Greg Eno

Posts Tagged ‘Pittsburgh Steelers’

The Steel Curtain Closes on a Wonderful Football Life

In football, Uncategorized on June 15, 2014 at 3:57 pm

Rocky Bleier recalled how Chuck Noll once tried to tell a joke.

“It went on and on and he told it so poorly,” formerPittsburgh Steelers running back Bleier said on an episode of NFL Network’s “America’s Game,” chronicling one of the Steelers’ four Super Bowl titles in the 1970s.

The joke landed with a thud.

Bleier and other Steelers teammates recounted on “America’s Game” how Noll, the legendary coach who died the other day at age 82, was right to never quit his day job when it came to comedy.

That day job, of course, was helming the Steelers to the tune of those four rings and spearheading the resurrection of a franchise that was 1-13 in Noll’s first year in 1969.

The Steelers, with Noll’s great influence, drafted with a precision never seen before or after in the NFL. The Hall of Famers kept getting plucked off the board, and not just in the first round.

In 1969, Noll drafted defensive lineman Joe Greene first. In 1970, the Steelers added QB Terry Bradshaw. Those were first-rounders, but throughout most of the ’70s, Noll and the Steelers found diamonds in the rough.

By 1972, just three years after the 1-13 debacle (the Steelers’ only win that year was against the Lions, of course), Noll had the Steelers in the playoffs, as they beat the Oakland Raiders with the famous Immaculate Reception by Franco Harris.

Two years later, the Steelers started their assault on the league by winning their first of four Super Bowls between 1974 and 1979.

Noll’s stoicism and lack of humor was likely forged by playing for Cleveland’s staid Paul Brown, for whom Noll was an offensive lineman from 1953-59, spending his last three years blocking for Jim Brown.

The NFL from the 1950s through the 1990s was nicely segmented into decades that belonged to select franchises.

The ’50s belonged to the Browns and the Detroit Lions. Those two teams accounted for six of the ten champions in the decade, and they usually did so by beating the other for the title.

The 1960s was the Green Bay Packers’ decade. The 1980s and ’90s belonged to the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys, respectively.

And the 1970s were, unquestioningly, the years of the Steelers.

Noll was Don Shula’s defensive coordinator for the 13-1 Baltimore Colts of 1968—the team that was upset by Joe Namath and the New York Jets in Super Bowl III.

As an assistant, you could do much worse than Noll, who not only worked for Shula, but also for offensive wizard Sid Gillman in San Diego (AFL).

So it was with that pedigree that Noll was hired by Art Rooney Sr. to coach a Steelers team that had long been the sad sacks of the NFL.

The Steelers, for much of the 1960s, were the anti-Packers. A typical year was 5-9. Actually, that was a good year in the Steel City. In those days, Pittsburgh was as associated with winning football as ice cream is with sardines.  Noll took over a team that finished 2-11-1 in 1968.

Despite the drafting of Greene, the Steelers went 1-13 in 1969 but the groundwork was being laid.

But it was the drafting of Bradshaw from Louisiana Tech that began one of the most contentiously successful relationships in pro sports history.

Noll and Bradshaw were the Earl Weaver and Jim Palmer of the NFL.

“My relationship wasn’t good, as you well know, but he made me understand my job responsibilities, because I had to grow up,” Bradshaw said in a statement. “He was a tough coach to me, and I spent more time with him than anybody, so I know. I learned how to be mentally tough with him, and for that I can never say thank you enough, because that got me through divorces, Super Bowls, and those times when I had bad moments in big games.”

The Bradshaw Era ended on a sour note in 1983, when the quarterback felt that Noll rushed Bradshaw back from an elbow injury too soon. Bradshaw re-injured the elbow throwing a pass—his last, which went for a touchdown—and retired.

The bad taste stuck in both parties’ mouths.

But like Weaver and Palmer with the Baltimore Orioles, Noll and Bradshaw managed to win despite their chilly personal relationship.

Noll’s drafting and coaching up of late round picks combined to form a tornado that swept through the NFL in the 1970s. And after those Steelers players retired, Noll was able to re-tool and bring the Steelers back to the AFC Championship game in 1984 with Mark Malone and David Woodley—two guys who, combined, couldn’t hold Bradshaw’s jock—at quarterback.

The great coaches in the NFL have one common thread, and that is the impact they have on their players that extends beyond the playing days. Lombardi’s Packers players will talk all day about how their coach made them better people.

