Week XVII: 15-1 and it’s not done.

January 2nd, 2005

Week XVII: 15-1 and it’s not done.

I never would have imagined that a January 2 game in Buffalo, NY would be mild and sunny. When I planned the trip months ago, I did so because I thought it would be a white-out that only die-hards would go to. Instead we arrived to what could only be described as a pleasant winter day off Lake Erie.

With our place in the playoffs secure and little to lose but pride, the Steeler Nation showed up to the last game of the regular season in force. I heard the Black and Gold overran the service plaza on I-90. After we made camp at Heinz Field North, I made my usual rounds with tailgaters, meeting new faces and enjoying the hospitality of old friends. It is always nice to travel 200 miles from home and see familiar faces painted in black and gold. For Bills fans this game had playoff hopes, but the Steelers fans were the noisy ones entering the stadium.

Inside Ralph Wilson Stadium the mood was elevated to playoff levels. With many of the Steelers starters injured or resting, Bills fans thought they would get an easy win. A good game comes down to a single play. In those few seconds every person in the stadium and beyond is either elevated or destroyed. If you have ever been on the winning side of that moment, you will remember it forever, and that level of emotion will keep you addicted to the game for seasons to come. One such play was Ricardo Colclough’s sack that led to James Harrison’s fumble recovery and touchdown. That one play took the wind out of the Bills fans.

There may not be a long-standing rivalry between the two teams, but that didn’t stop the usual obscenities. It goes with the game though. And for every foul gesture directed my way, there was another Bills fan that offered the Steelers respect. But young and old, Bills or Steelers, the day was worth the price of admission. More than that, we walked away proud because all 53 men on the squad proved they were worthy of a playoff berth.

As we were walking out of the stadium a father told his son, “I’ve been waiting since ’81 for one for the thumb. Enjoy this moment. You might not see this kind of team again until you’re my age.”

Shortly after the game ended, it started raining. While the raindrops may have hid the tears of the defeated, they couldn’t dampen a great day and amazing season as a Steelers fan.

Who would have imagined 15-1? And it’s not done. See you in Pittsburgh for the playoffs.

Final Outcome: Steelers beat Buffalo Bills 29-24
Steelers finish regular season 15-1

Week XVII: 15-1 and it’s not done.

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