They weren't exactly the Boston Red Sox, but close. The 2005/06 Pittsburgh Steelers did what no NFL team had ever done: just when it looked they weren't even going to make the playoffs, they won eight straight games, including three playoff games and the Super Bowl, to become NFL champions.
So for the first time since the four championships of the 1970s, the Steelers were world famous. At least at the highest level, for there are Steelers fans all over the world. Over a billion people worldwide watched them win on Sunday. Except for the final episode of M*A*S*H (back when there were but 3 networks), more people in the U.S. watched this Super Bowl than any other program in history. Seattle has fans abroad, in Japan and other parts of Asia in particular. But you have to believe that most of the global interest was in the Steelers.
This team was unique: with veteran leadership (Jerome Bettis, beloved by teammates and Pittsburgh fans), uniquely talented young plays (Ben Roethislberger, the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl; defensive wizard Troy Palamalu) and players on both sides of the ball in the prime of their careers (like wide receivers Hines Ward and A. Randle-el.)
They didn't play their best game, the stars did not all shine, but they won as a team, because they play for the team: and so many made an outstanding play at just the right time.
The Pittsburgh community loves them for their involvement and general good citizenship, starting at the top (owner Dan Rooney, coach Bill Cowher).
I grew up nearby, I lived in the city, and even though I haven't been back in a few years, I read the Pittsburgh news sites and keep in touch as best I can. The rest is there for all to see.
Here are a few photos from the last incredible week, leading up to, during and after the Super Bowl. There are more photos on my Dreaming Up Daily site, here and here.
And commentaries here and here.
To celebrate this week, here's part of an essay on what the Steelers mean to Pittsburgh that I posted on Daily Kos, is included just below the photo scrapbook. There are other Steelers pieces on this blog, here and here (origin of the Terrible Towel.)
UPDATE: Here's some of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette account of the celebration downtown:
"You have supported us, win, lose or draw. So I want to say, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for all the memories you've given me, and the way you've taken me in." -- Jerome Bettis
Clinging to lampposts, perched in trees, hanging out of office windows, crowded on parking decks and standing 15-deep in places along the 1.2-mile parade route from Mellon Arena to Gateway Center were people of every size, age and color, a true Steeler Nation that had endured 26 years of dashed dreams and unfulfilled prayers while waiting to celebrate the championship. And celebrate they did.
Grandmothers unashamedly screamed out players' names as the 58-vehicle motorcade took two hours to navigate the route, led by the flag-bearing Pittsburgh Paramedic Honor Guard.
Grown men wearing the jerseys of their favorite players gaped and shouted as individual Steelers slowly moved past in the backs of chauffeured cars and vans.
"This is a rebirth," yelled Elaine Hatton, 59, of Center Township in Beaver County, who said she had attended all four previous Steelers Super Bowl parades. This one was different, though. "We died and were resurrected," she said.
Also in the parade were Gladys and Johnnie Bettis, parents of just-retired Steelers running back Jerome Bettis. "This is just the most incredible moment of my life," Mrs. Bettis said. "We knew winning the Super Bowl was big, but this is even bigger. I had no idea there were this many people in Pittsburgh."
Although many school districts warned that they would not grant excused absences to students attending the parade, thousands of youngsters apparently came down with black-and-gold flu.
Whitehall residents Kevin Walsh, his wife, Nancy, and three school-age children -- Shane, 16, Samantha, 14, and Cassidy, 9 -- waved from a sidewalk. "I got my three kids out of school because I think this is an important family event," he said. "I don't think missing one day of school is going to matter that much when they're going to have memories of this for a lifetime."