Today's Pittsburgh Steelers Are an All-Time Great Team, but Not a Dynasty

Joshua Hayes@@JayPHayes1982Correspondent IIMay 27, 2012

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 01:  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates with the Vince Lombardi trophy as he is interviewed by Dan Patrick from NBC after they won 27-23 the Arizona Cardinals during Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

I constantly hear the modern day Pittsburgh Steelers, featuring the talents of Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu, among many other great athletes, as a dynasty.  It makes me cringe.

Looking at the entirety of the modern era of Pittsburgh Steelers football, the Black and Gold are certainly the benchmark by which other NFL franchises' success should be judged. 

After all, the six-time Super Bowl champions have achieved the ultimate measure of greatness more often since the 1970 merger than any of their peers, a collection of Lombardi Trophies that usurps the bragging rights of all other teams.

In this manner, the franchise as a whole can obviously be recognized as dynastic. However, the term dynasty, as it is used to describe collections of players that achieve greatness in their individual eras, is not a descriptor that should be used readily, and it does not describe the Steelers from 2004-date or the last two decades overall.

While many fans rightfully celebrate this era of the Steelers, the second championship phase in the team's proud history, the description of greatness should suffice; however, many loyalists have described the Black and Gold of the new millennium, particularly since the arrival of Ben Roethlisberger, as a dynasty. While this status is still within reach for the proud Super Bowl roster, the phrase is misused. 

Frankly, over the course of decades, a league may see only a few dynasties, if that... and if any.

Rest assured, as it concerns this particular collection of players who wear the Black and Gold proudly, a dynasty had not yet been born. Great pride has been felt and scintillating success has been realized, but the franchise has still only experienced one dynasty.

Keep in mind that the notion of a dynasty should be honored, reserved for the elite of the elite, the greatest of the greats and the champions amongst all other champions. To not be labelled as a dynasty should not be deemed an insult. This is a descriptor that must be earned, and it has not been achieved by most NFL champions, even some of the greatest collections of talent among the list of Lombardi winners.

Fans use the term "dynasty" far too often, generalizing the meaning with no reverence for its historical significance and elite designation.

If not a dynasty, many people use the phrase "mini-dynasty." This word is born from supreme silliness. A dynasty that is "mini" is not a dynasty at all, so let's call those teams for what they are: great teams. And, if that isn't compliment enough, it will still have to suffice. No alteration of the concept of what makes a dynasty should be considered, thus maintaining the purity of one of sports history's greatest possible achievements.

Keep in mind that the refusal to label today's squad as a dynasty is not indicative of a lack of loyalty. I am among the most ardent Steelers fans one could ever meet. For myself, the description of today's roster as "great champions" and not as a "dynasty" is not for a lack of heart as a fan, but, more specifically, a matter of accuracy.

So, if today's Steelers are not a dynasty, despite the words and wishes of many fans (both biased and unbiased), then what makes for a truly dynastic team?

Luckily, NFL history has already provided a litmus test for what is labelled as dynastic, as well as the measuring stick for coming up just short of the exclusive "dynasty club."

First and foremost, winning three or more championships is the only means to qualify, thus separating squads from champs and defending champs and elevating them officially-speaking to a dynasty. 

The silliest notion amongst many fans is the idea that winning one sole title in the midst of years and years of winning makes for a dynasty. Not winning multiple Lombardi Trophies in a short span of time is indicative of failing more when it counts than succeeding in the most important games. If Peyton Manning's Colts are a dynasty, then the term "dynasty" is no more special or elite than "damn good team."

Any objective person knows that this is reserved for the most elite teams in history.

In the Super Bowl era, five teams are distinctly recognized as dynasties in the annals of NFL play.  While some of these squads may be more mired in controversy than the others (i.e., Spygate), the ultimate dynastic determinant is a number of championships (three or more) considered against the amount of time needed to achieve that number. 

The dynasties are as follows:

1. 1960's Packers: Lombardi's "Pack" won five championships in seven years, including the first two Super Bowls.

2. 1970's Steelers: The "Steel Curtain" dominated the NFL landscape, and four Lombardi Trophies in six seasons were quite the source of Pittsburgh pride.

3. 1980's 49ers: While the 49ers didn't win a trio of titles in such an acute amount of time, they won four Super Bowls in nine seasons, redefining the most outer limits of dynastic criteria.

4. 1990's Cowboys: Three Super Bowl titles in four seasons was quite the acute dose of hardware for the "triplets."

