Yet, the true story came on the eve of the game. With the winds, the Three Rivers Stadium grounds crew was having an impossible time keeping the artificial turf from freezing. Dirt Denardo, the creative leader of the grounds crew, pieced together several tarps to cover the field, but the extra tarps gave him an idea. Denardo added the extra tarps in order to create a system to blow dry the field with heat to try to keep it warm. He placed powerful heaters under the tarps and let them blow.
I was still a college student at Duquesne University at the time -- but in my third year of covering the Steelers for various local publication -- I attended an AFC Championship party that night at the Allegheny Club, located on the third level of the stadium by the 50-yard line. While most enjoyed the cocktails and food, I kept looking outside at the unbelievable scene. The cold winds kept turning the tarps into air balloons. Later, after everyone left the Allegheny Club to get ready for the game the next day, the winds got worse and ripped apart the tarps, exposing the Tartan turf to the elements.
What no one realized is that blowing hot air into tarps during sleeting conditions put water underneath the tarps. Ice formed, so the field was in bad shape. By the time kickoff arrived, the sidelines were frozen, causing the Raiders to complain that the Steelers were trying to take away their vertical, sideline passing game. Years before, the Steelers accused the Raiders of watering their home field to slow down opposing defenses when big back Marv Hubbard carried the ball.
Yet Denardo had no intentions of altering field conditions. He was simply trying to make the most of a bad situation. In a game that featured turnovers and incredible hitting -- Steelers WR Lynn Swann was knocked out by a cheap shot from George Atkinson -- Pittsburgh won, 16-10. -- John Clayton
Definitely. In fact, Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Sheldon Brown has a ritual when he finds himself playing in brutal weather. "When we get ready to go back on the field on defense, I'll go stand by the heater for a few minutes longer, just in case we have a TV timeout coming up," Brown said. "That way I can get a little warmer on the sidelines instead of standing on the field and freezing. To be honest, I don't know how they played back in the day without those things."
Brown actually has learned how to deal with adverse weather after growing up in South Carolina. But there are still moments when he finds himself amazed at how the body reacts to the cold.
For example, he tackled Seattle running back Maurice Morris during a frigid, late-season loss to Seattle in 2005 and dislocated a finger. The only problem was that Brown didn't know he'd injured himself until he saw his finger pointing at an awkward angle.
"That's how cold it was that day," Brown said. "My whole body was numb and I couldn't feel the pain. They just popped it right back into place and I just kept on playing. These are the kinds of things that happen when you play in really cold weather." -- Jeffri Chadiha
1. Jack Snow: The former L.A. Rams receiver caught 340 passes for 6,012 yards and 45 touchdowns during his NFL career from 1965-75. The father of baseball player J.T. Snow, he died at the age of 62 two years ago.
2. Derrick Frost: Redskins punter averaged 36.4 yards per kick this season. Just completed his fourth NFL season.
3. Bobby Blizzard: Tight end was on the practice squad for the Cardinals ('04) and Ravens ('05) and spent the 2007 training camp with the Bengals.