I just want to remind everyone here who likes Burress: Steelers fans can't stand the guy. He's a poor blocker, is often injured, has questionable hands, is an amazing physical specimen who just sucks a big one in every big game.
Here's an example plucked from dozens: a column from a local Pittsburgh paper that discusses Plexiglass. Someone's going to overpay for this guy in the offseason, and I sure hope it isn't us.
HAMMER HEAD: Best of times, worst of times
SUBHEAD: Steelers' spectacular season ends in playoff agony once again
On Feb. 6, if you can even bring yourself to turn on the TV again by then, you will sit down to watch Super Bowl XXXIX and think one thought for about three straight hours.
The Steelers dominated both of these teams! #@$%*!
Yes, the weekend after Groundhog Day, over and over again you will be doomed to remember the score 61-23, which, of course, is the aggregate tally of Pittsburghs victories over New England and Philadelphia back in Weeks 8-9 of the regular season.
Today, those games seem oh so long ago.
New Englands 41-27 win over the Steelers in yesterdays AFC Championship Game at Heinz Field has erased all of the excitement generated by Pittsburghs incredible regular-season run, which included a franchise-record 14 consecutive victories and improbable routs of what would turn out to be the leagues two Super Bowl participants.
The winning streak, the magical rookie ride of Ben Roethlisberger, the fountain of youth discovered by Jerome Bettis, the NFLs best defense all of it, now wiped out.
Or is it? Its your call to make.
There are two ways to reflect on this latest debacle in a home conference title contest.
You could certainly look upon this loss as yet another colossal choke, cementing Bill Cowhers role as a big-time coaching bust in big-time games. None of us has enough fingers to point at all the things that went wrong yesterday, but we can surely try.
Lets start with Roethlisberger, who set the tone by letting his first pass sail high once again, continuing a disturbing tendency that developed over the last six weeks. That pass was tipped twice before settling into the arms of New England safety Eugene Wilson, causing all Pittsburgh fans to think the same thing:
Here we go again, Steelers.
Roethlisbergers next pick was pure nightmare, as he failed to see safety Rodney Harrison in position to jump on a route. Bens flare was behind his intended target, making it easy pickins, indeed. Once Harrison crossed the goal line 87 yards away, the game was effectively over.
Theres no other way to put it, Big Ben played small in the biggest game of his life. So, if you choose, you can point a finger at him.
Then theres Cowher, who made two questionable fourth-down decisions that backfired.
Trailing just 3-0 midway through the first quarter, the Steelers faced 4th and 1 at the New England 39.
Instead of trying to pin the Patriots deep in their own territory and letting the best defense in the league hold them there or perhaps even force the kind of turnover that changed the game for good on Halloween
Cowher went for it and gave the Pats a chance to seize the momentum. They did. One play later it was 10-0.
Then, trailing 31-17 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Steelers faced 4th and goal at the 2. With a golden opportunity to seize the momentum themselves and actually put some pressure on the Patriots, Cowher elected to kick the field goal.
Big deal. At 31-20, it was still a two-score game, and New England got to breathe a sigh of relief.
Cowher gambled in the first quarter, when being conservative was the right call. Then he got conservative in the fourth quarter, when gambling was the right call.
So point a pair of fingers at Cowher.
Want more? How many fingers ya got?
On the failed 4th and 1, Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca whiffed on a block, and instead of making a play for a critical yard, Bettis fumbled. Gag. Both of them get fingers.
On the 60-yard scoring bomb to Deion Branch, Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu abandoned his deep zone too early and left corner Deshea Townsend on an island. Point a finger at Polamalu for a mental mistake and another at Townsend for a physical one.
On 3rd and 17 in the third quarter, Aaron Smith was called for holding to keep alive a New England drive that ended in a touchdown. Finger.
After Smiths penalty, the Steelers recovered a fumble that was overturned on a challenge. Because were in a bitter mood, give a finger of blame to the replay booth, too.
Point a giant finger at Plaxico Burress, who could not hold on to a 2nd and goal lob that hit him right in the hands and would have put the Steelers within a touchdown early in the fourth.
While were at it, pile on some more blame for Burresss failure to step up in a big game. Once again. And lets use our entire hand to hold the door open for the overrated receiver on his way out the door to free agency.
Finally, point a fist full of fingers at the entire Steelers defense. So awesome in their 34-20 win over the Pats back on Oct. 31, these guys seemed more awestruck in the presence of Tom Brady this time around.
Thats one way you could choose to look at your Steelers today. Blame em all for breaking your heart once again.
Or you could think back to how you felt about this team in August, when simply playing .500 ball was considered to be a good goal for Pittsburgh.
Last season, the offensive line was a wreck, the running game was one of the worst in the league, the defense could not stop the pass and the team went 6-10. This season appeared like it would be more of the same, with the Steelers potentially headed for the AFC North basement.
Instead, you were blessed with an unforgettable season. A 15-1 record, the most regular-season wins in AFC history. Domination of the division. Memorable comebacks against Dallas, Jacksonville and the Giants. An inspiring season finale by the second string in Buffalo. A thrilling overtime playoff win over the Jets. And yes, the 61-23 combined beatings of New England and Philly.
You can also remember this: no rookie quarterback in the history of the NFL has ever started as well as Ben Roethlisberger. Not Joe Montana (four Super Bowl rings), not Troy Aikman (three rings), not John Elway (two rings) and certainly not Terry Bradshaw, and we all know how his career went.
So you can either dwell on this most recent failure, or you can dream of the kind of future this season foreshadows.
This team has its identity again. Its a power running team with a powerful defense. It has a superb young quarterback. It has perennial Pro Bowler Hines Ward and emerging star Antwaan Randle El. It has a deep group of running backs. It has a strong core of linebackers and a young secondary with outstanding potential.
Have your pick today. You can complain about yet another lost opportunity or be thankful for a surprising season and a suddenly brighter future. Youll be justified with either choice.
And youll be reminding yourself of it over and over again during Super Bowl XXXIX.
(Steve Treu covers the Pittsburgh Steelers for The News.)