Steelers Throwback Thursday: Pittsburgh most successful franchise in NFL

Steel City Underground takes fans back in time to feature events, special moments, and historical times and players in the world of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Steelers Nation. Join us as we revisit these moments in our “Steelers Throwback Thursday” series.

It’s a bold statement, but the Pittsburgh Steelers have a storied past, going back to their founding by Art “The Chief” Rooney in 1933, and are considered the most successful organization in the National Football League. Despite early difficulties as the team made their entrance into the league, the Steelers began to emerge as real contenders as early as 1947. As the franchise developed, aided by significant leadership, coaches, and some outstanding players, their contributions propelled the team to eight Super Bowl appearances with six Super Bowl championships.

Eighteen members of the Steelers organization are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Many more have been named All-Pros, Pro Bowlers, Players of the Year, Players of the Week, and won many dubious honors.

We look back at the Steelers’ place in the NFL, compare the franchise to other teams across the league, and focus on some of the periods in Pittsburgh’s past and present that earned them the honor of being the most successful franchise in the NFL.

The early years (1933-1969)

The Steelers are one of the league’s oldest teams still in existence. The early years of pro football was a mix of pro players and, at times, college players that changed their names just to get to play on Sunday as a professional. The Steelers didn’t have their first successful season until 1942, but several outstanding players of the period – Johnny McNally and Bill Dudley most notably – later became Hall of Fame inductees.

In the 1950s, Chuck Noll went from playing for the Cleveland Browns to coaching that landed him as head coach of Pittsburgh in 1969. Prior to that, quarterback Bobby Layne led the Steelers to their first conference title in 1962 and started a trend that Noll would build off of as Pittsburgh began to be a dominant force in the NFL.

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The Noll era (1969-1991)

It’s hard to argue with those who claim that the Noll era was the Steelers’ most prosperous time period in the NFL. Respected, but not always well liked, Noll was a tough coach that expected near-perfection from his teams and staff.

Considered a demanding, intelligent talent at identifying outstanding players and holding them to a high standard, Noll placed significant focus on discipline, effort, and teamwork.

During Noll’s tenure as Pittsburgh’s head coach, the Steel Curtain defense – one of the most-feared group of defensive players in NFL history – was created and developed. Players like Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood, Ernie Holmes, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, Mel Blount, Donnie Shell, Andy Russell, and Dwight White became household names.

Under Noll, the Steelers earned four Super Bowl championships in six years. That was also due to some well-known players on offense like Terry Bradshaw, Mike Webster, Rocky Bleier, Franco Harris, Frenchy Fuqua, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, and others.

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NFL betting grew significantly during the Chuck Noll era. With the league’s growing popularity, more people were interested in betting on events and placing bets on their favorite players and teams. However, if you are a fan, it is better you check NFL betting sites review before playing. (The NFL also enacted tighter rules to guarantee equitable play and preserve the sport’s identity.)

The team’s four Super Bowl victories — in the 1974, 1975, 1978, and 1979 seasons — underlined its dynasty during this era. The Steelers became one of the most remarkable and reputable franchises in professional sports during the Chuck Noll era.

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The Bill Cowher era (1992-2006)

When Bill Cowher took over the Steelers’ head coaching duties, the team’s former accomplishments carried over as he established a reputation for pushing players to excellence with a slightly different manner than Noll. During his tenure, the Steelers fell to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX (1995), but Cowher’s no-nonsense style further contributed to the Steelers’ winning tradition.

With players like Troy Polamalu, Hines Ward, and Jerome Bettis, the Steelers won their division right times and the AFC Championship game in 2001. The Steelers also defeated the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL.

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The Mike Tomlin era (2007-present)

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ winning tradition has been carried on during the Mike Tomlin era. Tomlin, appointed as head coach in 2007, became the NFL’s youngest head coach at that time. Under Tomlin’s leadership, the Steelers have been a consistent playoff competitor, winning two Super Bowls.

The rise of several important players and coaches – including Ben Roethlisberger, Najee Harris, Cameron Hayward, and T.J. Watt – during this period has grown the Steelers Nation fanbase worldwide. The teams under Tomlin have won one Super Bowl (XLIII in 2008 versus the Arizona Cardinals) and played in XLV in 2010, where they lost to the Green Bay Packers. In that  same time, Pittsburgh has won its division seven times and appeared in multiple playoff games.

The Mike Tomlin era has been highlighted by consistent success. Additionally, the Steelers’ dedication to excellence has guaranteed their place as the league’s most successful franchise.

Fans and pundits are very interested and excited about the Steelers’ potential for continued success. The Steelers are set up for future success with a good roster of players and a solid coaching staff ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Beyond their on-field accomplishments, the Steelers have significantly impacted Pittsburgh, with the city’s citizens looking to the club as a source of identity and pride. The Steelers will undoubtedly be a powerful force in the NFL as we move forward. Their impact will undoubtedly endure for a very long time.

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