As all the hoopla surrounding the retirement of Kordell Stewart dies down this week I’ve started to think about Steeler Nation and their history, and present, when it comes to how they deal with their quarterback. We are rightfully brutal on opposing quarterbacks, Joe Flacco looks like Bert from Seasame Street, Tom Brady may have girl parts, and Carrot top aka Andy Dalton has just begun to learn how much Steeler Nation loves to harass opposing teams’ quarterbacks. But how do we do with our own? Not very good if you ask me. Kordell spoke of receiving death threats from fans during his poor performing seasons, Tommy Maddox got garbage thrown on his yard and his kids were harassed in school, and Ben can’t open his mouth without constant criticism of anything and everything he says. So why are we so harsh on our own quarterbacks? Possibly it’s the high standard that has been set in this town, whether it is the legendary quarterbacks that have come from Western Pennsylvania or the standard of 4 Super Bowls won by Bradshaw, Steeler Nation has a constant love-hate relationship with its quarterbacks.
First off, for those who have taken their fandom to the level of harassing children or sending death threats you might as well go ahead and check yourself into the nearest mental health facility because you have issues that don’t have anything to do with football scores. I’m as passionate as the next fan and I’ll believe till the day I die that Neil O’Donnell was paid off by Jerry Jones to throw those two interceptions to Larry Brown in Super Bowl XXX but that’s just part of my charm. What possesses people to threaten harm to athletes or other celebrities when things don’t go their way will never be something I can wrap my head around. But it’s in our nature, especially as members of Steeler Nation, to be critical of our players when we invest so much of our time and energy into the team. We’ve earned the right to scream “Aw you bum!” at the TV when an interception is thrown, it’s behavior that’s passed on from generation to generation.
Kordell Stewart wasn’t the first Steelers quarterback to have a love-hate relationship with the fans. I’ll never forget how my grandmother always called Terry Bradshaw an “a-hole” when she saw him on camera. Even 4-time Super Bowl Champion Terry Bradshaw wasn’t immune to the sometimes bi-polar emotions of Steeler fans. Bradshaw was largely criticized for not returning to city after leaving the Steelers. When you think about it, Franco Harris will show up for a gas station opening around town but no one could get ever Bradshaw to show up in Pittsburgh for any event or occasion up until recently. Kordell’s criticism was mostly due to his lackluster performances in his two starts in the AFC Championship game. Throwing 3 interceptions in each AFC Championship will definitely not land you on the good side of Steeler Nation.
Ben hasn’t been a stranger to criticism from Steeler Nation in the least bit. Some of it has been well deserved as there has been a few years where Ben has made it very difficult to be a fan what with his “incidents” in the offseason and whatnot. Lately the microscope has been on Ben since he lost his BFF and favorite play-caller, Bruce Arians. Anything Ben says about the departure of BA and the arrival of Todd Haley, along with what “direction” this offense might be going in is closely criticized and largely blown out of proportion. Recently Ben was quoted as to saying that the offense was going to run the ball more this season and the fans are “getting their wish”. If you’re not a fan of endless debate on whether or not Ben is a whiner or a big baby still pouting over the loss of BA, you might want to stay off of Twitter when you see that he’s made any kind of comment. In my opinion, the drama surrounding Ben’s opinion/first impression/overall feelings towards Todd Haley has been largely manufactured and overstated by the local media in order to keep churning out stories on the Steelers during the offseason. I’m not saying Ben is perfect and everything he says is golden, but it seems to me that no other player aside from him is as critiqued on his comments. Must be because he’s the quarterback.
When you’re the quarterback of a Six Time Super Bowl Championship organization, you’re going to come across some harsh critics along with adoring fans, it just comes with the territory. Whether you contributed to those rings or contributed to missed opportunities for more rings might determine the severity of the disparagement. Of course Kordell didn’t do anything to deserve death threats, Tommy Maddox didn’t deserve garbage on his lawn, and Bradshaw didn’t deserve the verbal abuse he unknowingly received from my grandmother on a regular basis. But these are professional athletes in the most passionate football town in the world. It’s heartwarming that after all the death threats and negative attention, Kordell still thought so highly of the Steelers and the city of Pittsburgh that he would go through the ridiculous publicity of retiring from a team he hasn’t taken a snap for in almost a decade. Must mean that no matter how rocky the love-hate relationship Steeler Nation has with our quarterback, the love always outweighs the hate.
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