Alejandro Villanueva has certainly seen a lot in his life. He has probably accomplished more by the age of 29 than most will in multiple lifetimes. Yet he will be the first to admit that he is not a head coach nor a general manager and doesn’t know how to go about building a team that wins a Super Bowl.
In fact, he was the first to say it, speaking to reporters after Sunday’s loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars that prematurely ended the Pittsburgh Steelers’ season in the Divisional Round. “From my little world of the left tackle, I just don’t have the answer right now”, he conceded.
Yet he still thinks about it. And he looks around the locker room and sees a ton of talent. So he can’t help but think, perhaps it takes more than just a collective group of talented players. The whole must be more than the sum of its parts, does it not?
“Maybe it’s not just talent that’s going get you to the championship”, the former Army Ranger ruminated. “And maybe we need to find that out. But again, I’m not a head coach either. I’ve never won a Super Bowl. I don’t know what it takes to win a Super Bowl”.
All he can think to do is the look around the league and compared what he sees in his own group to the successful models of other franchises. Naturally, in such a discussion, eyes will tend to turn toward the New England Patriots, who have won five Super Bowls over the course of the past decade and a half or so.
“I think that maybe you can look around the NFL and see what traits are winning Super Bowls. And maybe that’s the winning formula”, he told reporters. Though he also knows that what works for one team might not necessarily work for another.
And he also knows that, despite their 13-3 record this past season, they were not necessarily the dominant team that might indicate. “We did execute and won a lot of games when maybe we shouldn’t have. A lot of lucky plays, field goals and whatnot”, he said.
“I think it’s almost like college football — you have to be that dominant throughout the season. And when you go into the playoffs you have to show that dominance”, Villanueva continued. “It’s not one of those things where you get to the playoffs and then you can maybe scramble and get by and win three more games”.
Are the Steelers on the cusp of reaching that point where they can be dominant? The defense looked like it might be there in the first half of the season. The offense looked like it might be there in the second half. What if they can put it all together next season? Are the pieces in place? Are new pieces needed?
These are not questions for either Villanueva or myself to answer. But it’s something we’ll both spend time thinking about, knowing our own limitations on the subject.