Steelers Right Blend of Experience, Skill

The Pittsburgh Steelers are handling the biggest week of most of their careers with a precision that's difficult and hard to master.

PITTSBURGH --  Maurkice Pouncey slept in Monday morning, kind of anyway. But when he woke up and looked at his phone he saw a video of James Harrison working out in the Steelers weight room.

This after the team's flight from Kansas City had landed in Pittsburgh at about 5 in the morning.

"Oh," was the first thing Pouncey said as his eyes were opening.

And then he said, "This guy's already in there squatting?!"

And then he said another word that can't be repeated as he got out of bed, got dressed and went in for his own workout.

"I got about five hours sleep," Pouncey said. "Deebo came straight from the plane. It gave me a little extra motivation to get up."

Of course, "Deebo" didn't  say anything to the guys about it. He was going in on his own. He has a ritual that needed attention. That's his way.

It's called leading by example.

Ben Roethlisberger did feel the need to say something to the team, but it passed. So he told them through the media, since he, as quarterback, was required to stand up and answer questions twice this Conference Championship Game week.

Not that it was an urgent message. More like a reminder.

"I am going to be the Chad Scott that I got to talk to a long time ago," Roethlisberger said. "You don’t know if we will be able to do this again, so enjoy it. Enjoy every moment of it. It truly is a blessing to be able to do what we do."

And Roethlisberger went about his week with half a smile on his face that never left because he truly was enjoying the moment, the week, the media mob scenes, the practices, the energetic young players all hopped up on adrenaline.

Scott, a cornerback during Roethlisberger's rookie season, had stood up and told the 2004 Steelers that very message, that it's hard to get this far, to not take it for granted.

"I just try to reiterate to the young guys now just how precious this moment is," Roethlisberger said.

But he didn't stand up and deliver it, or really any other message since he stood up after a third consecutive loss 10 weeks ago and told the team to "Follow me."

One narrow loss to an excellent team and nine consecutive wins later, they're still following, even though, he, like Harrison, doesn't need to say much.

"You should only have to say things one time, and I said it once," Roethlisberger said. "You just have to go do it. Actions speak louder than words now."

Just as the youngsters should appreciate this time and opportunity they have, they should also appreciate these wise elders available to them.

I could go through my quotes log and find the same thing said so many different ways, but to paraphrase, a great team needs:

"Older guys for wisdom and experience, middle-tier vets to provide a depth of experience and younger guys for a blast of energy."

I'm sure Dick LeBeau said that. And Bill Cowher.

Mike Tomlin can say it today because these Steelers have that exact layering of wisdom, maturity, brains, ability and fast, strong legs.

Not that the wisdom has to be more than a nod and a wink to a young receiver running the right route in the red zone at a Friday practice.

Or just getting in your workout.

At 5 o'clock on a Monday morning.

"It starts at the top with the organization and with Coach T, everybody's just taking this as status quo," said Arthur Moats, the team's Chief Award winner this season.

The Chief Award is given to not only a player who's agreeable and helpful with the media, but to one who says something, who has insight, wisdom.

So, Arthur, continue, please ...

"We haven't said anything different. We haven't prepared any differently. In fact, it's very similar to our OTAs back then, saying the exact same things as far as what the keys to victory are, what we need to do, things like that. That's one thing that's good about this organization, in terms of how consistent we stay throughout the year so that when you get into these type of games, nothing changes, nothing feels out of order, nothing feels too big for the moment. It's just the same thing, so even the younger guys who've been hearing the same stuff since OTAs, now, to them it's 'Hey, it's another big game and it is what it is. We're good.'"

Has Moats sensed any kind of wonderment from the young players? Any sense that they're seeking out guidance at this critical juncture?

"Not at all. Not at all. Here, man, we understand the situation. We understand the opportunity we have. None of the guys are letting it get to them. It's just, 'Hey, go out here, execute and we'll be fine.' If we go out there and execute, play our game, we're going to win."

* Roethlisberger has started four Conference Championship Games and gone on to start three Super Bowls.

* Harrison has played in three CCGs (two starts), was inactive for a fourth and played in three Super Bowls (two starts).

* Long-snapper Greg Warren has played in two CCGs and two Super Bowls.

* Will Gay and Lawrence Timmons have played in two CCGs and two Super Bowls, each with one start in each game.

* Ramon Foster and David Johnson have each started in a CCG and a Super Bowl. Antonio Brown was a reserve in each of those games and Pouncey started the CCG in that 2010 season.

That's the extent of the Steelers' final four experience. It might not stack up to the experience of a New England Patriots team that's playing in its sixth consecutive CCG, but the Steelers have enough experience to know better than to get overly excited or attempt to lead by doing something out of character.

Harrison kind of summed it up after he was asked this long and winding question about leadership:

"Has it been interesting to see how accountable the young guys have been?" the reporter asked before continuing with, "The guys have been keeping on track and guiding them. Is it interesting to see how the team, not necessarily polices itself, but kind of how it does sort of mentor each other, even if it's not like one person as the leader? It's kind of like an individual collaboration with the leadership, isn't it?"

"Yeah," Harrison said. "It's cool."

(To read the transcript of the James Harrison interview, go to the South Side message board here.)


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