“Vince was proud of two things. Making great football players out of men, and making men out of football players,” Lombardi’s wife Marie once said. “But I think he was more proud of making men out of football players.”

Noll had that same aura with his players in Pittsburgh.

“Chuck was just the ultimate leader,” said Greene, who played his entire career for Noll. “He had truth and belief in what he was saying, and over time all of those things he said were validated, the things about winning football games and being a solid citizen.”

They don’t make them like Chuck Noll anymore. Today’s football coaches in the NFL, I believe, subconsciously are too aware of trying to be one of the guys. It’s a so-called “player’s league” now and that means you can’t be too tough—or else you’ll find yourself getting the ziggy in favor of someone who is more lenient.

But Noll was much more than a football coach. He was a mentor, a supreme detector of pro football talent and, as corny as it may sound, a father figure to many of his players.

One of Noll’s former players who turned into a heck of a coach himself, Tony Dungy, had a favorite Noll-ism.

“Everyone’s job is important, but no one is indispensable.”

It was that kind of drive that kept a group of Hall of Famers focused and on their toes enough to win the brass ring four times in six seasons. Complacency was a dirty word in Steeler Town.

Noll once explained the key to the Steelers’ success.

“The single most important thing we had in the Steelers of the ’70s was the ability to work together … If someone else was having a tough time on a particular day, they reached down and got it (going) a little more. … Whatever they had to do, they did it to win.”

Bradshaw Forgets Own Legacy in His Rebuke of Clausen

In football on August 4, 2010 at 4:07 pm

The irony drips like a faucet with a bad washer.

The speaker was Terry Bradshaw, Hall of Fame quarterback—he of the four Super Bowl rings won with the Pittsburgh Steelers. And he was offering his opinions on some of the young gun QBs in the NFL currently.

After damning the Lions’ Matthew Stafford with praise, Bradshaw turned venomous when it came to Carolina rookie Jimmy Clausen, the Panthers’ second-round pick out of Notre Dame.

“Let me say what I said before earlier up to the (NFL) draft,” Bradshaw began about Clausen. “I didn’t like him in college and I don’t like him now. I never did like him. I don’t like his delivery. I don’t like his motion. I think he’s too slow. “Physically, the way he threw the football, I just didn’t like him. (There’s) way too much shoulder action. (He’s) just another guy as far as I’m concerned.”

About that irony…

Bradshaw was drafted first overall by the Steelers in 1970, out of Louisiana Tech. Before long, most of the city would have chipped in for a one-way plane ticket out of town for their young QB.

Bradshaw didn’t possess the classic skills of a top-flight NFL quarterback, as it turned out. He didn’t have a very strong arm. He was slow. He wasn’t all that accurate.

On top of that, Terry Bradshaw was portrayed as not having the brains to be a pro quarterback.

Bradshaw was a country bumpkin who didn’t sound like anyone from the Steel City would embrace. He opened his mouth and southern twanged words dropped out. He was a hick, trying to win over the blue collars of Pittsburgh.

The Steelers were coming off a 1-13 season when they drafted Bradshaw. If this is our savior, the Steelers fans said, then we’re living down below where it’s burning all the time.

Bradshaw wasn’t a premier quarterback. He really wasn’t. He rose to the level of adequate just in time for the Steelers to add pieces like Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, and Franco Harris. Oh, and the best defense of the 1970s.

Bradshaw’s career numbers don’t leap out at you. They don’t even blink. If they were in a window, they’d be the last item chosen by the shoppers—with CLEARANCE labels slapped over it.

But Bradshaw won four Super Bowls, armed with a running game, Pro Bowl receivers, and one of the stingiest defenses ever fielded.

It’s reminiscent of what baseball manager Leo Durocher once said about one of his players, Eddie “The Brat” Stanky.

“He can’t run, he can’t hit, he can’t field,” Durocher said. “All he does is beat you.”

Bradshaw couldn’t throw, couldn’t run, couldn’t elude. He was less than smart.

But he’s in the Hall of Fame with those four rings.

So I had to chuckle when I read Bradshaw’s rebuke of the young Clausen, who has yet to throw his first NFL pass.

Very similar dreck was spewed about Bradshaw, back in the day. To Steelers fans, Bradshaw wasn’t a quarterback—he was a criminal sentence that had been levied on them.

