Showing No Signs of a Hangover

Country-music troubadour and Pittsburgh Steelers fan Hank Williams Jr. once sang that "the hangovers hurt more than they used to." Steelers Nation



Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes running the ball against the Arizona Cardinals during Super Bowl XLIII.

The Super Bowl hangover lingered for several agonizing months after the Steelers beat Seattle to claim Super Bowl XL in Detroit. Jerome Bettis, the team's emotional leader, retired after the season. Ben Roethlisberger had perhaps the most famous motorcycle accident in city history in June and then had to have his appendix removed right before the season opener. He struggled through the worst season of his brilliant career. And rumors dogged the team all year that head coach Bill Cowher would step aside as well, which he ultimately did at season's end.

On the field, the Steelers suffered the kinds of thrashings they used to administer to opponents. Jacksonville physically handled them in a 9-0 shutout in week two on "Monday Night Football." The Baltimore Ravens combined to beat the Steelers 58-7 in their two meetings. There were also two three-game losing streaks, as the Steelers finished an unsatisfying 8-and-8. But after winning Super Bowl XLIII against the Arizona Cardinals in February, the Steelers think they can avoid a "Super Bowl hangover" this season.

"I think we know a little bit more what to expect this time," says linebacker James Farrior. "We know the first time we did it we didn't come back and have the great season we expected to have. But this time, I think we'll be a little more focused and pay a little bit more attention to details. We know it's a tough road ahead of us, so we're going to be out here working hard."

The road is tough, and the journey can begin with the weary. The Steelers played 24 games in 2005, including the preseason, regular season and postseason. After the Super Bowl victory in Detroit, there was the parade in Pittsburgh as well as a few parties to celebrate the team's accomplishment. The extended postseason meant that there were already six weeks or so less time to let the bodies heal from the season, and in the afterglow of the championship, perhaps a little less will for some to get themselves back into top shape.

"I think the last time we were a little lax," says nose tackle Casey Hampton of his first visit to the Super Bowl in Detroit. "We kicked it, and [let the whole thing get to us] a little last time, and forgot how we got there."

The Steelers have a large number of key holdovers from the first Super Bowl-winning team, and they think that will help them avoid a letdown this season. "We know what it's going to take," Farrior says, "and all the veteran guys know what we have to put in to make this season another good one."

And younger players like Matt Spaeth plan on following the lead of the veterans. "I'm just going to get with some vets, and learn from them, and ride their coattails," Spaeth says. "They'll learn from their mistakes, and they're going to know what to do and how to handle themselves."

Repeating is tough. Only eight teams have successfully done it, including the Steelers, twice, in the 1970s. Part of the reason lies in the "hangover effect," but part of it is in the expectations heaped upon the defending champ and the desire for other teams to knock them off. "You've got a target on your back," says linebacker LaMarr Woodley. "Teams are out to get you. You want to come in better, because fans are going to expect more, and you should expect more from yourself."

Another reason that repeating is tough is that the pool of competition is so deep. To combat that, the Steelers speak of motivation, the edge that's needed in a sport of such parity that this year's defeated Super Bowl team frequently become next year's champions..

For Hines Ward, the motivation lies in the chance to become known as the best team in the NFL over the course of his career. "I want to win another [Super Bowl]," Ward says. "The [Steelers] team in the '70s - they won four. And I think if we can win another one, we'd be right up there with New England as one of the teams in the dynasty [discussion] since I've been here."

Ward also thinks that Mike Tomlin will help the team keep its motivational edge. "He won't let us have a down year," Ward says. "His expectation level is very high - and it should be."

And for Tomlin, Steelers Nation is part of what keeps him hungry for more success. "The more I get to understand it, the more Steelers Nation drives me," Tomlin said the day after the Steelers' Super Bowl win over Arizona. "I want to give them something to be excited about. I want to perform for them; I want to win for them, because they're that special."

And if the Steelers can't beat the odds this season and win another championship? Well, we can always turn to Hank Williams Jr.'s daddy for a prediction: "There's a tear in my beer," he once famously sang. And there'd be some salty suds in Pittsburgh as well.

