Rich's Rant: The Steeler Way Is The Right Way

While the NFL world looks to emulate the New England Patriots, the league's best franchise lies just 120 miles away from Cleveland. If only we allow ourselves to see it...

The blueprint to success for the Browns lies about 120 miles southeast of Cleveland.

It resides very comfortably and quietly among the hills of a former steel-reliant town that has broad shoulders and a football team that has produced two Super Bow championships in the last four years.

It is a very simple blueprint predicated on hard work, dedication, selflessness and an overwhelming desire to be the best.

The more that blueprint produces championships, the more upset Browns fans become. Instead of seeing things as they are, they choose to decry the success of the Pittsburgh Steelers. They mock and belittle that success. Sometimes in mean-spirited, nasty and vulgar ways.

Instead of actually acknowledging the Steelers know how to win Super Bowl titles, they slobber away with the excuses that officiating has given the Steelers their last two Vince Lombardi trophies.

It's that type of rationale that blinds them to the realities of the Pittsburgh success. They cannot stand to see the Steelers win titles. The hate for the Steelers runs so deep on the part of many Browns fans on this Web site, they lose all objectivity and become delusional. They convince themselves the Steelers were handed the last two championships and absolutely nothing, not even common sense, will change that. Ever.

Fact of the matter is the better team won in Tampa on the first day of this month. Arizona had that game won with its first lead of the game with 2:30 left and the Steelers on their 12-yard line. The Steelers won that game more than the Cardinals lost it.

Look, I can't stand the Steelers, either. But I don't wear blinders and came to one conclusion about them a long time ago. They know how to play winning football. They make plays when playmaking is a necessity. And it's about time Browns fans come to their senses and realize that.

Sure, the Steelers can be arrogant. But arrogance is an entitlement when you win Super Bowls. One can only imagine how arrogant Browns fans would be if their team had the same success as the Steelers. Most likely more.

The Steelers have turned their rivalry with the Browns into a shamockery, as Ben Wallace of the Cavaliers would say. There is no longer a rivalry. Hasn't been for at least the last decade. Certainly not the way the Steelers have treated the Browns over that period of time. It's not even close.

In order to beat the Steelers, you have to play like them. You have to be like them. You have to present a mirror image. That's the only language they understand.

Randy Lerner turned his head in the wrong direction when he decided to remodel his Browns after another proven winner, the New England Patriots. It should have been pointed southeast.

The Steelers bring bellicosity to the football field. They slap you before you get a chance to slap them. They hit you harder than you hit them. They impose their will on you and dare you to match it.

They play football the way it was meant to be played: Hard and with relentless energy. Anything else is unacceptable.

They epitomize the city of Pittsburgh. Tough town. Too bad those who run the Browns don't relate better to Cleveland, which is also a tough town.

If you want to know more and exactly how the Steelers have done it, check out Tim Layden's piece in Sports Illustrated two weeks ago. Fascinating read. Some day, that could be Cleveland.

I'm a firm believer in the trickle-down theory. The Steelers are all about the Rooney family. Even since Dan Rooney took over running the club from his father 40 years ago, they have been a different club.

For decades, the Steelers were laughable losers under Art Rooney. Dan Rooney brought an entirely different culture to the organization.

It was not all right to lose. It was not all right to be the butt of jokes. It was not all right to mail it on Sundays. That, he determined, was going to stop. And it did.

Since then, the Steelers have been the NFL model for consistency on many different levels, the most important of which is coaching with only three head coaches in the last four decades.

They play the game with the same proficiency as the Browns did from 1946 through 1970 when they were known as The Greatest Show in Football. Unfortunately, that legacy has been besmirched, with one notable exception, way too often since then.

If you want to model your team after any in the NFL, why not the Steelers? How can you argue with their successes? You don't have to like them, but how can you not respect what they've accomplished?

What makes that harder to swallow is the fact this is a young team that figures to get better. The Baltimore Ravens have copied some of the success of the Steelers, especially on defense, and most likely will provide the most opposition in the AFC North.

The Browns, meanwhile, have meandered in and out of coaching changes since their return. Eric Mangini is the fourth head coach in last10 years. It's like throwing darts at a board and hoping something lands near the bull's-eye. Eventually, something is going to stick. The question is when?

In the end, it's the system that works in Pittsburgh. The Steelers look for and draft players who fit their system. There is a plan and they stick to it.

When Mike Tomlin was hired as head coach after Bill Cowher decided to retire, eyebrows were raised. Most experts believed Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt would get the job.

Tomlin was just 34 years old and had never been a head coach when Rooney made his choice. He had just one year of experience as a defensive coordinator with the Minnesota Vikings. And now here he is coach of the Super Bowl champions in his second year.

A gamble? You bet. But a calculated one. As it turned out, Rooney knew exactly what he was doing.

Tomlin came in and didn't change a thing outside of elevating Bruce Arians to offensive coordinator. The Steelers were successful before he arrived, so why tinker? It's the system that works in Pittsburgh and Tomlin was wise enough to leave it alone.

Lerner needs to stop talking football with the Bob Krafts and Jerry Joneses of the world and turn his attention to Dan Rooney. Study how Rooney does it and copy.

Then and only then will the Browns have a chance to become the team fans expected by now.

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