Until the organization surrounded him with fellow Hall of Famers, on both sides of the ball.

Bradshaw ought to know better than to offer such stinging criticism of a young quarterback before his career has really gotten going.

Forty years ago, Bradshaw arrived in Pittsburgh—a country bumpkin with precious few brains. Thirteen years after that, he retired as an under-talented legend.

Now he’s burying Jimmy Clausen before the kid is even in the starting gate.

Maybe Terry isn’t so bright, after all.

Just Like That, Steel Curtain Closes On Lions’ Chances

In football on October 12, 2009 at 3:50 pm

They say more NFL games than you know come down to a handful of plays. The talent level, supposedly, is so close from team to team that in any given game, wins and losses are often decided by maybe no more than three or four percent of the total number of plays run.

Usually, though, those three or four plays are scattered throughout the game’s sixty minutes. They’re rarely bunched together, rat-a-tat-tat, at the end of the match.

But that’s exactly what happened at Ford Field—a.k.a. Heinz Field North—on Sunday as the Pittsburgh Steelers fended off the Lions, 28-20.

The Steelers sacked Lions QB Daunte Culpepper three straight times within the final 90 seconds of regulation, turning a 1st-and-10 from the Steelers’ 21 into 4th-and-34 from their 45, thus sealing the victory.

Only the Lions could turn such a golden opportunity for a tying score into a desperate, Hail Mary situation in a matter of seconds.

Well, the Lions—and the Steelers themselves.

This is no ordinary defense, the one they have in Pittsburgh. Pro Bowler James Harrison spent almost as much time in the Lions backfield as running back Kevin Smith. The Steelers pressured Culpepper more than what the Hoover Dam deals with every day.

And the Lions have no ordinary offensive line. In fact, they’d kill for ordinary, because they’re still not quite at mediocre yet.

And you hoped that Matthew Stafford would play on Sunday? Heck, we might be eulogizing him this morning.

Culpepper, though, didn’t exactly show much elusiveness in that final drive, which was surprisingly punctuated by a couple of nice catches by rookie Derrick Williams. Daunte may have lost a lot of weight, but he went down sometimes if he was breathed on funny.

Sadly, he picked a couple of those times during that fateful three-play stretch. Steelers DB William Gay blitzed on the third sack, and clipped Culpepper with his arms, and the Lions QB plopped to the turf, his attempt at avoiding Gay about the most pathetic you’ll ever see.

Would Stafford had done better? Even if he had—on that play—let’s just say that the kid picked a good game to miss.

And the Steelers fans picked a good game not to miss.

They came in droves to Detroit, and if there was a home field advantage for the Lions, it was a trickle—the Steelers fans filtering it capably.

But it was because of those Steelers zealots that the game was sold out in time for the NFL to lift the blackout.

Which meant, of course, that we were lucky enough to see those three rat-a-tat-tat sacks that effectively squashed the Lions’ hopes of tying the game.

Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, the former Lion, is up for Hall of Fame consideration. It’s debatable whether it’s more for his exploits on the field or on the sidelines. But in about 30 seconds on Sunday, LeBeau sealed his induction, as far as I’m concerned.

Those three sacks should go down in Steelers lore, albeit them coming against the—no pun intended—sad-sack Lions. Seriously, when was the last time you saw a team change a game so definitively and so dramatically, so quickly and so late?

That’s a lot of “sos,” I know, but goodness gracious—LeBeau dialed up the pressure and his players responded, big time.

Ahh, players. The Steelers, like most NFL teams save a handful, have more good ones than the Lions have. But the Lions showed some moxie, making big plays on both sides of the ball and converting 11-of-18 third downs, which is their new thing this year.

DB William James had a “pick six” for the Lions, and I think the last one of those might be Shaun Rogers’ long gallop against the Denver Broncos at Ford Field, two years ago.

But Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger completed 13 passes in a row after James’ interception, proving why he’s one of the game’s greats. The elite guys bounce back like super balls following such duress.

As for the Lions, despite the new cast of characters, you still don’t get the feeling that any late-game drives are going to end up positively, such as Sunday’s. And you won’t, until they actually start to occur. But here’s the rub: I think they might, sooner rather than later.

