A stop at Gillette would’ve been nice

Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw hands off to Franco Harris during Super Bowl XIII against the Dallas Cowboys in 1979. Steeler fans will root for a seventh Super Bowl win tonight. Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw hands off to Franco Harris during Super Bowl XIII against the Dallas Cowboys in 1979. Steeler fans will root for a seventh Super Bowl win tonight. (Associated Press File)
By Bryan Bender
Globe Staff / February 6, 2011

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I am awfully proud to wear my tattered black cap stitched with the Pittsburgh Steelers emblem and “1933,’’ the founding year of the storied football franchise that first earned my loyalty as a kid growing up in Pennsylvania in the late 1970s.

I am especially prideful to don it in the Boston Globe’s Washington Bureau, where Patriots fans, every bit as arrogant about their team’s seeming invincibility, often lurk, and coverage of the Pats’ latest exploits on the gridiron is strewn about the office.

But if there are any disappointments in the Steelers’ thrilling journey this season to face off against the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl tonight, it is that they didn’t get a chance to make a postseason stop at Gillette Stadium on the way.

There is little doubt that during the playoffs many Steelers fans rooted for the New York Jets to beat the Patriots, which would ensure home field advantage for the Steelers at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field in their next matchup.

Yet I am not alone among Steelers fans in wishing there had been another confrontation against the Patriots anyway.

“I was hoping that we’d get the Pats in Foxborough,’’ my friend and fellow Steelers fan, Rich Bindell, e-mailed the other night after I told him I was writing about what it’s like to work for an employer where the pressure to root for the locals is palpable (the Pats, like the Red Sox and Celtics, sell a lot of newspapers).

Revenge is indeed a dish best served cold, as an 18th-century French novelist put it. Going into the playoffs this season, the Patriots had won six of the last seven matchups against the Steelers, including snatching two AFC championships right from under the Steelers’ nose at Heinz Field — in 2001 and 2005.

Being a Boston reporter in Washington also means covering many personalities who also root for the Patriots. Like John Kerry, Massachusetts’ senior US senator, who was known to leave the presidential campaign trail in 2004 to pop into a bar to catch a bit of the Pats game. A New England comeuppance in Foxborough at the hands of Pittsburgh this season would have been sweet to razz both co-workers and Bay State pols about.

At least Kerry has to hear it from a Steelers fan under his own roof, his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry (notice the middle name?).

“Teresa loves her team and it was a sign of things to come when as a wedding gift her family gave us ‘his and hers’ Terrible Towels,’’ Kerry told me last week, referring to the telltale yellow hand towels with black lettering that Steelers fans wave during their rallying cries. “This wasn’t the matchup I was hoping for,’’ he added of tonight’s game, “but I guess with the Patriots out I am now free to root for whichever team I want — as long as it’s the Steelers.’’

The good news is that Pittsburgh is still the underdog tonight, as a city that thrives on its working stiff character should be. The Steelers excel at coming from behind to win. Many of their victories this year came after overcoming mistakes in the first half of the game.

Like the Pats, the Packers have won three Super Bowls of their own. And overall, Green Bay has won a dozen conference and league championships, more than any other team.

But if the Steelers — with six Super Bowls under their belt — win tonight, they will increase their lead in Lombardi Trophies to two over the Dallas Cowboys.

I believe in signs and there is one pointing the Steelers toward the top of the so-called “Stairway to Seven’’ and another Super Bowl victory. The game is being played in Dallas, on the Cowboys’ home field. Why does that matter? Because the Steelers and the Cowboys have faced each other in three Super Bowls, more often than any other pair, and the Steelers won two out of three of them. Having one of the Cowboy’s end zones painted Steelers black and gold is a mark of good luck in my book.

So it’s time for the Steelers and the Packers, two legendary teams, to meet in the big one. The Steelers will have to wait until next year to teach the Pats a lesson.

However, before then comes baseball and I can hope for — or is it bank on? — my team prevailing over Boston.

Yes, I actually walked into the Globe on my first day of work wearing my New York Yankees cap. But that’s another story.

Bryan Bender can be reached at

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