Every year, for at least the past couple of years, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ website has helped us learn a bit about our players, particularly the rookies, in the form of a generic questionnaire that they are asked to answer, and those answers are later published on the team’s website.
More often than not, the answers themselves are fairly generic and don’t reveal a lot of interesting information, but some answers just leap out as different, especially the more of them you read. One of the generic questions that every player is asked is to recall their proudest football memory, and the answer that James Conner gave was unique, from what I’ve seen.
He wrote, at first, that he has “had so many” proud memories of playing football, and he proceeded to list several of them, among them his return to the field last season after beating cancer. But his tone, and his answer, shifted as he went on.
“But I am hoping it’s a Super Bowl soon”, he said of his pending proudest moment in the game. “I am not saying I had a special moment until we win a Super Bowl”.
Conner understands what it’s all about. In the game of football, there is one ultimate goal that all players should pursue, and that is to win the championship of the sport at the highest level. That is the Super Bowl, and only 51 teams have been able to do so before, six of them being Steelers teams.
When it comes to Pittsburgh, that is always and only the ultimate goal every season, and every year in which they do not spend it apex hoisting the sticky Lombardi is a year in which they have failed to achieve their objective that they set forth at the beginning of that season.
From that perspective, they have failed 45 times, and they will no doubt fail many more, but in the interim, they have been failing better and better. Last season, they were on the precipice of their ninth trip to the Super Bowl, reaching the AFC Championship game while riding a nine-game losing streak—but we know how that ended.
When we talk about championship “windows”, we are generally talking about the career trajectories of franchise quarterbacks, and we have been made painfully aware of the window left ajar with Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement tease, now taking a year to year approach about his future.
So this may sound cynical, but if Conner hopes to establish that Super Bowl victory as his proudest football moment, then, more likely than not, it has to happen soon, because the odds of shifting from one franchise quarterback to another are incredibly low—about as low as winning a Super Bowl without a franchise quarterback.