The o-line is bad, but the Lions put a scare into the Steelers without Calvin Johnson, injured earlier. The playcalling is the main reason; o-coordinator Scott Linehan calls a good game, for the most part. Until the Lions get reinforcements on the line, they’ll struggle, but the talent level and Linehan’s mind will just have to combine for at least one heroic, late-game drive this year.

The Steelers fans who piled into their vehicles and made the trek to Detroit went home happy.

You can only wonder when you can start saying that with any consistency about the hometown folks, whose twenty, thirty minute jaunts have seemed longer than the one from Detroit to Pittsburgh in recent years.

XLIII Lives Up To The Hype, And Then Some

In football on February 2, 2009 at 5:05 pm

“Yesterday the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t just play a football game — they collaborated and co-authored some of the finest theater the NFL has ever put on.”


Now THIS one was really Super.

It used to be, in the earlier days of the NFL-AFL Championship Game, which soon became known as the Super Bowl, that professional football’s supposedly finest hour was instead 15 minutes of garish fame. Seemingly decent matchups on parchment were then played on a “Super Sunday” — in January, once upon a time — and not long after halftime, you were wondering what the other two channels were showing. Sometimes you wondered midway through the second quarter.

The Super Bowls of the 1970s and most of the 1980s were dog games. The parties were always better.

But the Super Bowl seems to be mimicking fine wine; it’s getting better as it ages.

The game looks pretty good for XLIII. Doesn’t look a day over XXX.

Yesterday the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t just play a football game — they collaborated and co-authored some of the finest theater the NFL has ever put on.

This might have been the best of the XLIII — and last year’s wasn’t anything to sneeze at, if you recall.

This one had it all: a 100-yard interception return — by a defensive lineman; flashy air attacks; a safety; a long punt return; outstanding individual efforts; a comeback and some lead changes; and more video reviews than an EA Games message board.

You could put a dozen or so of the previous Super Bowls together, back in the day, and still not come up with the drama that filled yesterday’s classic.

We’ve been getting used to close, tight ballgames the older the game gets.

A quick check of recent history shows that the contests began getting snug in the late-1990s, as a rule. There was the game-saving tackle at the one-yard-line in Super Bowl XXXIV, that clinched the game for the St. Louis Rams. Adam Vinatieri’s game-winning field goal a couple years after that. The Patriots’ nail-biter over the Eagles in 2005. The Jerome Bettis Story in Detroit. And last year’s toppling of the undefeated Pats, thanks to a super-human catch by David Tyree.

But this — this was something else.

I feel for the Cardinals fans this morning. They sat about two-and-a-half minutes away from probably the most improbable Super Bowl championship in history, their 9-7 team battling back from a 20-7 deficit to take a brief 23-20 lead. It was tantalizingly close for them. No NFL championships since 1947. That’s LXI years, and some change.

But the Steelers showed that big game moxie of theirs, and managed to wrangle themselves into at least field goal position in the final minute.

My first reaction when I saw Santonio Holmes’ catch in the far corner of the end zone on second down and goal was that he was clearly out of bounds. Clearly. No way could he have collapsed onto the turf, that far past the white line, and have been in fair play when he caught the football.

But the field judge’s arms went up in the “touchdown” signal, and I thought, “Surely this will be overruled by the trusty video review.”

Then I saw the first of the half dozen or so replays.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. Holmes did, indeed, make a legal catch. Falling forward, his tippy toes tapping against the end zone grass, ball firmly in his possession. Legal. Fair and square. And brilliant. I didn’t need more than a couple looks to confirm it. The other ten times it was shown — those were just to marvel at.

If they call Dwight Clark’s grab in the 1981-82 NFC Championship Game “The Catch”, then this was “THE Catch.”

It was also The Throw.

As with Joe Montana, who waited until the last possible moment before flicking the ball toward the back of the end zone, with Dallas Cowboys pass rushers about to engulf him, Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger made himself quite a toss, too. He looked left, then scrambled slightly to his right, then spotted Holmes. Did I mention that there were also three Cardinals pass defenders in Holmes’s personal space?

No matter. Big Ben zipped one of those “safe” passes — the kind that cannot be intercepted, only incomplete. But he zipped it so it could also be complete, given the proper ballet dancer to accompany it. And Holmes filled that role, big time.

Prior to Holmes’s grab, the most famous Steelers reception might be the tumbling-to-the-ground, bounce-off-the-defender gem that Lynn Swann made in Super Bowl X. Doubtless that you’ve seen that one a hundred times, always in slow motion, thanks to NFL Films. But Swann’s catch came in the middle acts; Holmes made his play in the game’s climax. Sorry, Lynn, but Santonio’s play supersedes yours.

