Lions can learn from Steelers’ success

Jon Adamy

Let me preface this by saying I don’t like the Steelers. I like the song “Black and Yellow,” but hate that it’s about Pittsburgh. I’d rather use a Terrible Towel to do dishes, and Ben Roethlisberger still seems more fit for a frat house than a pro locker room.

That being said, the Steelers are still my Super Bowl pick, and they deserve respect for their ability to adapt and return to a third Super Bowl in six seasons.

After winning a playoff grudge match against the Baltimore Ravens and taking the then-soaring New York Jets off their flight path, Pittsburgh deserves to play in Super Bowl XLV.

After defeating the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL, the Steelers dealt with things that could have derailed other teams. From the retirement of head coach Bill Cowher and running back Jerome Bettis in 2006, to the off season discipline issues surrounding Roethlisberger and his suspension for the first four games of this season, the Steelers have adapted and continued to build strong teams.

The Detroit Lions could stand to learn a lesson from Pittsburgh’s strategies. Going from Wayne Fontes to Bobby Ross to Marty Mornhinweg to Steve Marriuci never meant an angry, mean, defensive-minded coach was in charge. Replacing Bill Cowher with equally stern Mike Tomlin allowed the Steelers to continue playing a rough and tumble offense and defense.

The Lions are moving in the right direction under third-year head coach Jim Schwartz, but the key is keeping him around long enough so that, like Cowher and Tomlin, he can have a chance to build a team to his offensive and defensive philosophies.

Tomlin’s continued emphasis on defensive toughness has produced a team that allowed opponents just 62.8 rush yards per game while limiting them to an average of less than 15 points during the regular season.

Drafting defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh has been a big step for the Lions, who had typically been offensively minded when it came the draft. By finally putting the flash of offensive players aside, Schwartz and the Lions have finally shown a commitment to trying to compete over the long run, rather than assemble new roster with each draft.

More than anything, Pittsburgh has a team identity that the Lions lack. Opponents know when they play the Steelers that they’re in for a physical fight on both sides of the ball. When opponents play the Lions, usually they get to look forward to a week off, though Detroit tried to help put an end to that notion with a step in the right direction this season. It boils down to the mentality of the coaches, players, and even front office of the Steelers promoting a specific brand of football: Hard knocks. If and when the Lions learn such a philosophy, maybe then we’ll see them making their first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.

[email protected]