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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Why does the NFL ignore the Steeler way?

Pittsburgh’s seventh trip to the Super Bowl warrants great applause for second year coach Mike Tomlin. Yet, the real reason for the Steelers success is surrounded in the team’s determined approach at maintaining organizational stability. One can’t ignore that Tomlin’s team has 20 players with Super Bowl experience. The Steelers have only had three coaches over the last four decades, which everyone knows and have often pointed to as the main reason for their consistent on-field success. Actually, stability in ownership and a dogged determination in sporting a vicious defense has become the cornerstone for continued success instead of the lack of a coaching carousel in Western Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh has also developed a habit of drafting hard-working players with moderate talent but a much more advanced work ethic over perceived flash. One exception for Pittsburgh in drafting away from the solid rookie was signing Plaxico Burress in 2000, with Burress’ off-field behavior eventually leading to the team’s refusal to resign the all-pro receiver. The team’s willingness to skirt past electric players in favor of signing tough, determined winners makes for a fascinating elixir for success.
Shockingly, it seems that other teams in the NFL have refused to adopt the Pittsburgh way for building a quality/winning football organization. So quickly have fellow teams attempted to ransack the Patriots for Belichick capologists and Dungyites with cover-2 backgrounds, yet rarely is the Pittsburgh stability model explored. Sure, former Steeler offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt has led his current Arizona squad to the Super Bowl and Dom Capers was given many a chance to install a blitzburgh type defense in Houston but a flurry of NFL teams have shied away from promoting stability within their front office. Absent in Houston has always been a failure to develop stability within administration, scouting and player development. Arizona seems to be moving more towards a Pittsburgh model with the Bidwell family maintaining ownership since their days in Chicago and the imminent abandonment of enigmas like Anquan Boldin and Edgerrin James next season allow for hot-head behavior and selfish demeanor to evaporate in the desert. A powerful defense remains lacking and the Bidwell Empire fails to qualify for competent administrative stability.
Maybe it’s just fate that Pittsburgh has met such glorious fortune and their formula really provides no gain for teams who have achieved success through different means or have never tasted sweet success. I’m not saying one needs a Tom Landry or Don Shula type roaming the sidelines to achieve wins but a real model of stability should be prevalent up and down the organizational ladder. With its absence, comes the absence of wins.
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