End Zone: Are the Steelers the Greatest NFL Franchise?

Yinz had better believe it. It's not just the hardware (a half-dozen Vince Lombardi trophies) - it's the hearts of Steelers Nation they've won over and over and over.



Illustration By Patrick Neil

So as he concludes our interview, the radio guy in San Diego says to me, "I've never been to Pittsburgh. And people here love the Chargers. But just observing from way out here on the West Coast, it seems that it's a bit more special back there in Pittsburgh when it comes to the Steelers."

BINGO! He got it. They got it. Finally, they ALL got it. They - meaning all who don't understand french fries on sandwiches - "get" what the Steelers mean to Western Pennsylvania.I'm supposed to be writing an analysis as to whether the Steelers are the greatest NFL franchise. I suppose the half-dozen Vince Lombardi trophies residing on the South Side are testament to the assertion, but it's more than that.

What makes the Steelers the best franchise is not judged by the hardware they've won, but rather by the hearts they've won. That's the first requisite to me to be considered for the mythical title. After all, when all is said and done, professional football is a business. And despite the competitive aspects, it is part of the entertainment business.

But the difference between following the Steelers and going to a movie or a musical is that no one roots for the guy playing the Phantom or Brad Pitt, despite his last name. People may root for a character or a good performance in order to get their money's worth, but no one ever called in sick the next day if his favorite actor stunk out the joint.

If football is the fabric of Western Pennsylvania, then the Steelers are the sutures that bind it together. The Hatfield Tigers may hate their neighboring McCoy Lions on Friday nights, but on Sundays, even they lay down their arms to form the common bond in rooting for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Clearly, any franchise winning four Super Bowls in six years, then another two in four years this decade, would be incredibly popular. But there's more to it here. Here, we like our football tough, because life here has often been tough. The people have been hardened to the vagaries of life and require their heroes to be at least as tough as they are. And so while 60-yard touchdown passes are nice, pulverizing hits are nicer. While winning is great, winning by punishing the other team is greater.

And franchise owners, general managers and coaches have unilaterally come to recognize that if it's not just success you seek, but enduring success and stability, then the Steelers' way is how it must be done. That is the measure of the greatest franchise, not merely the number of championships won.

It didn't take coach Mike Tomlin long to figure it out. He had a vague understanding of Steelers Nation when he took the job. But he admitted his understanding indeed was vague. It was the morning after his victory in Super Bowl XLIII when he made this observation:

"You know, when you're in other organizations, you recognize that it's different and you respect it. But until you're part of it, you have no idea the depths of it. I mean, it's generational. It's passed down from father to son. It's unbelievable. I don't know if I can use words to eloquently describe the relationship that this organization has with Steeler Nation. I know the more I get to understand, the more Steeler Nation drives me. I want to give them something exciting. I want to perform for them. I want to win for them because they're that special."

That's what makes the Steelers the best franchise in the NFL. The trophies are window-dressing. It's the fact that the rest of the country and the rest of the league finally get what we have always known.

That ought to make you feel good. It ought to make you feel proud to be part of something so grand. I know I am.

 

 

One of the most respected sportscasters in Pittsburgh, Stan Savran has served as host of FSN Pittsburgh's "SPORTSBEAT" since February of 1992. During football season, Savran hosts "The Mike Tomlin Show" and "The Mike Tomlin Press Conference." Honored in the Western Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, Savran brings more than 30 years of experience in the Pittsburgh market to thousands of sports fans every day.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Host an event in Pittsburgh’s urban sustainable homestead. Join a club for mushroom hunters. Tour a coal mine. Listen to some banjo music. We list our new favorite experiences, food, drink, personalities, stores, items and activities in the ’Burgh.
Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Fourteen years ago this month, the mighty Kinzua Viaduct met its match.
Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

The restaurant, run by Dinette’s Sonja J. Finn, boosts the dining experience at the Carnegie museums in Oakland.
Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

