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Old 01-04-2011, 04:32 PM   #1
A Son of Martha

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Default Harris: Steelers never tire of success

Harris: Steelers never tire of success
By John Harris
Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Good day, Pittsburgh: Bet you didn't know the most underrated team in football plays in your backyard. (Yeah John, I think we knew that. - mesa)

This year's 12-4 Steelers fooled us all. Fooled me. Fooled you. Fooled everybody but those 53 players, coaches, front-office staff and owners.

The running joke in the press box before Sunday's final regular-season game was concern about reporters being forced to spend the upcoming weekend in Kansas City if the Steelers somehow lost to Cleveland.

After disposing of the Browns with a dominating performance, the Steelers hoisted their second AFC North flag in three years.

Yes, the Steelers -- with their no-name defense whose starters are supposedly too old, and whose offensive linemen who supposedly can't block -- are the No. 2 seed in the AFC.

The geriatric Steelers lead the league in run defense and are second in total defense. And quarterback Ben Roethlisberger didn't get killed playing behind that offensive line.

"The only people that thought it was a problem, really, were (the media) and the fans," Roethlisberger scolded after the 41-9 blowout win over the Browns.

Coach Mike Tomlin is winning with a cast of star players the likes of which the NFL has rarely witnessed.

The Steelers continue to win with a core group of players who are two playoff wins removed from appearing in their third Super Bowl in six years.

In another city not spoiled by their team winning four Super Bowls during the 1970s, these Steelers wouldn't have been doubted two years after winning Super Bowl XLIII, and five years removed from winning Super Bowl XL.

They would have been described as a championship team catching its second wind.

Instead, these Steelers were considered too flawed, too injured and too old entering this season.

"The people of Pittsburgh are the best fans in the world," said former NFL executive Gil Brandt, who won two Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys. "I think sometimes they have to understand you can't be perfect at every position and have a continuation of success like they had (since) Roethlisberger came along."

Brandt, who contributes to NFL.com and whose opinions are heard regularly on the Sirius NFL Network, makes a valid point. The Steelers were able to draft Roethlisberger only because they finished 6-10 in 2003 -- their last season with a losing record. The Steelers have missed the playoffs twice in Roethlisberger's seven seasons.

In the two years they didn't qualify for the postseason, the Steelers were 8-8 in 2006 -- Bill Cowher's final season -- and 9-7 in 2009.

Putting last season in perspective, the Steelers shook up their coaching staff after not making the playoffs, while the New York Jets advanced to the AFC Championship Game despite finishing the regular season with an identical 9-7 record.

Nobody expects more from the Steelers than their own players.

"Do I like my team's chances now? I've been liking my team's chances all the time," said Mike Wallace, a confident second-year wide receiver who has gone on record as saying there isn't a defensive back in the league he can't beat one-on-one. "With the group of guys that we have, we go to work every day. We work hard every day. I don't see a day where anybody takes off from work."

The Steelers pride themselves in putting team goals ahead of individual glory. The front office purposely targets draft picks and free agents who excel in a team concept.

That's why you saw nose tackle Casey Hampton, defensive end Brett Keisel and cornerback Ike Taylor play selflessly this season so that inside linebackers Lawrence Timmons and James Farrior could rack up tackles, outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley could sack quarterbacks and safety Troy Polamalu could free-lance and make plays.

"You're never going to see us on 'Hard Knocks,' " said safety Ryan Clark, referring to the HBO show that featured the Jets before the start of the season. "We're not going to be the team that's seen. We have a team of football players.

"There's no TV stars here. We have one guy in here with a commercial (Polamalu), and that's just because he has nice hair. This organization is about winning championships."

Yes, it is.

And if the Steelers win another Super Bowl this season, or if they don't win it all but come close, don't complain or criticize. Appreciate the Steelers for what they've been for a long time:

About as good as it gets.
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