Back in 1979, the city of Pittsburgh was home to two winning franchises and celebrated the year by borrowing from the tune "We are Family" by Sister Sledge. Willie Stargell and Terry Bradshaw were the men of the hour and shared the Sportsmen of Year award on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
For the Pirates, life has never been the same. The dubious distinction of having the most consecutive losing seasons can put a strain on any family. The Steelers, on the other hand, have continued to reinforce the familial ties that could make them the most successful Pro sports franchise of all time.
On the verge of their eighth Super Bowl appearance and seventh victory, it is the fostered climate of inclusion that sets the Steeler organization apart. The Rooneys, the coaches and players include the fans in this circle. No matter where you are from, if one is a Steeler fan, he is part of Steeler Nation and part of the family.
The recent dust-up over the Green Bay's team photo and players on the team's injured reserve demonstrates the difference in approach. Willie Colon, Max Starks and others would never have expected to be excluded from the team, its charter, the photo or festivities. Families stick together through illness, injury and yes, disgrace.
Ben Roethlisberger knows all too well how close he came to losing it all but like any good family unit, the miscreant is chastised, then welcomed back. In a recent newspaper interview, he commented that, "The team and the Rooneys demonstrated that we are still here for you -that's what families do."
During the Pro Bowl broadcast, Terry Bradshaw was asked about what made the Steelers such an outstanding organization. "They stick with their coaches, their decisions. They don't start panicking when they hit a bump in the road." He maintained that keeping the formula simple with strong defense and a solid running game has sustained the Steelers through four decades of competitive success.
"We are family; we have been since I arrived and we'll fight and do anything for each other." Ben Roethlisberger.
And to think none of these players were even born when Sister Sledge first coined the phrase.