The Pittsburgh Steelers came to Denver for a football game, but what they got was a rodeo.
I wish I could give Tim Tebow and Denver credit for their victory on Sunday, but the fact is, the way this game was officiated, it wouldn't have mattered if the Broncos were a Division III college team.
When the NFL's #1 ranked defense can't generate sacks or pressure or even hurry the passer, and the league's worst passer throws for more than 300 yards, you know something was rotten in the city of Denver.
When a franchise that has prided itself on stuffing the league's best running backs for as long as anyone can remember can't bring down a quarterback that it and every fan knows is going to run the ball, you know something unusual had to be at play.
For anyone watching Sunday's Steelers-Broncos game with an unbiased eye, it was obvious what that was.
On every play, the Steelers front seven was held, hog-tied and strung up in an old-fashioned Wild West rodeo.
I'm used to seeing the otherwise-unstoppable James Harrison get this treatment. As a marked man by the league, you know he isn't going to get the benefit of the guys in stripes.
However, in this game it wasn't just Harrison, it was everybody—two-hand grabs, fistfuls of jerseys, throwdowns, no Steeler was spared.
How many times did Tebow sit in the pocket while his linemen lassoed the Steelers pass rush, giving him time to complete 30-yard flutterball completions in the general vicinity of a receiver?
How many times did the Steelers fight through it to get a piece of Tebow, only to be hauled down?
How many Steelers were tossed out of the way for Tebow to waltz into the end zone on his rushing score?
On several plays, the Steelers cornerbacks got a similar treatment. If it wasn't holding, it was pass interference, shoves and stiff arms that if any Steeler tried, they would earn a personal foul, as Harrison did on an innocent bump of Tebow.
You could have called a half-dozen holding penalties on the Broncos on every play.
But somehow, not once were the Broncos flagged for holding.
You have to wonder whether the help from above Tebow owes thanks for didn't come from God but from Roger Goodell.
Monday, the media will be abuzz with stories about Tim Tebow. People who don't normally watch football will wonder at the "miracle" story of how this guy who can't throw a 10-yard spiral on the money through the thin air of Denver tore up the league's No. 1 pass defence.
What a farce.
What an absolute farce.
I feel bad for all the Steeler fans across the country and for the team that played and practiced so hard, and prepared so well to try to avenge last season's Super Bowl disappointment against Green Bay.
I feel bad for Ben Roethlisberger, who played through pain and played well. Even hurried and beaten up, deprived of the benefit of an offensive line holding pass-rushers at bay like Denver was able to get away with for Tebow, Roethlisberger had the Steelers within 10 yards of a game-winning field goal with 25 seconds left.
I feel bad for guys like Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley and especially Harrison, whose incredible athleticism, personal drive and lifetime of training to become great is simply neutralized by lesser opponents who cheat, while the referees and probably the league purposely turn a blind eye.
I feel bad for Ike Taylor, who looks like the fall guy for this loss, when every defence relies on quarterback pressure to help out secondary players matched up against taller faster receivers.
I feel worst of all for Dick LeBeau, who can't have much time left, who deserved the best, and whose masterpiece of a defense was made to look like a mockery by one of the worst offenses in the league in a game every football fan was watching, thanks to flagrant cheating left uncalled for 60-plus minutes.
In protest of the disgrace that was Sunday's game, which took the usual officiating disadvantage the Steelers routinely face in Roger Goodell's NFL to a new level, I won't watch another NFL game this season.
The best team is out, the only team that was solid if not better than that in every facet of the game.
Of those that remain, I can only hope the team that plays the most fairly and honorably wins.
But I certainly wouldn't bank on it.
Not on Roger Goodell's watch.
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