Revenge of the 6th: With the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s All About Patience

Damn, what a game! Sure must be a great time to be a Steeler fan. First, former Steeler great Rod Woodson is inducted into the Hall of Fame and then the current edition goes out and gets one for the thumb defeating the Arizona Cardinals 27-23 in Super Bowl 43. As pundits argue whether this was the best Super Bowl ever, or Big Ben should have been the MVP, or what was the greatest play, let’s step back and give respect where respect is due. The success this top rate organization has had over the years is not a fluke. If you do right by people, you will be rewarded. The Rooney family takes care of its own and now once again, they are champions. It’s that simple.

It’s apropos the Pittsburgh Steelers were victorious in Super Bowl 43 because few teams in sports have exercised patience and professionalism which has allowed the franchise to become the best organization in sports. Three coaches since 1969 (each has won a Super Bowl) should not be taken lightly and the Rooneys deserve serious respect for the model of consistency they’ve created.

Most organizations would have caved into media and fan pressure and fired Bill Cowher after a three year 13-26 stretch from 1998-2000. If that wasn’t bad enough, Cowher goes 6-10 in 2003 and the Steelers were at a franchise crossroads. They stood pat and just two years later won their 5th Super Bowl title in Detroit.

Cowher goes 8-8 the next season…resigns (not fired or forced out) and the family instrumental in enacting the NFL Rooney Rule, does the incredible thing of hiring a fiery yet professionally composed coach barely in his thirties who just so happens to be Black. There was mad heat boiling under the surface because of the move and for the Rooney family to give a Black man the keys to their franchise is simply remarkable. Look at football on every level and you will see very few Black coaches though Blacks make up a large percentage of players. Simply put, the Rooneys put their money where their mouth is and cared less about conventional wisdom. Remember, Miami passed over Tomlin for Cam Cameron and Miami’s loss gave Pittsburgh the fame. Makes perfect sense Tomlin will be the first coach to shake President Obama’s hand on the White House lawn; they both have bucked the odds.

Some teams make great moves regardless of what’s at stake. I created a quote to inspire my children: The good are separated from the great simply by the risks they take. The Rooneys  never publicly patted themselves on the back after their bold move once again showing class and exemplary diligence to create a model locker room that really isn’t based on winning. The wins come from stressing dedication and discipline individually within the organization dynamic. A dynamic that has washed over the entire city because of its work ethic. Pittsburgh is a beautiful and hard working town because the people give a damn. They don’t make excuses like Philly. If other organizations followed suit, sports would once again become something to be revered by the masses. The Steelers do not do drama and while Joey Porter was beloved, it was time to part ways.

Plax had to go, too.

In Tomlin’s 10-6 initial season, Santonio Holmes fumbled frequently returning kicks, but the Steelers stuck with their 25th pick and he finished with 824 yards receiving. In 2007, Santonio began to show his talent and led the league in average per catch–finishing with 942 yards total. This season had it ups and downs as Holmes was benched after an arrest for marijuana possession. Just imagine if that was Philly, New York or Boston. Would he still be a Steeler or would a mistake he made early in life be blown out of proportion similar to many other mistakes by young kids in sports–Michael Phelps included? Because of the foundation the Steelers are based upon, Santonio fought hard, did all the right things, learned from his terrible mistake and now this is his reward…

Damn…the tip toes. You go boy!

If he doesn’t make that catch the Steelers would have dealt with the press as it has so many times before. The media will not dictate what moves they make and trust the media at large would have called for Santonio’s head. Why don’t other franchises do the same? Why do other franchises let their fan base be influenced by the media and ultimately make quarterback or coaching changes with no back bone to speak of? Why do organizations make moves just because a team doesn’t win the Super Bowl? So out of all the teams in the NFL, a coach is fired because he can’t get his team over the top? Do you realize how absurd that is. We gotta get it back people. It’s just a damn game. It’s cool to have passion for the team you love, but all this pressure blanketed on sports is becoming ludicrous.

Ben Roethlisberger. What more can you say about him? He’s a Steeler quarterback. He doesn’t do it pretty or with stats but the dude a winner. Ben is 26 and has an 8-2 playoff record with two Super Bowl rings? Classic. He gets away from the rush because he knows what’s at stake. Dude doesn’t want to go through another off season after winning his first in 2005. Some people go through things so their lives can be better later on and while some of us just don’t get it, Ben matured to become a clutch field general.