5. 2000's Patriots: Like the Cowboys of the 90's, the Patriots did what many considered impossible in the modern NFL, winning three championships in only four years with great quarterback Tom Brady at the helm.

Those are the five dynasties. Anything else, to no degree of insult or devaluation, is simply championship material (last I checked, that's nothing to be embarrassed about) or greatness over a long period of time, falling just short of a dynasty.

The mathematical measurements for a dynasty, given the provisions extracted from the five historic qualifiers above, are as follows:

1. Winning at least three Super Bowls (as a core group of players, not as a franchise historically).

2. Winning those three Super Bowls within four or five years (arguably six), or winning four in six years. (Many considered the Steelers a dynasty after their third win in five seasons, with the fourth simply adding to the legacy.)

3. For those champions winning over a period of time longer than six years, four championships must be won within a decade.

For those questioning the parameters above, consider the following teams:

1. The 1971-73 Dolphins went to three straight Super Bowls. They won two of those games, including consecutive titles, and even went undefeated. Many regard their '72 squad as the best of all-time, but the Miami teams of this era were not classified as a dynasty, at least not amongst those abusing the term.

An actual dynasty, courtesy of
An actual dynasty, courtesy of

2. The Raiders won three championships over a window of time even more acute (1976-83) than the 49ers dynasty (1981-89, and arguably five titles dating through to 1994). However, their three titles didn't fall in the four to five or six-season parameter, covering eight seasons. Minus a fourth title in the era, the Raiders are not popularly regarded as a great dynasty.

3. And, most personal to the majority reading this article, the modern Steelers. They have won two championships, separated by four seasons. Had they won Super Bowl XLV, earning their third title in five years would have put them into the borderline category of "three in five years."

However, the loss nullified their status as an official dynasty.  Not enough championships, too much time having elapsed between first and third titles, and a Super loss on the resume, something the previous dynasties avoided during the periods of time that they earned that title.

The current Steelers could still qualify as a dynasty, but this now requires two additional Super Bowl wins before Super Bowl L.

The good news for fans that have been liberal in their descriptions of the current Steelers comes in spades.

First, no matter what, this was the second truly "great" era of Pittsburgh football as it regards Super Bowl wins, and the notion of "not being a dynasty" somehow tarnishing the great memories, teams and moments is silly at best.

Secondly, the vast majority of fans have never boasted a dynasty in the entire history of their particular franchise, sinner in the modern NFL. While today's units have yet to earn the elite status of repeated winning that the 70's teams achieved, fans can still be quite proud to boast arguably the greatest dynasty in the history of the game right here in the Steel City. Names like "Mean Joe," Franco and "Count Dracula in Cleats" conjure great memories, and they are reflective of the great winning tradition of football that the Steelers franchise will always embody.

Lastly, and most importantly, is that the current roster could still very well achieve an ACTUAL dynasty status. They need a couple more "sticky Lombardis" added to the Great Hall to earn that notoriety amongst their peers, but few teams are in better position to win and contend for a championship than the Steelers....right now!

The media can conjure up as many prognostications of doom and gloom as they like. However, the Steelers have so much going for them.

The offensive line improved by spades in the 2012 NFL draft.

Franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could very well become a more efficient version of himself in a new offense (be optimistic!), and he is reaching a stage of his career where many other historic greats peaked! 

The offense will boast a yield of weapons, including Mike Wallace (hopefully), Antonio Brown, Heath Miller, Jericho Cotchery, Emmanuel Sanders, Isaac Redman and, most intriguingly, Chris Rainey.

The defense ranked atop the league last year (regular seasons yards and point surrendered) in spite of some statistical fall-off, and continues to feature some of the most standout talent in the NFL. From James Harrison to Lamar Woodley to Troy Polamalu to rising, young stars like Lawrence Timmons, the future is bright.

The team has always done a great job of replenishing lost talent, featuring an amazing eye for defensive players, and a continuation plan is in place to maintain the successful style of defense the city has enjoyed for many years with the return of linebackers coach Keith Butler.

These, among many other reasons, are great sources of optimism for those that truly want to describe the current day Steelers as a dynasty.

Depending on one's personal definition and view of the word, perhaps the Steelers qualify for them on a personal level. Still, fans must be careful when labeling a dynasty to not spoil a label that should be reserved for the absolute historic elite.

Truthfully, if the team wants to truly be remembered as a dynasty, thus continuing the NFL tradition of unveiling a new dynastic team in each new decade since the merger, a few more trips atop the Super Sunday podium are required. The good news is that the future looks quite bright for those willing to see the positives.


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