With a win on Sunday over the Jets the Pittsburgh Steelers could make their eighth Superbowl appearance. This would move them into a tie for first all-time for Superbowl appearances with Dallas. With a win they would increase their total Superbowls to seven, two more than the Cowboys.
So are they the best franchise ever?
Their only real competition is Dallas, and the Steelers have more Superbowls than the Cowboys. Although Green Bay has won many NFL championships, I am only counting Superbowls, so unfortunately Green Bay does not qualify. Also the San Fransisco 49ers miss the list because although they won five Superbowls, they only appeared in those five and did it in a short time span. In other words they are not a great franchise outside of the 11-year period when they won the rings.
This ranking will discount this year's post season and possible Superbowl trip. I will rank these two teams based on a point system. I will compare their all time win percentage, their best players, best coaches, playoff success, and Superbowls. One point will be awarded for a slight edge, two for a medium edge and three for a big edge.
So without further ado let's see who the best franchise ever is: America's Team or The Steel Curtain.
Steelers: 542-499-20 (52 win pct.)
This one suprised me at first. Then I looked in further. In their first 34 years, they only had a winning record six times. Then they hired Chuck Noll. In the 41 years since, they have gone 383-245-2 (61 win pct.) with 29 winning seasons.
Dallas: 440-324-6 (57 win pct.)
Ironically their is only a nine-year difference between when the Dallas Cowboys were founded and when Chuck Noll was hired and the Steelers became a dominant franchise. So the 61 win percentage is about where the Steelers would be if you only counted wins since the Cowboys came into existance.
If you go by the win percentage only counting the years both teams co-existed the the Steelers have the lead in win percentage, but if you count all the wins in team history then the Cowboys have the lead.
I'm going to go with the latter and give the Cowboys a slight edge.
Cowboys: 1 Steelers: 0
Steelers number of Hall of Famers: 20
Cowboys number of Hall of Famer: 16
Steelers: Terry Bradshaw (27,989 passing yards, 212 touchdowns, 210 interceptions)
Cowboys: Troy Aikman (32,942 passing yards, 165 touchdowns, 141 interceptions)
I chose Bradshaw because Ben Roethlisberger is still playing, and I am comparing the best Hall of Fame players. I chose Aikman because he won more Superbowls than Staubauch in fewer trips and becuase Aikman had slightly better numbers.
So who is better? Honestly I don't know. Bradshaw won one more Superbowl, but Aikman was a better passer. This here is a tie.
Best Running Back
Steelers: Franco Harris (12,120 rushing yards 91 touchdowns, 2287 recieving yards, nine touchdowns)
Cowboys: Emmit Smith (18,355 rushing yards, 164 touchdowns, 3224 recieving yards, 11 touchdowns)
Got to give it to Emmit. He played longer and rushed for more yards and touchdowns than Harris.
Best Wide Reciever/Tight End
Steelers: John Stallworth (8723 receiving,63 touchdowns)
Cowboys: Michael Irvin (11,904 receiving yards, 65 touchdowns)
Even though Irvin played in a more pass-happy era than Stallworth, he still played in a run-first offense. He was also more talented and a bigger threat than Stallworth. Got to give this one to Irvin.
Best Defensive Lineman
Steelers: Mean Joe Greene (78.5 unofficial sacks, 15 fumble recoveries, one interception)
Cowboys: Bob Lilly (94.5 unoficial sacks, 18 fumble recoveries, one interception)
Another tie here. Both players were dominant players on great defenses. I have heard arguments for both and honestly I myself lean towards Lilly, but it is just to close to call.
Steelers: Jack Lambert (1479 tackles, 28 interceptions, 23.5 sacks)
Cowboys: Lee Roy Jordan (1236 tackles, 32 interceptions)
Another Pittsburgh win on defense. Lee Roy was good, but he wasn't even in the Hall of Fame. Jack Lambert is considered one of the best of all time. Easy choice here.
Best Defensive Back
Steelers: Mel Blount (57 interceptions, 13 fumble recoveries)
Cowboys: Mel Renfro ( 52 interceptions, 13 fumble recoveries, three kickoff/punt return touchdowns)
Mel Renfro was a great player. In fact he is one of the best safeties ever, but he just doesn't compete with Blount who redefined the cornerback posistion.
The Steelers get an early advantage in this one based on the fact they had more Hall of Famers. At first when I started with the offensive comparison, it looked like the Cowboys might have a slight advantage. Then I got to the defense and Pittsburgh blew Dallas out of the water. It's a win for Pittsburgh.
For this slide I chose the two best coaches on each team and compared them. The coaches I chose were Tom Landry for the Cowboys and Chuck Noll for the Steelers.
Chuck Noll: 209-156-1 (57 win percentage)
Tom Landry: 270-178-6 (60 win percentage)
Both have similar records, with Landry barely edging out Noll. It should also be noted that Landry had a longer tenure with 29 years, compared to Noll who coached 23. You could say at this point Landry has a slight edge, but let's dig deeper and see if Landry really is the better coach
Chuck Noll: 16-8 (66 win percentage)
Tom Landry: 20-15 (56 win percentage)
This is very different then the regular season percentages. Noll's playoff win percentage was 10 percent higher than Landry's. So they are looking to be about even at this point. Next let's look at championships.
Chuck Noll: went to a Superbowl: 1974, 1975, 1978,1979. Won a Superbowl: 1974, 1975, 1978, 1979.
Tom Landry: went to a Superbowl: 1970, 1971, 1975, 1977, 1978. Won a Superbowl: 1971, 1977
So Noll went to fewer Superbowls but won more. Of the five Landry went to, two were played against Noll's Steelers in 1975 and 1979. Landry lost both. So head-to-head in Superbowls, Landry is 0-2. This is a strong indictator that Noll was a better head coach.
Noll won more Superbowls and had a better playoff record. Although Landry has a better regular season winning percentage, it is only by three percent. Win goes to Noll once again by a slight margin
As I mentioned on the first slide Dallas has been to eight Superbowls, while Pittsburgh has been to seven. While Dallas has been to more Superbowls, they have only won five while Pittsburgh has won six.
Another feather in Pittsburgh's hat is that they beat Dallas in the two of the three Sperbowls they met in, as I mentioned in the coach's slide.
I'm actually going to give Pittsburgh a medium edge over Dallas since they won one more Superbowls and beat Dallas two of the three times they played in Superbowls.
Steelers: 4 Cowboys: 1
With a four-to-one advantage, the Pittsburgh Steelers have solidified their place as the best franchise in the NFL. If they win the Superbowl this year the argument will be moot. Congratulations Pittsburgh Steelers fans. You are the best.