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DISTRAUGHT STEELERS PAY FOR LOOKING PAST CHARGERS

SHARE DISTRAUGHT STEELERS PAY FOR LOOKING PAST CHARGERS

Stan Humphries?

Alfred Pupunu?The San Diego Chargers?

Who are these people? Who are these guys who stormed into Pittsburgh - excuse me, Blitzburgh - behind enemy lines and short-circuited some mighty grand plans.

Pittsburgh had it all figured out: Ray Seals, Pittsburgh's cocky defensive end, planned to film a Super Bowl rap video called "The Blitzburgh" if the Steelers beat the Chargers.

Seals also predicted the Chargers wouldn't score Sunday.

Steelers wide receiver Yancey Thigpen planned a celebration in the event that he scored against his old team. He caught three passes.

There were plans for a Super Bowl Party in Miami for the Steelers at the players' hotel. The Pittsburgh defense was proclaimed the second coming of Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain of the 1970s. The city was preparing for its football renaissance - its first Super Bowl season since 1979.

"We have to remember we haven't done anything yet - talk is cheap," Pittsburgh Coach Bill Cowher warned before Sunday's game.

"If you want to talk, you can do a lot of talking without saying a word. Your deeds speak a lot louder than your words."

Late Sunday afternoon, the Pittsburgh Steelers sat around their locker room in stunned, embarrassed silence. Tim McKyer, the Steelers' defensive back who was victimized on the game-deciding 43-yard touchdown throw, passed out on the sideline and had to be carried into the locker room.

Team officials said he was emotionally distraught. The phrase could have been extended to the entire team. The Steelers had been whipped by a team of no-names, a team picked to finish last in the AFC West, a team Pittsburgh loudly predicted it would blitz out of the playoffs.

The Charger locker room was simultaneously stunned and raucous. Pupunu, the Chargers' third-year tight end, was surrounded by flocks of reporters - perhaps for the first time in his career.

Born in Tonga and raised in Utah, Pupuna played a key role in diffusing Blitzburgh: four catches for 76 yards and an earlier 43-yard touchdown that brought San Diego within 3 points of the Steelers.

"The play was "Play Pass 60 Counter, Tonga," he said smiling. After the touchdown, Pupunu's end-zone celebration reenacted a Tongan ritual by acting if he were drinking from a shell.

"It's a natural herbal health juice we drink," Pupunu explained. While the offensive linemen were on one side of the locker room reacting with typical stoicism to the way they had defied the Steelers' pre-game taunts, the defensive linemen, running backs and receivers showed no mercy.

Natrone Means, the Chargers' tough, talkative running back, stood on a stool in the middle of the locker room, cigar in mouth, and let loose.

"I demand an apology," he announced. "All week long they disrespected us and we had to bite our lip. They spent three hours doing a Super Bowl video, they were planning to have a party for the team before the Super Bowl. We weren't going to be able to run. Yeah, I want an apology."