Why the Pittsburgh Steelers Are the Best Overall Franchise in the NFL
Earlier today I read an article on why the Carolina Panthers were the best franchise, written by Dreu H. While
I respect Dreu's opinion, but I have to disagree. This will serve as my direct response to that article and will be presented in the same format.
The Pittsburgh are one of the most storied franchises in the NFL; their greatness is known by every fan of every team. The Steelers wrote the book on what it means to win a championship with a defense and continue to add to that work each year.
I truly believe that the Steelers, from the top of the organization, down to the fans, is the greatest franchise in the NFL.
The Rooney Family
Beginning with Art Rooney Sr., the Steelers have had the most stable ownership in the history of the NFL. He purchased the franchise for $2,500 after having a good day betting on sports, horse racing in particular.
From that day, the Steelers have always been owned directly by the Rooney family. The team has, and now thanks to recent dealings, likely will for the foreseeable future remain in the Rooney family.
The Rooney family also has something that seems a lost art in today's NFL, patience. They hire individuals that they know are right for the positions are hired for and they keep those individuals in their positions.
The Steelers have had three head coaches in the past 40 years. No other franchise can claim anything even in that ball park. Bill Cowher epitomizes what this philosophy means; he didn't win a championship until he was in his 14th year. Most coaches would have been fired by then.
This stability eventually reaches the players themselves. Knowing that the organization will remain stable enables the players to just go out and do their jobs, which has enabled the Steelers to be the most consistent playoff team from 1972 until now.
The Rooney family commands perhaps the most beloved ownership in all of professional sports. The Rooney family is the Steelers, and the Steelers are the heart-beat of Pittsburgh.
As a result the fan base adores and admires their team's ownership as much as any of their most iconic players.
The Steelers truly are one team. They work together and work hard, week in and week out.
Nothing epitomizes the Steelers' sense of unity more than their leader and quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers' offensive line is bad. Very bad. Most quarterbacks would get angry and complain after their offensive line has caused them hit after hit. Ben does just the opposite.
Big Ben gets together with his offensive line on a regular basis for non-football related activities and the group has developed a great fellowship and sense of unity with one another.
This has developed to the point where the line feels as if they need to perform better, not just for their team, but for their friend. Ben has made statements where he has indicated that he feels bad for his offensive line when the defense exploits them.
Name for me another quarterback with that line of thought. Ben gets hit and wants his friends to do better, most in his position get hit and get mad at their line for not doing well.
Hard Work/Mental Toughness
Few people in the NFL embody hard work and determination like Hines Ward. The man shows up every day and takes his shots with a smile.
The entire Steelers organization has learned from Ward how to work hard. The Steelers do what they know they need to do to win. They don't care about individual achievements and statistics, they only care if the won or lost the game.
Most teams would get frustrated after a few three-and-out performances and might lose the game due to their mind set. The Steelers are a team content to go three plays, nine yards, and punt.
They will repeat this formula until in scoring range and win the game by sticking it out in the trenches.
Many teams expect to be flashy and move the ball with ease. When they face a great defense like the one in Pittsburgh, it upsets their mind set. When that happens a team is the most vulnerable.
They are more likely to make mistakes. They have less of a chance of putting the hard work needed to win. Pittsburgh cannot be said to be one of these teams.
Perhaps most important in this category is the fact that the Steelers take responsibility for themselves. When a team loses, you will hear their players and coaches sound upset and start to talk on and on and try and cover up for their mistakes.
The Steelers, however, know why they lose when they do, because the other team played better. More importantly, they are willing to admit when a team out-plays them.
You will never hear a Pittsburgh Steeler make excuses for their losses.
Talent and the Ability To Deploy That Talent
The Steelers' roster is full of household names and pro bowlers.
James Harrison (Defensive Player of the Year/Pro Bowl)
Troy Polamalu (Pro Bowl)
James Farrior (Pro Bowl)
There are more talented players who have either been injured this year or are just starting their careers and haven't made a name for themselves yet.
More importantly than just having a roster full of talent is the actual deployment and application of that talent. During this season, the Steelers have struggled with this part of the process on the offensive side of the ball, though Ben Roethlisberger has still become the winningest quarterback in the first five years of a career.
The struggles of offense only serve to elevate the effort on defense. The Steelers defense is stifling and perhaps one of the greatest defenses ever. They have used their talent in amazing ways allowing an average of only 237.2 yards per game.
The young and emotional Mike Tomlin appears very different from the coaching style the Steelers faithful knew and loved in Bill Cowher for so long. The results that he brings, however, show striking resemblance.
Mike Tomlin knows how to lead his team to victory, and his youth enables him another interesting advantage. He can connect with his players because he can relate to his players. He knows how to motivate them and he does it with astounding efficacy.
As an interesting side fact: Mike Tomlin is the only coach in Steelers history to have a winning season in his first two seasons. Related to that, he is also the only Steelers coach to go the playoffs his first two seasons. A great accomplishment considering the company he is among in that category.
Dick LeBeau is a mastermind of all things defense. The man invented the zone blitz and deploys it perhaps more effectively than anyone. He knows how to make a defense, and he has the perfect personnel for the job.
The "fifth-wheel" (really third in this case) is Bruce Arians. He is not good at his job. He is perhaps the only glaring weakness in the Steelers organization. His play calling is poor, and his coaching is not much better. Hopefully he is replaced.
The balancing force to Bruce is the no-huddle offense the Ben has forced more and more into the game plan. It takes the controls away from Arians and allows Big Ben to command his team. This is a big part of how he has mastered the fourth-quarter-comeback win.
This is another category where the Steelers shine. The Steelers' fan base is routinely rated at the top of all professional sports, not just football.
Every city in the country has Steelers fans, and when the Steelers play on the road, they play with the support of thousands of their fans in the seats. This is epitomized by Super Bowl XL, where the percentage of Steelers fans was well over 80 percent.
Steelers fans are Steelers fans no matter what the team record has been. No doubt recent successes have added more numbers to the ranks, but the core of Steelers fans will never stop rooting for their team.
There are few franchises even in the same tier of the Steelers in terms of fan support and all of those franchises know who they are.
Truly the Steelers are one of the greatest franchises in the NFL, past and present.
Writing this article as a response got me thinking about two interesting ideas.
First is that every community should consider publishing an article on why they believe their franchise is great.
Second is that every community should have input from as many of their members as possible on these articles because each person has a different perspective on why their team is great.
That being said, if anyone has any input on what to add to this article, by all means share your opinions.