Rules of Steeler Nation: Backup QB > Starting QB

Note: Rules of Steeler Nation is a semi-whenever series that profiles some unofficial “rules” that all Steeler fans seem to follow. Like it or not, the Pittsburgh Steelers are the New York Yankees of football and have become the standard bearers for fans in the NFL. Sadly, we don’t feel like Steeler Nation always does a very good job. With great success comes great amounts of bandwagon fans who make a bad name for the rest of the fanbase. By taking a look at some of the “rules” most of our brother and sisters in black and gold tend to follow, hopefully we can become better. As they say, with great power comes great responsibility and with a sixth notch now our championship belt, we’ve got a lot of work to do.

Rule 1: Backup QB > Starting QB

We’re young guys in case you didn’t know, so we don’t have as much experience with Rule 1 as a lot of you probably do. The first Steelers QB we really remember is Neil O’Donnell, who is a great example of Rule 1. But from what we’ve heard and read, Rule 1 goes way back into the history of Steeler Nation.

We begin our argument after the jump…

Terry Bradshaw, one of the winningest QB’s of all time and key component of 4 Super Bowl wins, was one of the most hated men in all of Pittsburgh and continues to be disliked by many. I’ll admit, Bradshaw was often careless with the football and was a headcase, but let’s get real: How many rings does it take to let that stuff go? One? Two? Three? Not even four? People treated Bradshaw like trash and now he’s hated because he’s not always warm to residents of western Pennsylvania.

You could label this as an anomaly and an isolated case, but let’s fast forward back to O’Donnell. Here we have a Pro Bowl QB in his prime who was known for his accuracy and care for the football, the opposite of Bradshaw. Then came Super Bowl XXX. O’Donnell was dreadful, throwing 3 interceptions that lead to the loss at the hands of the hated Dallas Cowboys. Never mind that Andre Hastings ran the wrong route on the most backbreaking of the 3, one bad game and O’Donnell had to go. The guy still has the NFL record for the lowest interception percentage in NFL history (ironic, I know) but to Steeler fans, he is the worst quarterback in NFL history. I’m not excusing what happened in that Super Bowl, but one bad game – no matter how big the stage – isn’t nearly enough to judge a player. I’m one of the few with the opinion that had the Steelers decided to resign Neil O’Donnell after the Super Bowl loss that we’d have seven or eight Lombardi Trophies instead of six.

After O’Donnell, the Steelers began a long cycle of replacing hated starting QB’s with beloved backups, only to have them become hated starting QB’s.

Then came 2004 and Ben Roethlisberger. He goes 15-1 before losing to a great New England Patriots team in the AFC Championship game. He wins the Super Bowl his next year. Then came the bumps in the road. A motorcycle crash. An appendectomy. And an 8-8 year in which none of the Steelers played really well. About this time, the haters started doing the same thing that had happened to Bradshaw and countless others before them.

People said he was stupid. People said he was a fluke.

Roethlisberger shut them up with the greatest season ever played by a Pittsburgh Steelers QB in 2007.

But that wasn’t good enough.

A few bad games in 2008 and people were calling for his head. The term “overrated” became Ben’s middle name and even caused Norm to have to convince people that Byron Leftwich wasn’t the Steelers best option going forward.

Read that again.

Many “members” of Steeler Nation were calling for Ben Roethlisberger, the winningest QB at his age ever who won in Super Bowl in his 2nd season, to be sat in favor of Byron Leftwich.

There is undoubtedly a pattern developing here. Fans hated a goofy guy with blonde hair who could throw the ball a million yards and played great in every big game. Fans hated one of the most accurate passers in NFL history because Andre Hastings ran the wrong route one time. And fans hated an absolute phenom at QB who may go down as one of the all-time greatest winners in NFL history.

Yes, Steeler Nation wanted to replace Bradshaw, O’Donnell, and Roethlisberger with Gilliam, Tomczak, and Leftwich.

One mistake is forgivable, two is moronic, and three is a disease.

But this seems to be the first and most important Rule of Steeler Nation. No matter how successful, one or two bad games is the best way to get a quick ticket out of Pittsburgh.

You find us any supremely talented person at anything and we’ll find you times when they had off days.

We have days where we don’t win one game of solitaire in a full 8-hour day at the office. Roethlisberger has days when he’ll throw 3 interceptions and lose a winnable game. Such is life.

But in Steeler Nation, every failed attempt at solitaire puts us on the street and every interception means it’s time to draft another QB to throw under the bus.

Do you think Steeler fans are notoriously unfair to QBs? Should we become Browns fans since we criticize those who we go to battle with every Sunday?