There is a lesson that so few people seem to learn, well two actually, and they go hand in hand. Those who have failed to learn these lessons have never failed to feel the devestaing effects of their mistakes. The two lessons are, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”, and “Don’t defile the Terrible Towel”. TJ Houshmandzadeh suffered, LenDale White suffered, Keith Bullock suffered, and now Jeremy Hill has suffered. From what fate has each suffered? Let’s take a look. When Houshmandzadeh wiped his cleats off with the Terrible Towel, his favored Bengals were bounced from the 2005 playoffs by the Steelers. When LenDale White and Keith Bullock stomped on the Terrible Towel in a win over the Steelers, those first place Titans went on a long losing streak and failed to make the playoffs. Consequently, both players were released by the Titans and never played another game in the NFL.
Jeremy Hill is the latest player, and the second Bengal, to suffer the consequences of defiling the Terrible Towel. With about 9 minutes left in the second quarter Hill scooted in the endzone to give the Bengals a 17-3 lead. As he began to celebrate, he noticed one of the sacred, yellow towels lying on the field and picked it up, and began disrespecting it, which fired up the home crowd. Not being one to brag, knowing history was on our side, I knew that at 12:53 central time, fate would now favor the Steelers.
Despite the blindness of the referees, an offense that struggled to find traction, and the endzone, a defense that had issues wrapping up, and the loss of Stephon Tuitt, the moment Hill made his critical error in judgment, all began to correct itself for the Steelers. A 17-3 deficit at the moment of defilation turned into a halftime deficit of 20-9. The curse was beginning to work its magic. In the past the curse has manifested itself with explosive outbursts on offense and devestaing hits and tunovers by the defense, but today, the curse manifested itself as death by 1,000 paper cuts.
A slow and methodical death was instore for the Bengals. There were no big runs by Bell, but watching him slowly grind out his 93 yards, along with the clock, was just as satisfying. Watching Boswell kick five more field goals wasn’t as glamorous as watching Ben go deep for six, BUT, when it is the curse sadistically squeezing the life out of the Bengals by driving three point nails into their coffin, it feels just as good. With the Steelers trailing 20-18 and 11:00 remaining, the curse decided it was time to use the Bengals biggest weakness against them, their penchant to meltdown and self-destruct, because curses are vindictive like that.
The Steelers began their game winning drive at the Cincinnati 30 yard line. Bell gained 12 yards on the first play. On first down from the Bengal 42, Ben fumbled and recovered. On 2nd and 11, Ben hit LaDarius Green for 10, down to the Steeler 48. On third and 1, the curse went to work. The Bengals proceeded to committ four straight penalties putting the ball at the Steeler 18. After losing 6 yards on a reverse to Sammy Coates, Ben Roethlisberger called timeout. In the defensive huddle, the games dirtiest player, Vontaze Burfict desperately tried to calm his teammates down, but the curse of the Terrible Towel was laughing at him, there was nothing he could do now. On 2nd and 16, with 7:36 left in the game, Ben fired the final dagger, a 24 yard touchdown pass to Eli Rogers, that gave the Steelers a 24-20 win.
Prior to Jeremy Hill defiling the Terrible Towel, the Bengals were dominating the scoreboard, time of possession, and yardage, but afterewards, it was a whole different story. Where they had 164 yards before Hill’s ignorant act, the Bengals only had 58 yards after. They scored only three more points, and were dominated by 12 minutes in time of possession. By the end of the game, in addition to the scoreboard, the Steelers led in every major category, in winning their fifth game in a row. If Marvin Lewis was a smart man, and if he keeps his job, the first thing he should do prior to next season, is to institue a heavy fine for any player who touches a Terrible Towel. If he hasn’t learned by now, he never will. Robert Brazille, Randy White, TJ Houshmandzadeh, LenDale White, Keith Bullock, and now Jeremy Hill, all have mocked or defiled the Terrible Towel, and all have suffered defeat. Defile the Terrible Towel at your own risk, but know this, the curse is very real, and it will get you.