Game doesn’t need bells and whistles

PITTSBURGH — OK, what exactly is it that bothers you about the New England Patriots?

Is it the beady-eyed coach, who vandalizes those officially-licensed hoodies by chopping off the sleeves for added comfort?

Even if he’s not up to something illegal, he looks guilty.

Is it the quarterback who’s right out of Central Casting, just too perfect in every way? He’s impossibly wealthy, wildly successful and married to a super model, after all.

Even when he emerges from a mud puddle after a sack, his hair is perfect.

Oh, those Patriots. They’re so annoying, which is why so many people have landed in the Philadelphia Eagles camp by default today.

They’ll root for the Eagles, knowing full well that if they win, Philadelphia might be closed for repairs until at least April.

Steelers Nation is especially displeased with the Patriots’ sustained success. One reason is the Patriots’ accomplishments exceed the Steelers’.

We all know the Steelers won four Super Bowls in six seasons, 1974-79. They teach that in pre-school now. Impressive? Of course.

That success came from six incredible years of acquiring talent through the draft, 1969-74. The streak started with Joe Greene and ended with the legendary 1974 draft, which produced four Hall of Fame players.

But as those players faded away, so did the Steelers’ success. Walter Abercrombie was running the ball instead of Franco Harris. Goodbye, Lynn Swann. Hello, Calvin Sweeney.

After the fourth Super Bowl, Chuck Noll’s record was 93-91. The Steelers played six playoff games in 11 seasons. They never got back to the Super Bowl; they reached the AFC Championship Game once and lost, 45-28, to Miami.

The Steelers of the 1970s were great, but with one core group of players over a six-year span.

If the Patriots win tonight, it will be the second time they’ve won the Super Bowl three times in four seasons.

Because of the salary cap, they’ve had to constantly re-invent their team. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are constants, but they’re the only ones. The Patriots have even lost assistant coaches to other teams.

The system conspires against sustained success. The salary cap helps break up teams. The Steelers of the ’70s never had to make a choice between Jack Ham and Jack Lambert. They could keep both as long as they wanted to.

Win or lose tonight, the Patriots are a team for the ages in the NFL. You don’t have to like them, but you should respect them.

All-time star?

A lot of people are still upset about the Pirates trading Andrew McCutchen. Mostly this is because of the misguided belief McCutchen was one of the Pirates’ all-time greats and should have stayed with the team through his whole career.

Is McCutchen on a level with Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell? Not even close.

In fact, look up the numbers, and Brian Giles posted significantly better numbers in his five seasons with the Pirates than McCutchen did in his time here.

Giles had the misfortune to play on consistently lousy teams, so his accomplishments never got as much attention as they deserved.

Here’s your pick

It doesn’t make any sense to pick against the Patriots.

That said, the Eagles have an excellent chance to win tonight. They play defense, and backup quarterback Nick Foles has met the challenge of running their offense.

The Patriots’ defense isn’t as strong as it’s been in other Super Bowl seasons (hence the late-season signing of James Harrison).

Looks like the Patriots in a close game, but it really could go either way.

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com

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