The Pittsburgh Steelers spent decades looking for “one for the thumb”, that is, a fifth Super Bowl championship and its accompanying ring. They became the first franchise in NFL history in the late 1970s to win three, and then to win four, but it took them until 2005 to get number five. The sixth followed a short three years later.
They’ve been on the “Stairway to Seven” ever since then, nearing that “decades” threshold at this point heading into the 2023 season, but the goal never wavers. It’s the Super Bowl, and everybody who comes to Pittsburgh understands that, including nose defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko.
“All I’ve been hearing is the hunt for seven. Growing up, all I heard was Sixburgh, Sixburgh”, he told Kevin Adams and Jersey Jerry on the Steel Here podcast. “That’s the kind of stuff that, when I signed with [Pittsburgh], I said, ‘You know what, I’ve got to pick my shit up’. There’s a real focal point on football here and I love it because that’s gonna bring out the best in players”.
Head coach Mike Tomlin likes to say “the standard is the standard”, and everybody knows what that is as soon as they step into the facility. They have to walk by the trophy room with the six Lombardis as they come in to work, a not-so-subtle reminder of what it is they are all putting in this work to achieve.
And everybody contributes to that, no matter how large or small the role. Whether you’re talking about Santonio Holmes and LaMarr Woodley or Mitch Berger and Anthony Madison, championship rosters are built from top to bottom with a group of individuals of like mind.
Fehoko hopes to be a cog in the Steelers’ latest Super Bowl machine, and he does have a specific niche to fill if he can bring it out of himself. He is a two-gapping, run-stopping nose tackle, plain and simple. If he can come onto the field for 300 to 400 snaps and contribute to a strong run defense, then he will have done his job.
In the same interview, Fehoko talked about how much he loves to do the dirty work and to take up space to allow others to play free, even telling his teammates that they can freelance around him and he’ll cover for them. It’s all in the name of the greater good, of making plays and winning games. He doesn’t need the glamorous stats. He knows he’s not that guy.
Fehoko ended up a fan favorite during his three years with the Los Angeles Chargers before they opted not to tender him this offseason as a restricted free agent. One gets the sense that he can be that here, as well. Who would be surprised about a Pittsburgh crowd getting behind a hefty nose tackle? I mean, come on.