Super Bowl Matchup Continues Incredible Six Months for Pitt Fans

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It’s been an incredible six months for Pitt Panther football fans.  Double-digit regular season wins, an ACC Championship, a New Year’s Six bowl bid, a Biletnikoff award winner, and a Heisman candidate quarterback.  It was their most successful season in decades, and easily the most memorable season of my lifetime.  Fortunately, as the band, the Cars, would attest to, we are letting the Good Times Roll in the Pitt football lexicon.  

The Super Bowl 56 matchup was decided yesterday in two very exciting games between the Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs, and the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams.  The victors, the Bengals and the Rams, will face off in two weeks at Sofi Stadium, the home field for the Rams.  They each came into the postseason as No. 4 seeds which is a perfect stamp on what has been a wild NFL season.

The good news for Pitt fans, is they get to watch two of the best players coming out of Pitt in the last decade.  Aaron Donald is a defensive lineman for the Rams and Tyler Boyd is a wide receiver for the Bengals.  Additionally, both Donald and Boyd grew up in Pittsburgh and played high school ball locally before being recruited by the Panthers.  Donald and Boyd were both stars at Penn Hills and Clairton respectively.

Tyler Boyd was an electric receiver for the Panthers.  He has the most receiving yards by any Pitt Panther wide receiver since 1956 according to Sports Reference.  Boyd broke the 1,000 yard receiving mark in each of his freshman and sophomore years at Pitt.  He would have also set that mark in his junior year had he not missed the opener against Youngstown State. 

As a Pitt fan who watched Boyd play, I can tell you it seemed like he was always open.  He was a safety net for Pitt QB’s throughout his career who came up with a big play every time they needed him.  It took double coverage to keep him contained and that was all defenses could do.  They could not stop Boyd, they could only hope to contain him.  Had Boyd played at the same time as Jordan Addison and Kenny Pickett, it would have been a National Championship-worthy team, especially with Donald on the other side of the ball.

Aaron Donald is the best defensive player I have ever watched in person, and that includes T.J. Watt (ducks I.C Light cans thrown my way).  Speaking of only hoping to be contained, opposing offenses really didn’t even hope to do that against Donald.  He couldn’t be stopped, contained, or even slowed down.  Offensive gameplans were specifically designed around Aaron Donald.

Donald was the first defensive lineman I’ve watched that required triple-teams from offensive lines, and yet he would still break through.  The love affair between broadcasts and Donald emphasized the point even more as replay after replay, and graphic after graphic, featured Donald bursting through and making tackles. 

I remember scoffing at scouts and mock drafters who labeled Donald as too small for his position to be successful in the NFL.  Not only has he been successful, but he has continued his dominance.  He went from being the best defensive player in college football to the best defensive player in the NFL.  If he continues on his path, Donald will end up in the conversation for the best defensive player of all-time.

It will be an honor and a joy to watch two former Panthers, and hometown kids, compete against each other in the Super Bowl.  It brings back many fond memories of their success at Pitt, and I am happy to see it continue into the NFL.  It is always great to see Pittsburghers succeed, and it is sweet icing on the cake of what has been an incredible football season for Pitt Panther fans.