The only necessary example of this is the 1995 Steelers. On the first game of the season Rod "Rod is God" Woodson tore his ACL. He was not injured reserved, but he was out for the entire season. The defense was stout, the offense was "adequate" - take a look at that roster, especially on offense. We had a quarterback that (even without the 2 picks in the Super Bowl) made you think "MEH". Our running backs were decidedly not special. Talk about old and/or slow - Morris/Williams and Peagram were not going to make you yearn to the days of Franco and Rocky - more like Rocky and Bullwinkle. If you were looking for a pound or two of ganja, however, you had the right running back(s). The line was anchored by Dirt Dawson and he needed all 275 pounds of Mark Bruener to make the running game click. And I use the term click very loosely as Eric Peagram (yeah, him) led the team with 813 yards rushing. Thigpen, Mills, Johnson and Hastings made up the corps of receivers with the occasional "slash" sighting. As an aside, I always believed Kordell could have been an all-pro split end. There really wasn't much of a pedigree on the offensive side of the ball. But players the players had grit, as typified by 11th round pick Justin Strzelczyk.
On defense, the names carry more weight. Carnell Lake played out of position for the next 15 regular season games and was great. Kevin Greene was there in the twilight of his career. But I always thought he was more hat than cowboy. Nevertheless he made for great theater. Greg Lloyd was 30 years old that season and put together his last good season and was named first team all-pro -probably more on reputation and leadership than production. Chad Brown was still a pup and the team got great production out of Ray Seals, Levon Kirkland and Willie Williams. Again, no great pedigrees and Woodson had been the only 1st rounder to start a game that season on defense. Deion Figures was the only other 1st rounder on D.
So what does that say for the 2013 Steelers? Well no offense to Mr. Pouncey, but he couldn't carry Rod's game used jockstrap. There was no talent before or since like Woodson, who changed the game in so many ways. He was a top 10 player of all time in my opinion. The current crop of Steelers has much more talent, on paper, than that Super Bowl winning (I haven't got over it yet) squad. And but for some minor blips in performance, and quite possibly a mob induced miscommunication between O'Donnel and his receivers - that TEAM would have earned the Lombardi trophy along with the hearts and souls of anyone who watched the game. But I digress - we have a defense with all the talent of that 1995 team with Woodley, Timmons, JJones as the thorobreds. Troy as the aging once in a lifetime talent. The grit and determination in Kiesel. And really good players in Taylor, maybe McLendon and maybe Allen. Hopefully Hood and Heyward can step up to the expected performance.
On offense we have a once in a generation talent in Ben. If he's upright, the team is dangerous. Our receivers are diminutive, but probably better than the '95 squad. Heath will be back and he's as good a blocker and a better receiving threat than Bruener ever was. The running backs are on par but for the healthy return of LeVeon Bell. That leaves the offensive line. We lost our "rock" in the middle. But we just might have lucked ourselves into an underrated vs overrated talent at center. And Adams/DeCastro/Gilbert were rated high because they have talent. Maybe they'll gel into some form of cohesion.
Lastly, there's leadership. On the current team we have more quiet leaders like Troy, Ike, Ben and Heath. I don't think any teammates fear for their safety like they may have when Lloyd patrolled the training facility. And while I'm a big fan of Tomlin - I'm not sure if he's the motivator that the Chin was. But Dick LeBeau is a legend and has the hearts and minds of his legion.
So all in all, this team is not much different from the team that went to the Super Bowl in 1995. They both had a catastrophe in game one. The 1995 squad pulled together, displayed grit, character and unity - and did something special. The 2013 performance remains to be seen. Hopefully these young men have the same mettle as their predecessors.
Go Steelers - Don't Give Up the Ship!