Next year became the year after and then the year after that.
The Steelers lost that 2015 season opener 28-21 in New England. They lost to the Patriots, 27-16, at Heinz Field in late October 2016. They lost to the Patriots again 36-17 that January in the AFC championship game at Gillette Stadium. And they lost to them yet again 27-24 in December 2017.
Even when they beat the Patriots, 17-10, last December at Heinz Field, it became a hollow victory when the Steelers missed the playoffs. They could only watch and wish as the Patriots went on to win Super Bowl LIII and tie their NFL record for most Super Bowls with their sixth title.
So the Steelers have no choice when they to go back to New England but to watch and wish again.
“If you’re a player, you’re chasing that same thing, so you want that moment,” said Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, who watched that 2015 opener from home while recovering from a broken fibula. “They deserved it. They worked their butts off and deserve to cherish what they did last year.
“I’m going to clap for them and everything. They deserve it, but we want the same thing. Words can’t do it. You’ve got to go out there and play. You’ve got to go out there and prove it every single week.”
The Patriots have proven it almost every single year. As dynasties go, the standard was set by the 1970s Steelers and the ’80s San Francisco 49ers winning four each in a decade. But no team in NFL history has dominated over two decades like the Patriots, who have won six Super Bowls since 2002.
That two of those have come at the expense of Roethlisberger and the Steelers has to bother Big Ben. He called it an honor to share the field with Brady, but being a contemporary of the greatest quarterback in NFL history hasn’t been easy.
If not for losing to Brady and the Patriots twice in the AFC championship game — in 2004 and ’16 — the 37-year-old Roethlisberger would have two more Super Bowl appearances and, possibly, be tied with Terry Bradshaw with four rings.
“That’s a lot of coulda-shouldas, I guess,” Roethlisberger said.
There’s no guessing about who the Steelers have to go through to win a seventh Lombardi. Their road to Super Bowl LIV in Miami starts Sunday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, where the Steelers will watch the ceremony and wish for their own.
“It’s not fun,” Roethlisberger said. “They’re the best for a reason: coaches and players. It’s not like we’ve had a problem with them. The league’s had a problem with them. They’re that dominant.”
That needs to be the Steelers this year. They need to stop watching and wishing and start winning.
That’s the way I look at it.
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .