There were so many gut-wrenching Playoff losses that the Steelers suffered under Bill Cowher’s watch that they are sometimes difficult to discuss. Yet for me, there is one game and one game alone that hurts so much to think about that I still get angry at the memory of it to this day: the 1997 A.F.C. Championship loss the Steelers suffered to the upstart Broncos at Three Rivers Stadium.
So join me as I relay some personal anecdotes about a childhood spent in Denver as a member of Steeler Nation, why this game disappointed me so darn much, and how 9 years in Denver have turned me off to anything related to the Broncos:
Act I: Choosing The Steelers And Moving to Denver
Growing up, I there were really only two N.F.L. teams I could root for: the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Denver Broncos. My Dad and his family are all Denver natives and Broncos fans while my Mom and her siblings are Steelers fans. So while I could have chose another team to follow and pledge my allegiance to, it really came down to those two franchises.
Thankfully, I went with the Steelers, and I’ve been hooked on them ever since. And if I can be perfectly honest, I never held any ill-will towards the Broncos as a franchise as a kid when I lived in San Diego. I certainly didn’t cheer for them, but to me they were a non-entity as an N.F.L. team in the respect that the only Broncos fans I knew in the early to mid 1990’s were my Dad and his family.
But my indifference to the Broncos changed when I moved from San Diego to the Denver area when I was 7 years old. That move marked the moment that my Mom and I were “behind enemy lines” in a bandwagoning sea of Orange and Blue.
Moving to Denver:
I mean it wasn’t bad at first being a Steelers fan in Denver when the Broncos weren’t competitive (’94-’95), because their “faithful” had nothing to talk smack about or annoy me or anybody else in the least bit. Yet with the success Denver had in 1996 (13-3 A.F.C. West Champions), all the Broncos loud-mouths and bandwagon fans (not to be confused with Denver’s real fanbase which has some standup people that I’ve met), who weren’t even following them two seasons before started coming out of the wood-work and claiming Denver to be the N.F.L.’s best new team and all others to be second-rate. It was that environment which set the stage for 1997, where over the course of a few months I went from disliking the Broncos to absolutely despising anything and everything that had to do with the franchise.