"The standard is the standard."
"We're a band of brothers."
Two phrases made popular by Mike Tomlin this millennium applied to the Pittsburgh Steelers long before he became head coach. Chuck Noll came to the Steelers in 1969, and forever changed the culture of the organization. He set "the standard" that everyone refers to these days.
With Noll's passing at the age of 82, it's time to pay tribute to the standards that he and "The Chief" Art Rooney set.
Noll set the bar high for building the team through the draft, and the Steelers have lived up to that expectation for the most part. In 1974, Noll selected four Hall of Famers in his first five picks -- Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Jack Lambert, and Mike Webster. That trend continues today in Pittsburgh, even with free agency more prominent than ever.
Noll created a winning culture that started on the defensive side of the ball. The Steelers were league doormats until he arrived, and by the time his first decade as head coach was over, they had won four Super Bowl championships. That is incredible if you really think about it. It's amazing how one man could completely transform an organization in such a short time. The standards of consistency, due diligence, and success are all thanks to Noll.
The two standards that have really stood the test of time are loyalty and camaraderie. I wasn't alive for the Steelers of the 70's. I can only relate the standards Noll set to the things I have seen as a fan in my lifetime.
But how many times have we heard players talk about how great of an organization Pittsburgh is? How many times have players left, only to return a short time later, talking about how they wish they never left?
Noll himself stuck it out and stayed until 1991 even after the glory days had passed. That's loyalty.
I've seen the organization be loyal to players who are loyal to them. Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller received contract extensions so they can retire as Steelers. Maurkice Pouncey received an extension although he's coming off a serious knee injury. Ike Taylor took a massive pay cut to ensure he retires in Pittsburgh -- or as "a Rooney."
The Steelers have the most Super Bowl titles in NFL history, six. Most fans of other teams may never see a championship in their lifetime. Thanks to Noll's standards that have lived on even after he stepped down, I have seen the team go to four Super Bowls and win two of them.
Polamalu put it in perspective:
The strength of this organization has always been in the camaraderie and the relationships players have off the field. And we stand up for one another on the field. We have to develop those relationships.
Pouncey put it best:
It's true love here.