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mesaSteeler
01-30-2011, 12:52 AM
On the Steelers: Art Rooney II has pointed the way and his team has followed
Sunday, January 30, 2011
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11030/1121331-66.stm

Franco Harris and Rocky Blier present the Lamar Hunt Trophy to Art Rooney II after the Steelers defeated the Jets in the AFC Championship Jan. 23 at Heinz Field. CBS broadcaster Jim Nance is at center.

Art Rooney II has a way of talking softly and carrying a big stick, and he's built quite a track record in his nine years as Steelers president, in terms of success on the field and as Pittsburgh's Nostradamus.

One year ago, in an extensive interview with the Post-Gazette, he declared that the Steelers should do two things better in 2010: Run the ball more consistently, and develop young players. Voila, the Steelers' running game improved in 2010 and everywhere you look there are rookies and young players who have contributed greatly to putting them in the Super Bowl.

But maybe Rooney's greatest declaration came in March 2005 at the unlikely place of Kapalua, Hawaii, where the NFL meetings were held. Again, in a far-ranging interview with the Post-Gazette, Rooney pointed to the fact that that the Steelers had not won a Super Bowl in 25 years, an entire generation, and that their aging Lombardi trophies needed some company.

He proclaimed that it was time for his franchise to win another Super Bowl.

"I think for the people who have been around for awhile now, I think we all feel like it's time," Rooney stated that day nearly six years ago. "We've been close and we have to take that last step."

That season the Steelers won their first Super Bowl in 26 years. Three years later, they won another. And now, six years after Rooney declared that "it's time," they earned a third chance to snare another Lombardi trophy to join their record six.

It's become apparent that when Art Rooney speaks, his people listen.

"That was kind of his message, it's time for us to get back in Super Bowls," said Chris Hoke, a Steelers defensive lineman since 2001. "There's a lot of rich tradition around here, a lot of expectations, and a lot of pride in the Steelers organization. It was time to get back."

The Steelers won their fourth Super Bowl in six years after the 1979 season and then came the long drought. Over the next 12 years, they made the playoffs just four times and reached the AFC championship once.

Starting with Bill Cowher's first season as coach in 1992, the revitalized Steelers reached the playoffs in each of his first six seasons and nine times in his first 13 seasons. But they were 1-4 in AFC championship games and lost their only Super Bowl appearance after the 1995 season by the time Rooney declared it was time to go all the way.

In March 2005, the Steelers were still smarting from losing the AFC championship game to New England at home two months earlier, the second time that had happened in four years.

"It was definitely frustrating, especially that 2004 season,'' said linebacker James Farrior, who signed with the Steelers as a free agent with the Jets in 2002. "We went 15-1, we thought we had the team to take us all the way. It was a very big disappointment when we lost that game at home. I think everybody was down and out but it seemed like we put it all together the next year."

Rooney talked of having the kind of team to win the Super Bowl and they did their best to keep it together. Their big loss before that season was wide receiver Plaxico Burress as a free agent.

"I think where we are now," Rooney said six years ago, "I think it's a team we'd like to try to keep together as much as we can. ... We feel there's a core group of guys on the team who can take us to that next step."

That was one giant leap for the Steelers in 2005, over the hump that was a lost generation of Super Bowls for the NFL's first true Super Bowl dynasty. Today, counting injured reserve, there are 18 players with two rings who have a chance for a third.

"This is sort of unbelievable," Farrior said. "I really can't believe people go their whole career without even smelling the Super Bowl. I have this opportunity to be back for my third time with guys I've been with the whole time. It's really something special, man, it's definitely something you have to take advantage of when you have the opportunity."

None of those with two rings say they take these trips for granted just because they've occurred so often.

"It's a different challenge every year," Farrior said. "It's always a different team, different distractions, different things come up. It's definitely a lot of work.

"To be in this situation for the third time in six years is something we don't take for granted because we know how hard it is to get to this position."

And getting there no longer is acceptable. That was made perfectly clear six years ago by the boss.

"We had to overcome a lot this year to get here,'' Hoke noted, "and the road's not finished."

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11030/1121331-66.stm#ixzz1CUzxSUY4