 

Rob King's versatility places him in the studio or at the game for FSN Pittsburgh. He brought his enthusiasm for sports to the 'Burgh in 2000 after having spent the previous five years in Syracuse, where he was the sports director at CBS affiliate WTVH and hosted a radio show on WHEN-AM. Before that, Rob spent 21/2 years as a reporter at KPLR-TV in St. Louis and also hosted a radio show on KFNS-AM. He's a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, where he was an all-conference quarterback.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Host an event in Pittsburgh’s urban sustainable homestead. Join a club for mushroom hunters. Tour a coal mine. Listen to some banjo music. We list our new favorite experiences, food, drink, personalities, stores, items and activities in the ’Burgh.
Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Fourteen years ago this month, the mighty Kinzua Viaduct met its match.
Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

The restaurant, run by Dinette’s Sonja J. Finn, boosts the dining experience at the Carnegie museums in Oakland.
Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

FASTER Pittsburghʼs Hip Hop Cardio promises to get your workout into a groove.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Watch: Pittsburgh Penguins Video Tribute to Marc-André Fleury

Watch: Pittsburgh Penguins Video Tribute to Marc-André Fleury

With a tear in our eye, we bid the “Flower” Au Revoir.
Finally, a Faster Way From Pittsburgh to Oakland and Beyond

Finally, a Faster Way From Pittsburgh to Oakland and Beyond

A proposed route for new electric buses will connect 30,000 people throughout 24 neighborhoods.
Extras Wanted: Cate Blanchett Shooting Movie in Pittsburgh

Extras Wanted: Cate Blanchett Shooting Movie in Pittsburgh

“Where’d You Go, Bernadette,” a movie based on the best-selling comedic novel, will begin filming in the ‘Burgh next month.
What We Know about Anthony Bourdain’s Visit to Pittsburgh

What We Know about Anthony Bourdain’s Visit to Pittsburgh

While Bourdain and his crew aren’t talking, they left plenty of hints about what’s likely to be in the Pittsburgh episode of “Parts Unknown.”
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Host an event in Pittsburgh’s urban sustainable homestead. Join a club for mushroom hunters. Tour a coal mine. Listen to some banjo music. We list our new favorite experiences, food, drink, personalities, stores, items and activities in the ’Burgh.
Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Fourteen years ago this month, the mighty Kinzua Viaduct met its match.
Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

The restaurant, run by Dinette’s Sonja J. Finn, boosts the dining experience at the Carnegie museums in Oakland.
Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

FASTER Pittsburghʼs Hip Hop Cardio promises to get your workout into a groove.
Curling in Pittsburgh: ‘It's Basically Golf and Chess on Ice’

Curling in Pittsburgh: ‘It's Basically Golf and Chess on Ice’

On the eve of its largest annual event, the Pittsburgh Curling Club has plans to increase Pittsburgh’s appreciation for its intricate sport.
Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in June

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in June

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Watch: Pittsburgh Penguins Video Tribute to Marc-André Fleury

Watch: Pittsburgh Penguins Video Tribute to Marc-André Fleury

With a tear in our eye, we bid the “Flower” Au Revoir.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Pusadee's Garden Will Close at End of Year (But Not Forever)

Pusadee's Garden Will Close at End of Year (But Not Forever)

Look for some big changes at the Upper Lawrenceville restaurant, which is expected to shutter for at least a year.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Read on for some under-the-radar ideas on how you and the kids can survive a rainy day this summer.

Comments


High-Wire Acts at Carnegie Science Center

High-Wire Acts at Carnegie Science Center

The North Shore landmark's new ropes course is a draw for adults and youths alike.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
History Can Wait Until Penguins Are Done Making It

History Can Wait Until Penguins Are Done Making It

The desire for more a year ago helped fuel the Penguins’ quest to repeat this season. Should their thirst for yet another Cup prove as unquenchable next season, there’s no limit to what they might yet achieve. Even a Three-peat.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Make the Cut with Jonathan Moran Woodworks

Make the Cut with Jonathan Moran Woodworks

The Strip District-based woodworker's cutting boards can be custom made with the wood of your choice.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Buckle Up ... Again, as Cars 3 Hits Theaters

Buckle Up ... Again, as Cars 3 Hits Theaters

Reviews of "Cars 3" and "47 Meters Down," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Enchanting Summery Trends to Illuminate Your Wedding Palette

Enchanting Summery Trends to Illuminate Your Wedding Palette

You’ll definitely want to pin these new summer wedding trends to your Pinterest board.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Blooming: Pittsburgh Botanic Garden Hosts Town & Country Tour

Blooming: Pittsburgh Botanic Garden Hosts Town & Country Tour

From a forest of Japanese maples to a rocky urban sanctuary, the annual tour covers 14 very different gardens across the East End.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Visit Thiel College for a Summer BBQ

Visit Thiel College for a Summer BBQ

On three days this summer, the college will host visit days for prospective students.

Comments

Edit Module