Only 15 franchises have experienced the joys and pleasures of winning the Lombardi Trophy. It's an exclusive club for a reason.
What makes it so exclusive is how hard it is assemble the talent, peak at the right time and have the tenacity to win it all. The Steelers, Cowboys and 49ers have five Super Bowl titles apiece, more than a third of the 40 championships.
The reasons for their success are stability, character players, quarterbacks who are leaders and great head coaches who set the right agenda. As hard as other franchises try, it's difficult to capture all of those elements.
Following the most recent Super Bowl, folks were taken aback by a Bill Cowher statement that the Steelers might not have been the most talented team in 2005. He was right. One or two other teams might have been more talented on paper. Although the Steelers were a wild card and a No. 6 seed in the AFC, they would have been the No. 2 seed were it not for some poor performances by Ben Roethlisberger's backup while Roethlisberger recovered from injuries.
Raiders boss Al Davis has said that in certain years, teams can steal a Super Bowl, and that's what the Steelers did. They got hot at the end of the season and put everything together when the odds were against them. The key is to fight adversity, and that doesn't happen if the team isn't filled with character players and the right leadership.
When Pittsburgh lost 38-31 to the Bengals on Dec. 4 at Heinz Field, the Steelers were at a crossroads. They were 7-5. The Bengals, led by vocal wide receiver Chad Johnson, came off the field waving Terrible Towels to announce a new day was dawning in the AFC North, that the Bengals were suddenly the team to beat.
At that moment, the Steelers started to come together as a championship team.
The Steelers had everything in place to make a Super Bowl run. Cowher has been a good enough coach to get the Steelers to a Super Bowl, but now he had a quarterback who could be a difference maker in big games. It's hard to win Super Bowls without a quarterback like Roethlisberger. And Pittsburgh's roster was filled with experienced players and great leaders.
"It starts with organization and it starts with ownership," center Jeff Hartings said. "This is one of the most stable if not the most stable team in NFL history. You also have to have high-character guys, and we have high-character guys on this team. If you evaluate the guys they draft on this team, it's unbelievable how good this team is for character guys. I'm one of the lone free agents they brought in here, so I can tell you how important it is to have character."
Seasons are long, and even the best teams face adversity. Maybe it's an injury. Maybe it's a slump. Maybe it's an off-the-field incident. In a four-month season, everything isn't going to go perfectly, so the leadership has to be in place in coaching and in the locker room to keep the team focused during the tough times.
The Steelers had all the elements in place. Cowher is a bright coach and is loaded with a great group of assistants. Since Chuck Noll turned around the losing ways of the Steelers in the 1970s, the Steelers emphasized building teams through the draft. The Rooney family never overpaid, but it kept a stable foundation. To think that the team has had only two coaches in four decades of football is incredible.