Pittsburgh Steelers: On the Doorsteps of a Dynasty
Dwight White, former Pittsburgh Steeler and member of the Steel Curtain, once said, "Nobody remembers teams that win one Super Bowl." He said that during the 1970s Steelers dynasty, about winning back-to-back Super Bowl championships.
The logic is simple. Anyone can win ONE Super Bowl. For a team to win more than one, takes something special.
To have a team that no one is going to forget, takes more than a single Super Bowl.
Look at the teams that are remembered—the dynasty teams.
New England Patriots ('00s)
To become the elite, you must win more than one.
With Pittsburgh's offseason having filled up most of their holes and depth, the Steelers look as if they could become the next dynasty.
If you look at the dynasties of the past, you will clearly see that they are all led by elite quarterbacks. There is a lot of argument as to the elite status of Ben Roethlisberger.
To sit here and try to compare stats would be laughable. Every generation the rules change, and all of them have been to benefit the leagues passers.
The only thing to look at are the intangibles. Ben can throw the ball, there is no question about that. What counts here is the player's ability to make the important plays when the game is on the line, and if the other men on the team follow and believe in him.
Ben has shown us all before that he is in fact a leader of this team, from returning to play with a broken nose against the Ravens to leading the Steelers to the game-winning score in the Super Bowl against the Cardinals.
Ben has the respect of the Steelers because his teammates know that he is going to be able to pull out the victory in the end.
If you look at the history of the dynasty teams, it shows that a featured running back is not necessary. Roger Craig for the 49ers and Emmitt Smith of the Cowboys led their respective teams.
The Steelers used the combination of Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier, while the New England Patriots used a running back-by-committee.
The Steelers will have the benefit of Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer as their power back, while Baron Batch and Chris Rainey can provide speed out of the backfield. Though neither has proven that he is a feature back, none of these men will be required to be.
On all dynasty teams, each elite quarterback has had skilled players to make plays once they get the ball in their hands.
Mike Wallace is one of the fastest players in the NFL. He can take the top off of any defense. Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders are both coming into their own and becoming threats every time they are on the field.
At tight end, Heath Miller is one of the best in the game, and having added Leonard Pope, the Steelers have two play makers for the third and short situations.
With Jerricho Cotchery and Chris Rainey in that mix, the Steelers could go five deep or two tight end and still be able to hurt defenses in a variety of ways.
To become a dynasty, teams must be able to both run the ball and get yards through the air. It doesn't matter how great your skill position players are, if the line doesn't block, then your team can't win.
Not more than one.
The Steelers have used four picks in the first two rounds in the last three years on offensive linemen.
Maurkice Pouncey has already been named All-Pro and gone to two Pro Bowls in his two seasons. If he can stay healthy, he could be this generation's Mike Webster.
In the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, the Steelers took Marcus Gilbert. Though he is not All-Pro, he is certainly better than anyone on the line not named Pouncey.
With their first two picks in 2012, the Steelers selected two players who were first-round talents in David DeCastro and Mike Adams.
Though the jury is still out on this year's draft, if these young men can become what the Steelers believe they can, this could be the next big step in the dynasty.
The strength of the Steelers over the last 20 years have been their defense.
The strength of the Steelers' defense is their linebackers.
The strength of the linebackers is the defensive line keeping the opposing offensive line from blocking them.
This is another area the Steelers neglected for years, having older players like Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel. These players were amazing at tying up offensive linemen, allowing the Steelers line backers to be considered the best in the game.
With Smith retiring and Hampton nursing a torn ACL, things could be bad for Pittsburgh.
But, knowing that, they addressed all of those areas as well.
Ziggy Hood, the Steelers' first round selection in 2008, is to their defensive line what Maurkice Pouncey was to the offensive line. In 2010, the Steelers selected Cam Heyward with their first round pick, giving them two first-round picks on both of their lines.
In 2012, the Steelers needed to draft the eventual replacement for Hampton, taking Alameda Ta'amu in the fourth round.