Not that the Steelers fans care. They got their sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy, the most of any franchise. They’re 6-1 on Super Sunday — January and February, combined. Day games and night games combined. The Cardinals fall to 0-1. They still have won as many Super Bowls as the Lions. But not without a fight, and not without honor. If there ever was a game in which it was truly a shame to have a loser, it was yesterday’s.

Super.

Cards’ Magical Season Will End With A Thud In Tampa

In football on January 30, 2009 at 4:32 pm

“The Pittsburgh roster reeks of big game players. It’s highly unlikely that they’ll expect to simply flash their colors and expect the Cards to curl up into the fetal position.”


The Arizona Cardinals are a marvelous story. They won an unimpressive division in unimpressive fashion, stumbling terribly down the stretch and getting their brains beat in whenever they dared to venture east of their time zone. They were supposed to get their butts kicked by first the Atlanta Falcons (remember THEM?), then the Carolina Panthers, then the Philadelphia Eagles. You couldn’t have gotten an Andrew Jackson for their Super Bowl chances when the playoffs began.

Yet here they are, in Super Bowl XLIII (aka 43), and once again they’re supposed to lose, this time to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Cards have proven everyone wrong three times, so why can’t they do it a fourth time?

Alas, they won’t.

I don’t do predictions, mainly because I’m lousy at it. In fact, you might as well click away from this blog right now because to show you my football genius, I had the Eagles and the Baltimore Ravens playing this Sunday. I’m the last person you want to listen to if you have some extra dough and plan on calling a bookie.

But something tells me that I just might be right about this one: Steelers win, to take their sixth (SIXTH!) Vince Lombardi Trophy back to Pittsburgh.

Not exactly an unsafe bet, I know. Most of the oddsmakers agree with me, and by picking Pitt I hardly have dared to be bold.

But it’s not as much of a slam dunk as you think. Once Cinderella hitches up her coach, it can be awfully hard to derail her. The Cardinals, championship-barren since their 1947 title (no, Kurt Warner wasn’t in the NFL back then — that I know of), are 3-0 this post-season. It’s not like they backed into the Super Bowl, as they mostly backed into their West Division title. When teams get on a roll like this, at this time of the year, they often aren’t denied.

So it’s not like the Steelers will roll over these Cinderella Cards. You really shouldn’t bet against any team that has Warner under center. Could be hazardous to the health of your wallet.

But the Steelers aren’t some Podunk, out-of-the-blue team. This is a franchise that tends to reach up and snatch a Super Bowl victory from time to time, and they did it again just three years ago. The Pittsburgh roster reeks of big game players. It’s highly unlikely that they’ll expect to simply flash their colors and expect the Cards to curl up into the fetal position. Bruising, blue collar teams from bruising, blue collar cities don’t do the entitlement thing. Nothing is taken for granted.

So I base my thesis on this: Cinderella doesn’t get derailed all the time, but she DOES, sometimes. And when she does, it can be difficult to watch. The teams that are capable of such a derailment — the ones who scoff at talk of destiny and fate and magic dust — are ones like the Steelers, who are smash mouth and big on defense and disdainful of the media darlings standing across the sidelines from them.

It could very well be that the Cardinals will line up for the opening kickoff and then it will hit them, all at once.

“My goodness, what did we go and get ourselves into?”

This is the Super Bowl, folks. Aside from Warner (and I know that’s like asking Mary Lincoln how she liked the play otherwise, but work with me here), the Cardinals have a bunch of first-timers on their team. Super Bowl rookies. Heck, playoff rookies until just a few weeks ago. The Steelers came to Tampa as if it was their birthright. They’re probably still steaming that it took them THIS long to make it back to another Big Game.

Me thinks this one is going to be ugly at times — sort of like the Ravens’ win over the New York Giants eight years ago. Only, the Steelers don’t have the handicap of Trent Dilfer as their quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger isn’t chopped liver, you know. He has as many Super Bowl wins as Warner does.

I don’t do predictions. But if you kidnap my family and force me to make one, here it is: Pittsburgh 17, Arizona 13.

If anyone asks, you didn’t hear it here.

