In modern-era NFL history, any team with three Super Bowl wins within a decade gets classified as a dynasty. The Packers of the 60s (who get credit for the first two Super Bowl wins and three NFL titles in the five years before that), the Steelers of the 70s, the 49ers of the 80s, the Cowboys of the 90s, and the Patriots of the 2000s are all recognized as such.
With a victory over the New York Jets in the AFC Championship game tomorrow, and another Super Bowl title in two weeks, the 2004-’10 Steelers would also become a dynasty, ranking behind the ’01-’07 Patriots statistically, but still more worthy of the dynasty tag.
Within that seven-year stretch, Pittsburgh would have on its resume:
– 3 Super Bowl titles
– 4 Appearances in AFC Championship game
– 5 Appearances in the AFC playoffs
– 0 Losing seasons
– A 15-1 regular season that did not include a Super Bowl title
Memo to ESPN’s Tom Jackson: The Patriots dynasty of the 2000s is over. New England has not won a playoff game since 2007 and has not won a Super Bowl since 2004. In fact, only seven current Patriots (QB Tom Brady, RB Kevin Faulk, DLs Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren, and OL Dan Koppen, Matt Light and Stephen Neal) have continuously been with the franchise since their last Super Bowl title.
This means that even if New England wins the Lombardi trophy in 2011 season, it would be with a new group of players and that does not count toward their 2000s dynasty. (Much like the 1994 Super Bowl champion 49ers did not count toward that franchise’s 1980s dynasty.)
In contrast, the Steelers had 13 players on their opening-day 22-man starting lineup this season, who have continuously been with the Steelers since the current group won its first Super Bowl title in the 2005 season (QB Ben Roethlisberger, WR Hines Ward, TE Heath Miller, OL Trai Essex, Chris Kemoeatu, and Max Starks, DLs Casey Hampton, Brett Keisel, and Aaron Smith, LBs James Harrison and James Farrior, and DBs Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor).
Now, let’s compare this current, soon-to-be Steelers dynasty to the ’01-’07 Patriots, who are the only other franchise deemed a dynasty in the post-free-agency era. The ’01-’07 Patriots had on its resume:
– 3 Super Bowl titles ***
– 4 Appearances in the Super Bowl ***
– 6 Appearances in the AFC playoffs *****
– 0 Losing seasons
– A 16-0 regular season that did not include a Super Bowl title
While not by much, it is clear that the ’01-’07 Patriots tallied a better statistical resume than the ’04-’10 Steelers, even if Pittsburgh wins its seventh franchise Lombardi trophy this year. But why are all those asterisks above?
Because if this was college football, none of those New England titles would remain in the record books; they were earned through cheating. Remember Spygate? It is a huge advantage when you illegally film another team’s walk-through practices. Anyone who argues this did not provide a huge advantage for the Patriots knows little about football.
I never will forget Hines Ward saying, after New England upset the Steelers in the 2001 AFC Championship game, that it was like the Patriots knew every play Pittsburgh was going to run before the ball was snapped.
Most people, including myself, assumed that was because New England coach Bill Belichick was a genius. But really it was because he was a successful cheater. Tonya Harding, Ben Johnson, SMU football and Belichick are all of similar character (or complete lackthereof).
The only reasons Belichick did not receive near the public scorn is because the NFL tried to push his transgressions under the table for fear of losing public trust (and especially those of gamblers) in the fairness of its product, and because the media were too busy blowing Tom Brady and Belichick during the 2007 undefeated regular season, when the Spygate details first emerged.
In reality, the 2010 Steelers should be vying for its fifth Super Bowl tile in 10 seasons, making it arguably the greatest dynasty in NFL history, and comparable to the more talented Steelers of the 70s.
Like the Patriots, Pittsburgh would have likely upset the Rams, too, in the Super Bowl after the 2001 season and would have rolled the Eagles in the Super Bowl after the Steelers’ 15-1 season in 2004. But Pittsburgh was literally cheated out of AFC Championship game titles both of those seasons.
Regardless, two more wins this season and the ’04-’10 Steelers are a dynasty. While slightly trailing the ’01-’07 Patriots in accomplishments, most real football insiders will place this Steelers group ahead of a franchise that still has zero legitimate titles to its credit.