FASTER Pittsburghʼs Hip Hop Cardio promises to get your workout into a groove.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

See The Tiny House with Room to Grow

See The Tiny House with Room to Grow

The housing company Module, a Pittsburgh start-up, creates an alternative housing model that grows in size as you grow in income.
Watch: Pittsburgh Penguins Video Tribute to Marc-André Fleury

Watch: Pittsburgh Penguins Video Tribute to Marc-André Fleury

With a tear in our eye, we bid the “Flower” Au Revoir.
Finally, a Faster Way From Pittsburgh to Oakland and Beyond

Finally, a Faster Way From Pittsburgh to Oakland and Beyond

A proposed route for new electric buses will connect 30,000 people throughout 24 neighborhoods.
Extras Wanted: Cate Blanchett Shooting Movie in Pittsburgh

Extras Wanted: Cate Blanchett Shooting Movie in Pittsburgh

“Where’d You Go, Bernadette,” a movie based on the best-selling comedic novel, will begin filming in the ‘Burgh next month.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Host an event in Pittsburgh’s urban sustainable homestead. Join a club for mushroom hunters. Tour a coal mine. Listen to some banjo music. We list our new favorite experiences, food, drink, personalities, stores, items and activities in the ’Burgh.
Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Fourteen years ago this month, the mighty Kinzua Viaduct met its match.
Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

The restaurant, run by Dinette’s Sonja J. Finn, boosts the dining experience at the Carnegie museums in Oakland.
Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

FASTER Pittsburghʼs Hip Hop Cardio promises to get your workout into a groove.
Curling in Pittsburgh: ‘It's Basically Golf and Chess on Ice’

Curling in Pittsburgh: ‘It's Basically Golf and Chess on Ice’

On the eve of its largest annual event, the Pittsburgh Curling Club has plans to increase Pittsburgh’s appreciation for its intricate sport.
Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in June

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in June

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


See The Tiny House with Room to Grow

See The Tiny House with Room to Grow

The housing company Module, a Pittsburgh start-up, creates an alternative housing model that grows in size as you grow in income.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Pusadee's Garden Will Close at End of Year (But Not Forever)

Pusadee's Garden Will Close at End of Year (But Not Forever)

Look for some big changes at the Upper Lawrenceville restaurant, which is expected to shutter for at least a year.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Read on for some under-the-radar ideas on how you and the kids can survive a rainy day this summer.

Comments


High-Wire Acts at Carnegie Science Center

High-Wire Acts at Carnegie Science Center

The North Shore landmark's new ropes course is a draw for adults and youths alike.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
History Can Wait Until Penguins Are Done Making It

History Can Wait Until Penguins Are Done Making It

The desire for more a year ago helped fuel the Penguins’ quest to repeat this season. Should their thirst for yet another Cup prove as unquenchable next season, there’s no limit to what they might yet achieve. Even a Three-peat.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Make the Cut with Jonathan Moran Woodworks

Make the Cut with Jonathan Moran Woodworks

The Strip District-based woodworker's cutting boards can be custom made with the wood of your choice.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Buckle Up ... Again, as Cars 3 Hits Theaters

Buckle Up ... Again, as Cars 3 Hits Theaters

Reviews of "Cars 3" and "47 Meters Down," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Enchanting Summery Trends to Illuminate Your Wedding Palette

Enchanting Summery Trends to Illuminate Your Wedding Palette

You’ll definitely want to pin these new summer wedding trends to your Pinterest board.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Blooming: Pittsburgh Botanic Garden Hosts Town & Country Tour

Blooming: Pittsburgh Botanic Garden Hosts Town & Country Tour

From a forest of Japanese maples to a rocky urban sanctuary, the annual tour covers 14 very different gardens across the East End.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Visit Thiel College for a Summer BBQ

Visit Thiel College for a Summer BBQ

On three days this summer, the college will host visit days for prospective students.

Comments

Edit Module