Steelers dare to dream of repeat, decade dynasty
Santonio Holmes, Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Tomlin and Dan Rooney hope to hoist the Steelers' seventh Lombardi Trophy in February.
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With apologies to the good people of San Diego, Nashville and Baltimore, it's pretty hard to imagine Super Bowl XLIV without the Steelers or New England Patriots. You're hoping the Steelers get there, I'm fairly certain. Here's the really neat part about that: If they do make it to Miami and win a third Vince Lombardi Trophy in five years, they will live on through eternity as the Team of the Decade. "I don't see how anyone could deny us that," wide receiver Hines Ward said, nodding emphatically.
Is that motivation or what?
Ask Terry Bradshaw, Joe Greene and their Steelers teammates how nice it is to have won four Super Bowls and be remembered as the Team of the 1970s. They'll talk your ear off. The same is true of the Green Bay Packers of the '60s, the San Francisco 49ers of the '80s and the Dallas Cowboys of the '90s. Being a Team of the Decade is a big deal. It signifies greatness over a period of time.
Winning one Super Bowl is hard enough. Ask the 15 teams that haven't done it. Ask your good friends from Cleveland; their Browns are one of five teams that haven't even played in a Super Bowl. But it's hardly impossible. They'll give out that 44th Lombardi Feb. 7 to somebody, right? As former Cowboys running back Duane Thomas once noted famously, "If the Super Bowl is the ultimate game, why are they playing it again next year?"
A question for the ages, indeed.
But two Super Bowls in a 10-year window is a remarkable achievement. And three? Three? In this era of free agency? Extraordinary, simply extraordinary.
The Patriots already have done it this decade, winning in the 2001, 2003 and 2004 seasons. They also lost in the Super Bowl in 2007 and in the AFC championship game in 2006. If they win the Lombardi this season, they'll be remembered as one of the NFL's all-time great dynasties.
But the Steelers have the opportunity to match the Patriots' three Super Bowl championships this decade. They have been nearly as consistent during that time, winning five division titles to the Patriots' six and losing in two AFC championship games, each against the Patriots. If they win this next Super Bowl, I'm giving them the tiebreaker over the Patriots for two reasons: One, it's my column, and two, Spygate. As former Steelers linebacker Joey Porter has pointed out about the Patriots, "They cheated; there should be an asterisk. They cheated and they got caught."
Who am I to argue with J. Peezy?
A bigger question: Can the Steelers do it?
The odds are overwhelming against any team repeating as champs. It has happened just eight times in the Super Bowl era. But I like the Steelers' chances. I like 'em a lot more than I did after they won in the '05 season. It's more than just the fact that Ben Roethlisberger isn't coming off a serious motorcycle accident this time. There isn't any sense of complacency under Mike Tomlin like there was under Bill Cowher, who knew '06 was going to be his final year as Steelers coach. That team started 2-6 and finished 8-8, one of three seasons this decade that the Steelers sat out the postseason.
"We've got some key guys in their contract years," Ward said.
Willie Parker. Casey Hampton. Ryan Clark. Justin Hartwig. Jeff Reed. Perhaps Willie Colon.
"Those guys are playing for contracts," Ward said. "They're going to be all-out all the time. I love it."
Ward also loves having Roethlisberger on his side. With Big Ben, the Steelers always have a chance. A third Super Bowl would all but lock up his spot in the Hall of Fame. Certainly, it would put him on even ground with Gisele Bundchen's favorite player, the Patriots' Tom Brady.
"Ben is a winner," Ward said, simply.
Of course, they are saying the same thing in New England about Brady. But Brady missed virtually all of last season with a serious knee injury. What impact that will have on him this season isn't clear. There also have been vague reports about some sort of shoulder problem ...
Where's the fun in hoping that Brady is less than his best?
Just assume Brady will be healthy and as great as ever. The Steelers are. Ward said they expect everybody's best shot, starting with the Tennessee Titans' tomorrow night at Heinz Field.
"We can do it," Ward said. "We have the right tools to do it. There's no question the talent is here. Just about all of us have playoff and Super Bowl experience. And I like the mindset of this team. The guys don't really care who gets the credit. When we win, everybody's dream comes true."
Three Super Bowls in five years.
Team of the Decade.
That's one mighty big dream.
A realistic dream, too.
First Published September 9, 2009 12:00 am