He didn’t do it alone and that’s what makes this franchise grand…

How many times was James Harrison cut and brought back. His will determined his destiny because he has the resolve of a soldier. I couldn’t help but see Reggie White flash green in and out of his frame as Harrison ran down the sideline for what was the turning point in the Super Bowl. The Cardinals had to have that tackle and could not make it because Harrison would not be deterred. It must be mentioned his team sold out to make sure he had a clean running lane. Check the blocks…

The run back is so indicative of how the last 40 years have gone for the Pittsburgh Steelers. I for one wasn’t shocked or surprised of the touch back (think about it).

It’s crazy to think this is a team that played in one playoff game between 1947-1972. After the merger and with the hiring of Chuck Noll, the franchise began to take a turn and become the model it is today. It’s safe to say the basis of this team was cemented in 1974 when Pittsburgh became the only team in NFL history to draft 4 Hall of Fame players in one year (Mike Webster, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, and Jack Lambert). Between 1969 and 1972, Chuck Noll drafted 5 other Hall of Famers (“Mean” Joe Greene in 1969, Terry Bradshaw and Mel Blount in 1970, Jack Ham in 1971, Franco Harris in 1972) and the tone was set for future success.

Look at this year: the Steelers ran through the biggest and the best by showing an undeniable will. They could have given up after Philly’s nine sacks, or all of the other sacks Ben Roethlisberger has suffered on their way to the title. They were the most consistent team in the NFL this season. Even though they faced the toughest schedule and all kinds of injuries, here they are. It pains me to see coaching carousels and fans coming down on players for stuff they do in their everyday lives just because they make more money. That’s moronic and while you rarely see the Pittsburgh Steelers in a negative spotlight, they are a family. They are a family that deals with everything the right way. They will not be influenced by the idiosyncrasies of the gossip man that unfortunately has become the voice of our society today and thank God for that.

Before I get off here, I must give props to one Larry Fitzgerald. He plays with more than his soul. He thinks of his deceased Mom on and off daily and it shows on the field. He wants to be the best and this has been evident way before University of Pittsburgh. His mother plays through him and in 11 we are witnessing one of the best coming out parties of any player in any sport. He is a true soul model and I don’t doubt for one second, Pittsburgh brass and fans wouldn’t collectively mind if he was a Steeler.

I was texting my son Gaston throughout the game and I was very moved emotionally by Larry’s performance. He matched Pittsburgh’s intensity step for step, sweat for sweat.

He wasn’t the only Steeler who isn’t a Steeler who showed and proved their mettle.

Thank you Jennifer…

21 Responses to “Revenge of the 6th: With the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s All About Patience”

  1. michelle says:

    Nice article Miz. My 49’ers are on the come up. We will get another ring soon.

    That was a great game!

  2. Matthew Fudge says:

    Definitely.

  3. HarveyDent says:

    I’ll take some of that reflected shine of the Steelers’ fans and enjoy the win for them as well. The Steelers do things the right way and it’s a testament to that organization that it’s more a surprise when they don’t have winning seasons than when they win titles. Big Ben, Santonio, and that defense are all the truth and the other NFL team in the SE corner of PA should take notes about how to build an finely-tuned organizational model. Eagles’ fans should take note as well from Steelers’ fans about how support your team by not ripping it apart when things don’t go right. Maybe if Eagles’ fans would get rid of that negative karma and stop being influences so easily by WIP then maybe the Eagles will have a parade going down Market St.

  4. GrandNubian says:

    Great article Mizz,

    Once again, we are the “Lords of the Rings”…. 🙂

    I’ve been a ‘Steeler’ since around ’75 or ’76 (I can’t remember the exact year). Aside from the Falcons (during Deion’s tenure, their Super Bowl year and the Vick era), the Steelers have been the only team i’ve ever supported. It’s hard to explain why you can stay with one team for so long. It’s just something about the “black and gold” that sort of forces you to root for them.

  5. kos says:

    The Steeler organization in itself is a model of consistency and maintaining a core set of values in the face of others saying that they should change their ways. Other teams can try to do things the Steeler way, but it all starts from the top, and that’s what has and will always separate the Steelers from every other team.

    The Rooney’s are Pittsburgh football. Yes, they are cheap. But, if a player plays well enough for them, and doesn’t want an outrageous salary, they will take care of them. There have been several articles with some facts that tells you who Dan Rooney is that lead up to the Super Bowl. The guy doesn’t live but about ten minutes away from Heinz Field and walks to work. He drives a 90 something Buick. He goes through the lunch line with the players and waits his turn.

