The Pittsburgh Steelers are rightfully viewed as the model of consistency as a franchise. Nobody has had more success than they have in the modern era of the NFL since the 1970 merger. They have posted the best overall record, have been to the postseason as much as anybody, and have won the Super Bowl more frequently.
A huge part of that consistency has come down to continuity, with stability at ownership, now in its third generation under Art Rooney II, and with a successful line of head coaches from Chuck Noll to Mike Tomlin in the present day from 1969 to 2017.
In between Noll and Tomlin, of course, was Bill Cowher, who broke a decades-long championship brought in 2005, his final season, and his second with Ben Roethlisberger. Since then, the quarterback has blossomed into one of the best in the game, while the coach has moved on to broadcasting.
But that doesn’t stop him from rooting for the Steelers, whom he said he hopes adds a seventh Lombardi to the trophy case after he was in town for a pre-production meeting and conducting interviews for today’s broadcast.
While there, he spoke to the team’s website about the Steelers and Roethlisberger and what he sees in the makeup of the team, and he hit on two themes: flexibility and resilience. And these traits are largely a product of the diversity of their group.
Sprinkled throughout the team is a mixture of veterans and youth in key areas. “You see the energetic youthfulness of JuJu Smith-Schuster”, Cowher said, “and the veteran leadership of Ben. Antonio Brown understanding what it takes. A veteran offensive line…there is youthful energy, but veteran wisdom that has been a good blend for them”.
In reality, the offensive line has become the most seasoned position group on the roster. The most inexperienced player on the line is Alejandro Villanueva in his third season, during nearly all of which he has started, but we know his background and why he is beyond the average third-year player.
Cowher touched on the dynamic at wide receiver, but it’s there everywhere. He pointed out that Joe Haden “gives you experience” in contrast to Artie Burns and Mike Hilton. “It’s like with Mike Mitchell and Sean Davis” as well, he said. “Cameron Heyward is stabilizing the front seven, with young guys like T.J. Watt and Stephon Tuitt.
Of course, there is one key piece missing from the field, though not from the team, and that is Ryan Shazier, who bridges that divide between youth and leadership. In his fourth season, all as a starter, and his second time as a Pro Bowler, the signal-caller of the defense, the 25-year-old is and was in many ways the nucleus and the essence of this veteran-youth dynamic.