The League

Dave Goldberg
Sports Reporter

Dave Goldberg

Covered the NFL for the AP for 25 years and now is a senior NFL writer for Fanhouse.com

A lesson in continuity

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Teams can start 3-0 and in the NFL and it means little.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers do it with their starting quarterback suspended, watch out.

That's because Dan Rooney and his son Art run the league's best run and most efficient organization. No one else is close. That's it, end of argument even with the elder Rooney an absentee in Ireland, serving as the U.S. ambassador there.

Here's why:

When the Steelers missed the playoffs last season after winning the Super Bowl the year before, there was hardly a peep in Pittsburgh about Mike Tomlin's job status. OK, maybe a couple of guys in a bar or two might have griped about the coach, but continuity is the rule with the Steelers and the Rooneys -- since 1969, the coaches have been Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher, and Tomlin. That's it. The Redskins have had twice as many in the 11 years Daniel Snyder has owned the team.

It starts with the fans.

Despite their success: four titles in the 1970s and two more in the past four seasons, Steelers fans do not expect to win every season and can accept failure if there is a reason for it, like injuries. Not like Cowboys fans, the ultimate front-runners. More, in a way, like Redskins fans, who had their titles during the first Joe Gibbs era, know their football and would like something -- even a nice run in the playoffs -- to give them a little satisfaction.

But with the impulsive Snyder calling the shots, there's no continuity in Washington and probably won't be.

In Pittsburgh?

It's the old adage: "next man up.''

So that means that with Ben Roethlisberger benched for four games by Roger Goodell, it was Dennis Dixon until he got hurt and now Charlies Batch. Plus the defense has performed, winning the first two games with an offense that scored only one touchdown -- the winner in overtime in the opener in Atlanta. The other came on the next play on the opening kickoff against Tennessee that was returned for a score. Nothing else. But Dick LeBeau's guys held the Falcons to three field goals and the Titans to 126 yards -- impressive against teams that are 4-0 against teams other than Pittsburgh and on Sunday respectively beat the Super Bowl champion Saints and the Giants, who are presumed to be at least playoff contenders.

So maybe Roethlisberger is less important than people think, including Ben himself. Maybe the problem last year (and 9-7 really isn't that bad) was the absence from the defense with injuries to Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith, the vastly underrated defensive end. Even with Ben back, the receiving corps isn't anything special beyond the aging Hines Ward and the promising third-year man Mike Wallace.

But again, this is a team based on continuity and principles. When Santonio Holmes, the Super Bowl MVP, got into continuous off-the-field trouble, the Steelers dumped him on the Jets. He'll show up in New York after HIS suspension is over, another troubled player for Rex Ryan to watch over.

Meanwhile, the Steelers keep rolling.

By Dave Goldberg  |  September 28, 2010; 12:46 AM ET  | Category:  Ben Roethlisberger , Dave Goldberg , NFL , Pittsburgh Steelers Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Spot on, Dave. The best sports organization in the United States. Period.

Posted by: Rand-al-Thor | September 29, 2010 2:11 PM

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