Why the Pittsburgh Steelers Deserve To Be in the "Best Franchise" Discussion

Bryan Hollister@too_old_4stupidAnalyst IFebruary 3, 2009

At the behest of some readers here, I have taken a step back, allowed my "delusions" to fade, and taken a chill pill. My exuberance at seeing the Steelers win their record-setting sixth Lombardi Trophy could arguably have been clouding my judgment, so I decided to give it a few hours to sink in.

Plus, I could use the time to do a little research to bolster the argument I am about to make (so much for taking a step back, right?).

I have reached the conclusion that detractors be damned: since the early '70s the Steelers have been a part of the playoff and Super Bowl discussion as much as, if not more, than any other team out there.

Doubt me? I knew you would, so I came prepared. Like I said, I used some of the time to do a little research.


Steelers Nation vs. Everyone Else

Whereas, the Steelers have just recently won their sixth Lombardi Trophy; and

Whereas, the Steelers faithful have long felt their team is the best ever; and

Whereas, the detractors are numerous, and are adamant that the Steelers don't deserve any recognition;

We, the Steelers Nation, do respectfully come before this honorable court of public opinion, and do hereby present the facts in this case for your consideration. To wit:

The Steelers franchise has won six—SIX—Lombardi trophies since 1969. That's four decades, or 40 years for those of you struggling with big words. They are 6-of-7 in Super Bowl appearances, winning in the '74, '75, '78, '79, '05, and '08 seasons.

Their sole loss was to Dallas after the '95 season when Neil O'Donnell confused the Cowboys' defensive backs for the Steelers receivers.

When they weren't in the Super Bowl, they were in the postseason fight to get to it. Since 1969, the Steelers have missed the playoffs only 16 times. That means they have been in the playoffs 24 times. For those who like percentages, that equates to 60 percent.

Of those 24, seven have been Super Bowl appearances—29 percent—seven others saw them in the Conference Championship—again, 29 percent—seven more saw them make it to the divisional round—yes, the same 29 percent—and only three have seen them exit in the wild-card round—or 12.5 percent of the time they were in the playoffs.

Added all together, the Steelers have made it to the divisional round or higher 87.5 percent of the time they have made the playoffs.

The Steelers have had three coaches in 40 years: Hall of Famer Chuck Noll, soon-to-be-Hall of Famer Bill Cowher, and potential future Hall of Famer Mike Tomlin. No other team in the NFL has managed that in the last 40 years.

These three coaches have accounted for all but ONE of the Steelers historical postseason appearances, that one coming in 1947 under head coach Jock Sutherland.

Going all the way back to their entry into professional football, the Steelers' overall franchise record is 525-502-21, for a .510 winning percentage. Since 1969 when Chuck Noll took the reins of the team, their record is even better: 364-245-2, a .597 winning average.

Since Noll took over the team in 1969, the Steelers are 31-18 in postseason play, including the aforementioned Super Bowls. That would be six wins in seven appearances for those keeping score.

Eighteen former Steelers greats, including Mr. Art Rooney, are currently immortalized in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

At the time, the '05 Steelers were the first team to win three postseason road games en route to winning a Super Bowl.

The "Rooney Rule" is responsible for the consideration and hiring of more minority coaches than ever.

In case we forgot to mention it, they are the only franchise with six Lombardi trophies.

The Steelers made postseason appearances eight straight years in the '70s, from 1972-1979, winning their first four championships—two each in consecutive years.

Even in the '80s, when they dropped off a bit, the Steelers still managed four postseason appearances.

In the '90s, they extended their season six straight years, from 1992-1997, and made their sixth Super Bowl appearance in 1995.

In the new millennium they have also made postseason appearances six times: 2001-2002, 2004-2005, and 2007-2008. They also won their fifth and sixth trophies.

The most valid comparison to the Steelers' consistency is the Green Bay Packers, but the Steelers are right on pace with them since 1969.

Don't get us wrong; with all championships combined the Packers boast an utterly amazing 12 titles, an accomplishment that cannot go unmentioned. But three of those "titles" came in an era where there was no playoff, no championship game. The team with the best record at the end of the year was the champs. Coaches could cancel games that did not benefit them, or that they didn't want to play.

Curly Lambeau was such a charismatic and well-liked coach, and coached for so long—39 years, an unheard of feat in today's NFL—that the Packers' stadium still bears his name.

Vince Lombardi was so highly thought of they named the championship trophy after him.

But crunching the numbers reveals a closer race than one might suspect.

The Packers all-time franchise record is 643-513-36, a .559 winning percentage. They've also been in the league since 1921, 12 years longer than the Steelers. Comparing apples to apples, the Packers' record since 1933 is 550-479-21, a .553 average. Tolerably close to the Steelers .510 all-time percentage.

Going a step further, the Packers have only managed 13 postseason appearances in the last 40 years. They have only reached the Super Bowl twice—a 15 percent average—going 1-1.

Of their other appearances, only two were conference championship games, six were divisional rounds, and three times they were eliminated in the wild-card game.

For comparison's sake, that's a percentage of 84.6 for divisional rounds and higher, just a smidge lower that Pittsburgh. For Super Bowl appearances when they've made the postseason, they come in at 15.4 percent, well below the Steelers average.

Since 1969 the Packers have a record of 307-299-8, a .506 winning percentage. A bit lower than the Steelers .597.

Packers winning seasons since 1969? 17.

Steelers winning seasons since 1969? 28. 

Please don't misinterpret us and assume that we are saying the Steelers franchise is greater than the Packers (of course, we are saying that a little, because we are naturally biased towards the Black and Gold). What we are saying is that the record shows the Steelers deserve the recognition that seems to allude them in some corners.

Year in and year out for the last 40 years, Pittsburgh has been a part of the equation: Either they were in the hunt for the title, or the prognosticators were discussing what went wrong to keep them out.

Either way, they received mention. As such, they deserve the recognition.

Therefore, having duly presented the evidence forthwith, and in fact finding the evidence to be indisputable, we, the Steelers Nation, do hereby pray that the court of public opinion grant the following:

That the Pittsburgh Steelers deserve recognition as one of the all-time greatest franchises in NFL history;

That detractors be required to present facts in their dispute commiserate with the entire scope of the Steelers historical record;

That arguments against the Steelers be free of bitter, contemptuous, emotional accusations of cheating, favoritism, and fraud;

That all mention of the Dallas Cowboys as "America's Team" be stricken from consideration in the debate;

That the New England Patriots be recognized for what they are, a flash in the pan;

And that any arguments against specific players be reserved for their specific cases, which will, of course, be forthcoming.

The long and short of it is this: Love 'em or hate 'em, the Steelers are, to steal a phrase, the real deal.


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