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RAY SWANSON | Keystoner Steelers' demise tough to digest



Published: Sun, February 10, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



At least you can digest prune burgers.

What happened to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the recent AFC title contest was enough to upset anybody's stomach.

The heavily-favored Steelers had their Super Bowl dreams washed down the drain by a band of Patriots from New England, 24-17. Those underdog Pats went on to win last Sunday's Super Bowl clash, 20-17, turning back another heavily-favored unit in the St. Louis Rams.

It's all sour grapes now, but I sat in agony last Sunday evening while watching the Rams vs. Pats. What could have been and what was kept the stomach churning.

However, as the game progressed, I was swayed by the determination of that "team of destiny" and the Patriots, a 14-point underdog, once again upended the applecart and the bookies.

Special victory: It was a very special victory for the Pats in their win over the Steelers as New England's special teams really put a lock on the victory. The Steelers' special teams should have paid to get in.

Two of the Pats' touchdowns came by way of breakdowns on the Steelers' special teams: One resulted in a 55-yard punt return while the other came by way of a 49-yard return of a blocked field goal. Only one of the Pats' touchdowns was scored by the offense.

There were just too many misplays by the Steelers' special teams and someone had to pay the price. Special teams coach Jay Hayes was relieved of his position following the defeat. It was not just a one-game breakdown by the Steelers' special teams, it was a common occurrence throughout the season. Still, the Steelers put up some fine figures during the overall season.

One thing you had to admire about the Pats in their win over the Steelers was the play of young quarterback Tom Brady, who went on to grab MVP honors last week in the win over the Rams.

Brady was injured in the second quarter of the game against the Steelers, and Drew Bledsoe came in on relief.

With Bledsoe, who had been on the injury list for most of the season at the helm, the Pats didn't skip a beat.

And the New England defense wasn't too shabby either, shutting down the Steelers' running game despite the return of the fullback Jerome Bettis, who was nowhere near 100 percent and who should not have even played.

Stewart chokes: Pittsburgh quarterback Kordell Stewart had a remarkable season, but his play left a lot to be desired in the AFC title game. He was intercepted three times, the last two coming in the final quarter when the Steelers were on the move and trying desperately to get back into the action.

Pass the prune burgers please.

Super Bowl XXXVI was a tremendous ballgame and one of the finest in the history of the games for that matter. Too bad the Steelers had to watch this one from their living rooms. It could have been much different.

Reino honored: Minor sports certainly do not grab the headlines of college athletics like the larger programs of basketball, football and wrestling, however, Westminster College's soccer team won its share of headlines this past season by posting a 14-5-1 record.

And one of the team members, Pasquale Reino, a product of Neshannock High School near New Castle, was honored as a NSCAA/adidas All-East Region Scholar Athlete for the 2001 season.

Reino was one of 33 players to earn Honorable Mention status. The awards are presented by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.

A junior forward, Reino appeared in 19 games with 14 starts as Westminster tied the program record for wins in a season.

He tallied eight goals and eight assists for 24 points this season, leading the squad in assists while ranking second on the team in both points and goals. He collected a 3.56 cumulative grade-point average, majoring in chemistry.




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