Heading into the visitor’s locker room at Heinz Field, Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice made a statement on his team’s win over division rival Pittsburgh Steelers: he wore a Terrible Towel on his head. Rumor has it, he and a few of his teammates were singing Styx’s “Renegade”, the Steelers defense’s theme song, as well. As Steelers LB LaMarr Woodley tweeted today:
Bad idea ray just ask lendale white and tj whosyourmama
Yes, I’m a superstitious fan…what real NFL fan isn’t? But it’s hard to deny the curse of the Terrible Towel. As the great Myron Cope, voice of the Steelers for their radio broadcasts for 35 years, claimed, “The Terrible Towel is poised to strike”. As all of Steeler Nation knows, the Terrible Towel has been the rally towel of the team since Cope introduced it for the team’s first playoff game in 1975. In the past, opponents foolish enough to treat the towel with disrespect have paid the price, often heavily.
Remember Cincinnati Bengals WR TJ Houshmandzadeh? During their second regular season meeting with the Steelers in 2005, the Bengals won on their way to their first AFC North division title in 15 years. After the game, Houshmandzadeh sat down and cleaned his cleats with a Terrible Towel. The Steelers returned to Cincinnati for the playoffs as the wild card team and beat the division champs, eventually winning it all at Superbowl XL. Houshmandzadeh left the Bengals as a free agent in 2009, signing a big contract with the Seattle Seahawks, where he felt he “had a better chance to win”. After 1 season, he was released. The wide receiver was later signed by the Ravens. He helped them lose the divisional round playoff game in 2010 against the Steelers, who came back from a 14-point deficit at halftime, when a pass from Joe Flacco hit him between the numbers late in the game, and he dropped it (the Steelers returned to the Superbowl again that season). He was released by the Ravens after 1 season. The following season he spent a lot of time sitting at home until the Raiders signed him in November 2011. He made it to the end of the season and was released. He is now a free agent, still waiting for the phone to ring. Not a happy ending for a talented player.
Most NFL fans don’t even remember RB LenDale White’s name. He was a power back drafted by the Tennessee Titans 2 years before Chris Johnson. Together, they were “Slash and Dash”. In 2008, the Titans were the #1 seed in the AFC. In the final game of the regular season, the #2 seed Steelers visited the Titans and played poorly, losing badly. After the game, LenDale White and Keith Bullock stomped the towel into the dirt for TV cameras. After their bye week, the Titans were eliminated when they lost their first playoff game to the wildcard team. The Steelers would once again go on to win the Superbowl. Interestingly, the Titans losing streak would continue through the first 6 games of the next season. It turned around after White and Bullock sent autographed Terrible Towels to the Allegheny Valley School, which owns the rights to the towel, asking that the curse be lifted. The Titans would win the next 5 games. Coincidence? Or was the curse lifted? It doesn’t look like LenDale was forgiven…after being released by the Titans, White had a failed drug test in 2010 and an achilles injury in 2011 and hasn’t played in an NFL game since. Keith Bullock went unsigned in 2011 after the Titans released him and later retired.
Rice, who rushed for a mere 40 yards against a stout Steelers defense, didn’t contribute much to the Ravens win this week. But he may have altered the team’s immediate future and their potential to advance in the playoffs. Myron Cope is up there watching…and he is not amused.