    The organization is decidedly old school. I think they are still the only team without cheerleaders (only had them for a brief period in the 70’s). They now have a mascot, Steely McBeam that looks like Bill Cowher (please, send him the way of the Celtics leprechaun!)

    The thing that I think endures the Steelers to so many people though, is that they don’t do alot of free agent signings. Most of their people are home grown. The Steelers, since 1969 have drafted very well. They not only look at the powers, but they go looking at smaller schools, and HBCU’s.

    I think all of that leads to a passion in Steeler fans that you won’t see in any other team’s fans. It’s why every team in their division makes someone trying to buy tickets to the Steeler games at their stadium, makes you buy it in a package. Steeler fans will always find a way to invade another team’s stadium and wave the terrible towel.

  6. Temple3 says:

    Mizzo:

    Thanks for the love. Much appreciated. That’s some walk through time.

    Fitz would be welcome in Pittsburgh anytime.

    Your post brings to mind the winning logic behind the team’s commitment to keeping salaries manageable and in building through the draft. I remember vividly when Roethlisberger was drafted. I was watching the draft at home — drinking a brew — and I thanked my lucky stars that the Steelers didn’t get into that mess with Rivers and Manning. I remember the draft order was full of teams who had just drafted QBs in the recent past. Houston had David Carr. Atlanta had Michael Vick. Jacksonville had Bryon Leftwich. Detroit had Joey Harrington.

    The 2004 Draft Class had a ton of talent, but the Steelers got the right guy.

    Steeler Nation never goes off on its own players because of salaries. Its always production based. What’s more is that there is a tradition of excellence at every position — so expectations are always high. The fans assume you’re getting good coaching and have all the support you need. The guys who’ve caught the wrath the most were QBs: Mark Malone, Cliff Stoudt, Bubby Brister, Kordell, Neil O’Donnell. If you’re a DB, there is no reason for you to suck — you have talent or you wouldn’t be on the roster. You’re not stupid or you wouldn’t be on the team. You’re not lazy — or you wouldn’t be on the team. So, this works to keep players and fans in an informal mutual adoration society. The only players who are exempted from that are QBs and kickers.

    When you have a Top 10 or Top Five or Top 3 defense more often than not, it comes down to the offense and the ability to make big plays. Those QBs never made enough big plays to get it done. They are almost all remembered for ineptitude or throwing huge interceptions in big spots. When the defense is always good enough to get a ring, the offense usually has a simple job — score two or three TDs and win the game; move the ball — play field position — kick an occasional field goal and use your punter. Every Steeler QB who could follow that simple formula has more than one Super Bowl ring.

    If you want to hear a Steeler fan go from Cool to Irate in less than five seconds, start a convo about the QBs in the 90’s. From ’90 to ’04, the D was Top 10 eleven times. In those seasons, the Defense was Top 5 seven times, Top 3 seven times, First overall three times. They won ZERO rings!!

    The defense has been ranked first the past two seasons. The Championship difference is the Quarterback.

  7. Temple3 says:

    Add Tommy Maddox to that list. He was prolific for a minute, but he was a walking INT.

  8. kos says:

    T3-

    Don’t even mention Maddox! I feel about Maddox the same way you feel about the Steelers not using a fullback! I remember fans saying he was an upgrade to Kordell Stewart. Only in the time it took for teams to understand that the guy was going to throw picks a whole lot quicker. And remember, even Bradshaw caught the wrath of the fans early on. (Granted, this had a lot to do with the writers, but it spilled over to the fans) Lil’ Abner??!! Snuffy Smith?!! Guy wouldn’t even come back to Pittsburgh for a long time.

  9. Temple3 says:

    Absolutely.

    Bradshaw took some time to develop. I think he took a lot of that stuff personally when it really wasn’t personal — even though it was framed in personal terms. No one thinks Brett Favre is a genius or dedicated student of the game — but he won games early in Green Bay. If he’d lost, he’d probably have gotten the same treatment he received in Atlanta. Winning changed everything — but it didn’t make Favre smart. It seems not to have made Bradshaw smart, either…though he’s capitalized on that image of him in a masterful way.

    I can understand how a young man would be injured by that assault on their sensibilities. They just need to know its as impersonal as the adulation.

    Mizzo — See what I’m talking about:

    If you want to hear a Steeler fan go from Cool to Irate in less than five seconds…

    There’s kos with flaming exclamation points! We’re like Pavlov’s Dog when we hear those names!!! Grrrrrr!!!!

