Then, during the 2003 season, the normally conservative, run-dominated offense was thrown out the window for a more wide-open attack that was one of the NFL's best and shattered nearly every team passing record.
Saturday, the Steelers demolished another old complaint. Normally conservative to a fault on draft day, the Steelers identified the player they wanted to acquire in the first round and did everything they needed to get him.
So much for old myths.
By dealing their first, third, and sixth-round picks to move up 11 spots in the first round of Saturday's draft and select strong safety Troy Polamalu from the University of Southern California, Pittsburgh has proven they are no longer your grandfather's Steelers.
It was a bold and daring move that director of football operations Kevin Colbert made, maybe even more bold and daring than the moves he made two years ago when he traded down in the first round and up in the second to acquire nose tackle Casey Hampton and linebacker Kendrell Bell. Again, the Steelers identified their needs, picked out the players they wanted to fill them, and then went and got them.
If the trade for Polamalu works out half as well as the one they made to acquire Hampton and Bell, two cornerstones of their defense, head coach Bill Cowher will be a happy, happy man.
It's a refreshing change from, say, 1999 when they had a dire need at wide receiver and sat with the 13th overall pick while the top two wideouts in that draft - Torry Holt and David Boston - were taken by St. Louis and Arizona and the Steelers settled for Troy Edwards.
That's not an indictment of former director of football operations Tom Donahoe. Donahoe worked the middle rounds of the draft as well as anyone, consistently coming up with players in the third round and later. Without players such as Joey Porter, Aaron Smith, Jason Gildon, Amos Zereoue, and Hines Ward, the Steelers wouldn't be in the position they are now: a team that feels it is a player or two away from winning a Super Bowl. And all of those players were acquired by Donahoe in the third round or later.
But Colbert has proven to be more of a gambler than Donahoe was, willing to roll the dice to get what he wants. "Every draft is fun to go through with this guy," said Cowher when referring to Colbert.
And maybe even Donahoe is learning that you have to play things a little more loosely in today's NFL. He shocked everyone in the football world Saturday by selecting injured Miami University running back Willis McGahee in the first round for the Buffalo Bills, even though they already have a good young runner in Travis Henry.
Everyone is learning that free agency changes everything in the NFL. You can no longer afford to sit back and wait for things to happen. You have to be more proactive. And that would be a perfect way to describe what the Steelers did Saturday. They acted instead of reacting.
Not only are these not your grandfather's Steelers, they're not even your father's Steelers any longer.