Morelli OnLion: Here We Go!

It’s Super Bowl week.

Here at gantdaily.com, I’ve asked my publisher and editor if we could take a break from Penn State athletics for a week. Instead of blue and white, this week’s edition of Morelli OnLion will be black and gold.

The last time we went black and gold was just a couple of years ago — February of 2009 — to be exact. As the Steelers readied for Super Bowl XLIII, we presented a very special edition of Morelli OnLion. For those of my friends in the Burgh and all across Steeler Nation, you asked for it.

You know what it is.

Here We Go

The Pittsburgh Steelers will be playing for a record seventh Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XLV on Sunday. If the Steelers win, it will be their third Super Bowl championship in the past six seasons.

There’s one reason why the Steelers are on the verge of being a dynasty again.

It’s not because of safety Troy Polamalu, although he’s one of the best defensive players in the NFL.

And it’s not because of coach Mike Tomlin, although he should be considered for Coach of the Year.

Make no mistake about it — the Pittsburgh Steelers are playing for another ring because of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

The two-time Super Bowl champ is rarely mentioned among the NFL’s top signal callers. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees get more attention, although just one (Brady) has won more NFL titles.

Big Ben has racked up a 10-2 postseason record. He’s 2-0 in Super Bowls. With a win on Sunday, he would enter an elite group of QBs who have won three titles.

And to think, Big Ben — and the Steelers — aren’t even supposed to be here.

Go back to March of 2010. Big Ben was accussed of sexual assault after a night of partying in a college town in Georgia. The media jumped on the story and fans reacted.

Many fans called for Steeler management to trade or release Big Ben.

Following an investigation, Roethlisberger wasn’t even charged with a crime. But just because there was no crime didn’t mean that he was out of the woods.

In an unprecedented move, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Roethlisberger for six games. The suspension was later reduced to four games, but the Steelers would be without their star QB for a quarter of the season.

At Steeler training camp in Latrobe, Big Ben was welcomed back by Steeler Nation. After the team opened the season at 3-1, Roethlisberger returned.

Over the final 12 games, Roethlisberger led the Steelers to a 9-3 mark. The team won the AFC North and earned the No. 2 seed in the conference. During the season, Roethlisberger battled through a broken foot and a broken nose. He was battered and bruised behind a makeshift offensive line that is considered one of the worst in the NFL.

In the playoffs, Roethlisberger hit his stride. While the Steelers fell behind 21-7 to the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round, Roethlisberger rallied his team and made the biggest play of the game, a 58-yard pass on third-and-19 to rookie Antonio Brown, which set up the game-winning touchdown in a 31-24 victory.

Ben Roethlisberger has bounced back from offseason turmoil to lead the Steelers to the Super Bowl.

The following week against the Jets, Roethlisberger staked his squad to a 24-3 first-half lead. Although he threw a pair of interceptions, he again made the key play, a third down completion to Brown that salted the game away.

So now it comes to this. Make no mistake about it, the Steelers are in for a dogfight on Sunday. They haven’t played a team as hot as the Packers in the postseason, and they haven’t seen a QB like Aaron Rodgers.

But this isn’t about the Packers or Rodgers. This game is about Big Ben. The equation is pretty simple. If he wins, he will earn his third ring and punch his ticket to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If he loses, there will be those fans who will say that the off-the-field stuff ultimately affected his game.

In this writer’s opinion, Roethlisberger has silenced his critics — win or lose. He proved that he belongs in black and gold. The Steelers are back in the big game because of him. This game is the reason why you don’t cut or trade your franchise QB. Steeler “fans” who called for a trade or release don’t know football. They should be forced to turn in their Terrible Towels.

Think back to the dark days, which were not that long ago. Think back to when Mark Malone, Bubby Brister, David Woodley, Kent Graham, Mike Tomczak, Neil O’Donnell and Kordell Stewart played QB for the black and gold. Terry Bradshaw retired in 1983. The Steelers spent the next 21 years desperately seeking their franchise QB. In 2004, they finally found him. Credit the Rooneys for standing by Big Ben. They’ve been rewarded with a trip to Dallas.

As for the commissioner of the NFL, shame on him. There was no crime, no charges. There should never have been a suspension. If the commissioner thought he would cripple the Steelers’ chances of getting back to the big game, he thought wrong.

This team has too much heart to let a four-game suspension stop them from the task at hand. They rallied when it counted most.

In the end, one thing is certain — with No. 7 leading the way, anything is possible.

Here we go, Steeler Nation. Here we go.

Chris Morelli is a native Pittsburgher and diehard Pittsburgh Steeler fan. He is a regular on “Sports Central,” which airs on ESPN Radio in Altoona and State College. E-mail him at morellionlion@gmail.com. Also, be sure to check out Morelli OnLion on Facebook!

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