Run by the Rooney family since the 1930s, the Steelers are a model of consistency: always near the top and never down for long. The list of flattering superlatives is long, but it’s headlined by one bold-faced fact: Pittsburgh is one win away from completing a second dynasty in 30 years.
This time around, the dominance hasn’t been as neat, not nearly as attractive.
Or is it just me?
Get my drift?
Yes, Arizona and Seattle were worthy opponents. Sort of.
The Cardinals, after a suspect 9-7 season in 2008, scored 30 or more points in three consecutive playoff games with an explosive offense captained by Kurt Warner, who threw for 30 touchdowns and nearly 4,600 yards.
But the Birds barely survived life in the NFC West, a division in which they were the only team to finish above the break-even mark. The defense, which allowed at least 30 points six times, ranked 28th overall in points allowed.
The real handicap, though, is the fact that Super Bowl XLIII against the Steelers was the Cardinals’ first-ever appearance in the game. Tracing the franchise’s history back to its days as the Morgan Athletic Club, the Cardinals have won two league titles, but none in the last 65 years.
Same goes for the Seattle Seahawks, whom the Steelers handled 21-10 in Super Bowl XL.
Established in 1975, the Seahawks, though outfitted with 11 playoff appearances, don’t exactly stoke the flames of nostalgia. They played games in the godawful Kingdome up until 1999, for goodness' sake.
In 2005, the Seahawks, like the Cardinals would do, blistered through the NFC West schedule, which, as it would three seasons later, featured only one team above .500. With an offense that scored nearly 30 points a game serving as the main catalyst, Seattle won 13 games that season, but the defense was also solid, allowing less than 17.
But when Seattle clinched a trip to Detroit for the matchup against Pittsburgh, the football world replied, “Eh.” Even the Panthers, whom the Seahawks beat in the NFC Championship that season, would have been a more attractive draw.
Perhaps the Packers, with their all-time leading 12 championships, parade-worthy number of Hall of Famers, and feel-good mystique, can save this present Pittsburgh run.
Of course, if even that is the case, I’m not sure this stretch of Steeler dominance is yet worthy of holding a candle to what we saw in the first go-around, which was comprised of a series of matchups in which traditional giants were slain en route to a championship.
By comparison, these present Steelers are the ugly duckling, so to speak.
From 1975-80, the Steelers won four Super Bowl titles, a number that this Pittsburgh version very well could surpass in time. That said, what separates the Bradshaw Era from, say, that of Roethlisberger, is the quality of the opponent.
During their reign, the Steelers of the ‘70s beat Minnesota and Dallas, two teams that have been to the Super Bowl a combined 12 times. And it’s not as if those Steelers were facing potential upstarts, like Arizona and Seattle.
The Vikings, led by legendary head coach Bud Grant and the Purple People Eaters on defense, claimed 11 playoff berths between 1968-80, dating back to the prior to the AFL-NFL merger. Its meeting with the Steelers in 1975 was Minnesota’s third Super Bowl in six seasons.
Dallas, arguably the most glamorous franchise in all of American sport, was smack-dab in the middle of its ascension under Tom Landry when Chuck Knoll and the Steelers denied the Cowboys’ Super Bowl dreams twice in four seasons, including the chance at back-to-back titles in 1979.
However unfair it may be, today’s Steelers can’t duplicate that sort of run, primarily because the NFC is without a team dominant enough to consistently compete for titles over the course of a decade.
Nevertheless, with a win in two weeks, a second dynasty will be complete in the Steel City. You’ll hear no apologies, regrets, or hair-splitting.
It won’t be the prettiest thing in the world, but the rings count all the same.