Once-Blind Cardinals Finally Find Their Nut

In football, Uncategorized on January 19, 2009 at 5:57 pm

“The Lions are now, officially, by fact, numbers and irrefutable evidence, the most dysfunctional team in the NFL.”

My, my — look who they’re letting into the Super Bowl nowadays. Have they lowered their standards in the NFL?

Another one of the league’s ugly ducklings finally made its transformation to swan. It only took them six decades, but they did it.

The Lions, by that measure, have ten years still to go. But there IS hope.

The Arizona Cardinals are going to the Super Bowl. In uniform and everything; I don’t mean as guests of the league in a private suite. They’re one of the last anomalies of nature: somehow, their metabolism slowed and came to a halt.

There is now one less member of the Never Been To The Super Bowl Club.

Sitting at the table now are the Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints, Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans. Oh, and the Lions. In fact, the Lions are at the head of the table. They’re the chairmen of this board.

The Lions supplant the Cardinals now at the head — of the table, that is.

The Cardinals captured the NFC Championship yesterday, their first title of any kind since 1947. They did it with their third straight playoff win, all achieved against conventional thinking. The surprising Atlanta Falcons were supposed to run around, over, and through them. The Carolina Panthers, at home, were supposed to make mincemeat of the desert team who weren’t supposed to be able to win games played in the Eastern time zone. And the Philadelphia Eagles, battle-tested and used to these sort of situations, were supposed to put an end to this Cardinal Mania, for goodness sake.

None of that happened. The Lions are now, officially, by fact, numbers and irrefutable evidence, the most dysfunctional team in the NFL.

The Cardinals used to be that team. Their drought since 1947 was liberally sprinkled with slapstick and foolishness. The owners are the Bidwill family, and that was once as knee-slapping as the Ford ownership in Detroit. The Cardinals tried Chicago, then St. Louis, then Arizona. They tried calling themselves the Phoenix Cardinals for a while, before deciding to indict the entire state.

Their players used to race to the bank, to cash their paychecks, before they bounced. This was the 1950s days of the Chicago Cardinals. They once hired Bud Wilkinson as coach, some 15 years after he coached his last game — in college. Their once-promising quarterback, Neil Lomax, broke his leg and was never the same. They had a player die in training camp of heat exhaustion (JV Cain). They would wear white jerseys at home against the Dallas Cowboys, forcing the ‘Boys to wear blue — thinking that the dark tops would function as the Cowboys’ Kryptonite. Their leading pass receiver was regularly a running back (Larry Centers). They tried Buddy Ryan as coach. Now THERE was some Kryptonite. They lined up against Barry Sanders, who was playing his first game in nine months, without any practice, and gave up a 17-yard run on his first carry.

They have been the league’s vagabonds, nudged out of two cities and a few time zones along the way.

But, the Bidwills have been a constant — the common denominator. Just like the Fords in Detroit.

So what did the Cardinals do right?

Well, they caught lightning in a bottle, which happens from time to time in the NFL. But beyond that, they made some shrewd personnel moves, and had some draft success.

I know, I know — that’s like saying Charlie Brown has a chance, too, if only he’d pick a different holder for his placekicks. And Bill Ford is the Lions’ Lucy Van Pelt.

But that’s what happened: acquisitions of Kurt Warner, Edgerrin James. The drafting of Larry Fitzgerald. And others. And that all-important intangible: getting hot at the right time.

The Cardinals, to be fair and square, were not a great football team all season long. In fact, they were downright awful at times. They might even have had trouble beating the Lions on some weeks. They went into the playoffs as arguably the least attractive girl at the dance.

Now they’ll be boogeying with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

There was a time when the Steelers were ragtag and the Keystone Kops of the NFL. Many of the youngens can’t fathom that; to them, the Steelers have always been good — strong championship contenders. But throughout much of their existence — from the late-1920s to the early-1970s — the Steelers were almost as comical as the Cardinals. Owner Art Rooney, thank goodness, lived long enough to see his team finally win the Big One in 1975.

The Cardinals and the Steelers, for the whole enchilada. Likely not a popular choice in Las Vegas back in September.

Then again, despite as bad as the Lions have been, how many thought they’d pull off the imperfection of 0-16?

It’s tempting and maybe even comforting to say that, if the Bidwills can make it to the Super Bowl, just about anyone can.

That’s pretty much what we’re down to in Detroit: living vicariously through other franchises.