  10. Mizzo says:

    I hear you man. I loved Bradshaw and even learned to throw like him (hand on the tip of the all), but hated him after Swanny kept going after all those hospital balls and ended up in the hospital himself.

    Brothas you have been blessed though. We got Bubby after you were done with him and subsequently went through a string of Rich Kotite retreads. That was a baaaaaad time for me.

    I was calling every bad coach Rich Kotite.

  11. GrandNubian says:

    “If you want to hear a Steeler fan go from Cool to Irate in less than five seconds, start a convo about the QBs in the 90’s. From ‘90 to ‘04, the D was Top 10 eleven times. In those seasons, the Defense was Top 5 seven times, Top 3 seven times, First overall three times. They won ZERO rings!!”

    Aw man…..I wish that I could forget the 90s. We should’ve had at the very least 2 rings in the 90s.

  12. kos says:

    GN –

    Exactly why I was kinda glad when Cowher retired. On one hand, the guy was likeable. But, it had become painfully evident that the reason that the Steelers hadn’t won titles in the 90’s was more a function of Cowher not doing the right things, than the team itself being deficient. The year after the Steelers won the Super Bowl and he chose to stick with Ben even though Stevie Wonder could see that Ben wasn’t right. His on again-off again playing of Kordell Stewart. (To be fair, this had more to do with the fact that the Steelers couldn’t keep an offensive coordinator for more than 2 seasons.) Anyone could see that Stewart’s psyche is fragile. I give him props for lasting in Pittsburgh for as long as he did, though. Yanking him did nothing for his confidence.

    The thing that I like about Tomlin, he realizes it’s all about the details. Take care of the little things, and the big goal will be easier to achieve. Also, he’s the calm that the players need to see sometimes. Cowher, to say the least, was anything but calm. Tomlin will chew those guys out (see Sweed in the AFC Championship game after missing that long pass and laying on the field like he was hurt, costing the team a time out), but he will also praise them (see Sweed delivering a Ward-like block a couple of plays later). Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Tomlin was a sociology major, as far as him dealing with players.

  13. GrandNubian says:

    kos —

    Damn, I agree with everything you’ve said man.

    I must admit that I liked Cowher but dammit, sometimes he could piss me the f*** off. 🙂

    I like the intensity he brought and how he could motivate his players. I can still see the image of him in Greg Lloyd’s face, telling him to rush the passer….damn, that was classic!

    Tomlin was a sociology major, huh? I didn’t know that.

    FYI….I just heard that Larry Foote will probably bounce to Detroit next season. That means that Timmons will be a starter in 09.

  14. Temple3 says:

    On Larry Foote:

    I’m got nothing but love for my fellow Wolverines. Check out his wiki page:

    In March 2008, Foote paid for the funeral of Mark Brown-Williams, a ten-year-old child from Detroit, Michigan, who had drowned after falling through the ice on a tributary of the Rouge River in February.[2] Foote had no pre-existing personal connection to the family, but he was touched after hearing of the tragedy, as he has a son of nearly that age himself and had played on the same frozen river when he was a child.[3]

    He had a great career in Pittsburgh and he has big plans for the youth of Detroit. As good as he was on the field, his greatest legacy in football may be yet to come.

  15. GrandNubian says:

    That’s some good stuff right there T3. Thanks for posting that.

    We often hear so much negativity regarding athletes but yet we often don’t hear about all the good that a lot of them do.

  16. Temple3 says:

    A friend called me from Detroit on Super Bowl Sunday to say that he was rooting for the Steelers because of guys from Detroit like Larry Foote (and Bettis). He’s a lifelong Cowboys fan, but he came over to the Black side for a day. He says that Foote really wants to go back to his old high school (Pershing) and set it off. There is a great deal of football talent in Detroit. I see nothing but big things for him as a leading citizen and builder of men.

  17. Temple3 says:

    Did the Seahawks win the Super Bowl?? What’s up with that COLOR SCHEME?!?!??

    http://www.nflshop.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3457933&cp=3459209

    I ain’t buyin’ none o’ that bullshit.

  18. kos says:

    I saw that too, T3! But in fairness, it was the same color scheme for the Cardinals when they had Cardinals gear up there in case they won the Super Bowl. Still, if it ain’t black and gold……

  19. Temple3 says:

    If the Cardinals had won, I wouldn’t be buyin’ that shit either.

  20. Mizzo says:

    I don’t get that. What’s that all about?

  21. GrandNubian says:

    Yeah, I aint feelin’ that color scheme either. Either black and gold or it’s not sold. 🙂