Ta'amu was rumored to be a target for the Steelers. Many mock drafts, mine included, had the Steelers selecting Ta'amu in the second round. NFL Network even suggested the Steelers draft Ta'amu in the second round.
Luck again fell to the Steelers as Ta'amu was available when they traded up in the fourth round to select him.
This gives the Steelers a thick defensive line headed into the future.
It's hard to argue that the Steelers' linebacking corp has been their strength since the Steel Curtain retired. The future of this position looks to be not only solid, but exceptional.
LaMarr Woodley (27) and Lawrence Timmons (26 on May 14) are leading this group of young men. Each is a Pro Bowl-talented player and an instant impact on any defense.
The Steelers understand that they are going to lose James Harrison in the next two years or so. They prepared for that with the drafting of Jason Worilds.
For those of you quick to knock Worilds, remember that he is playing behind a former Defensive Player of the Year in Harrison. Even when Harrison was injured, so was Worilds. Expect to see more out of Worilds this season.
On the inside, there will be a battle between Stevenson Sylvester and third round pick Sean Spence out of Miami.
While Sylvester is bigger and will be better against the run, Spence is the perfect addition on a defense that is evolving to defend against the new offenses like the two tight end sets.
These two players will be the future playing next to Timmons, and the Steelers' linebacking corp should be dominant for years to come.
The Steelers' secondary is the only question mark remaining for this defense to become a dynasty. To look at the positions, you can see that it is still possible.
The "old" guys in Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor and Ryan Clark will all be good for a few more years, but in building this dynasty, these positions will have to be addressed.
Or have they been already?
The Steelers have started their youth movement, drafting Cortez Allen, Curtis Brown and Keenan Lewis over the last few years (Allen and Brown are entering their second seasons). Having released Bryant McFadden and allowing Will Gay to join the Arizona Cardinals, two of these three players should get the chance to show that they are ready for the NFL.
In the secondary, it isn't so bright.
Ryan Clark is a battering ram and could get knocked out on any play. The Steelers have Myron Rolle as a back up, but he is still unproven. He is smart, so there is a chance of him picking up the Dick LeBeau system.
With Troy Polamalu's injury history, the Steelers are pretty thin on depth. Ryan Mundy has been respectable, but will never come close to filling the shoes of Polamalu. The reality is, no one will.
The Steelers are going to have to accept that whoever eventually replaces Polamalu will be a step down. It will be up to the rest of the defense to make up for his shortcomings.
Either way, look for both of the safety positions to be addressed early in next years draft.
Just as important as the players, the men calling the plays must be able to lead their team and keep a continuity with their players for long term success.
The Steelers have a new offensive coordinator in Todd Hailey, having replaced the amazingly incompetent Bruce Arians.
The games the offense did well in were not because of Arians; they were in spite of him. With Haley and his play book that actually are good at both running and passing, the Steelers' offense could blossom into the best in the NFL.
The ancient Dick LeBeau, who should be allowed to coach as long as he would like, could still retire any time as defensive coordinator.
The Steelers made the smart investment of locking up long-time assistant Keith Butler, keeping him away from the Dolphins (last year) and Colts (this year).
Even once LeBeau is gone, his defense will still be alive in Pittsburgh, and just as dangerous.
Mike Tomlin's importance goes without saying. He manages this group of young men as well or better than any coach in the NFL. The players like him and like to play for him. That is all a coach can ask for, and that is what Tomlin has with the Steelers.
The Steelers have every piece of the puzzle to do what only few other teams have done before. There is no other team that can lay claim to being the team of the decade more than once.
Though the Steelers were a close second to the Patriots of the '00s, the Steelers look to be on the climb.
Yes, there are players that the front office is going to have to find a way to return (Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown), but there is no other team in the NFL that is built for long term success like the Pittsburgh Steelers.
They currently have all of the pieces in place for not only a successful run, but sustained success.