With a victory in the AFC Championship and laying claim to yet another Conference Championship, I believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Steelers are the best run team in sports. There is no comparison. They are 6 and 1 in Super Bowls and in my mind have the edge in Sunday’s matchup with their experience over the past five years. They are always a presence in the playoffs, and but for a few years in the 1980’s, have been a dominate force in the AFC and in the NFL for the past four decades. There is no other team who can make that claim. The Cowboys would be the closest team, but they have been a shell of themselves since the 1996 season and haven’t yet removed any doubts until they run deep into the postseason.
The Steelers are no anomaly. They are a direct reflection of their ownership and their city.
They are the one team that is a mirror image of the town they represent and that has not changed since the team was founded.
Pittsburgh is a tough city with a hard-working class of people who like their football. The Rooney family has owned and operated the team since Art Rooney purchased the team on July 8, 1933. Affectionately known as “The Chief”, the senior Rooney embodies the team he purchased. As a young man, Art Rooney was chosen for the Olympic Boxing Team in 1920, played minor league baseball from 1920-1925 until an arm injury stopped his baseball career, but the young Mr. Rooney continued to play semi-pro football for teams around the Pittsburgh area. Essentially a three sport athlete out of high school, the senior Rooney was and still is the personification of the people and city his team represents.
The franchise’s early history was one of a series of teams that averaged out around a .500 winning percentage for the first three decades and going through many different head coaches in the process. However, in the 1960’s two important moves took place. Art Rooney senior handed over control of the team to his son Dan and in 1969, Dan Rooney hired Chuck Knoll as Head Coach.
Knoll’s first draft pick as a head coach was Mean Joe Greene and from that moment the current identity of the team was set in stone. Knoll would eventually draft nine future Hall of Famers as he built the team into a dynasty that came into its own in the 1975 Super Bowl with a win over the Dallas Cowboys in Miami. Still one of the premier Super Bowls ever played, it was the spark that set them team on a blazing hot run where they earned four Super Bowl Rings in six years and dominated the NFL.
They have always been a team based on playing smash mouth, in your face football on both sides of the ball and always have players on their defense who personify the Senior Rooney who boxed in both middleweight and welterweight divisions for the AAU Golden Gloves. Every Sunday, they are prepared to walk on the field (the ring) and go toe to toe with you. Over the past 40 years there is not another team that can make the same claim.
I believe the key to the success has been Dan Rooney’s ability to hire coaches who embody his fathers characteristics and to be loyal to those coaches and allow them to do their job. Chuck Knoll, Bill Cowher, and now Mike Tomlin all fit the mold of who the people of Pittsburgh expect to coach their team and all have Super Bowl Rings.
Unlike other teams in the NFL who hire a coach to run the organization or all the football operations, The Rooney’s have always hired coaches to coach the team while the family retained control of the franchise. I can think of few owners who should take some notes.
A few notes on today’s game:
What is most interesting about the Super Bowl matchup is that the Steelers face off against a team who is the mirror image of themselves. There is history between Dom Capers (Green Bay Defensive Coordinator) and Dick LeBeau (Pittsburgh Defensive Coordinator) and both run very similar defenses. Both offenses are lethal when they can run the ball and both teams have playmakers on the edges of their offense. Aaron Rodgers might be faster than Ben Rothliesberger, but Big Ben is like trying to tackle the Statue of Liberty. Both starting running backs have no problem running over someone, or around them, so they will be a pivotal part of the game. I think the key to this game is how each team’s offensive line plays against the opposing team’s front seven and handles the blitz.
If the Packers can get to Rothliesberger and contain him and keep him on the ground they will win; if they can’t they will lose.
I would love to see the Packers win but I am picking the Steelers 34-31 in a nail biter.