clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

As it turns out, the Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t the original Team Turmoil

Crazy? Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers don’t know real crazy.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers-Minicamp Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, like everyone else who owns, coaches, plays and cheers for the Steelers, told reporters on Sunday that he’s ready for the ‘crazy’ to end as it pertains to his football team.

“You know it’s been a little crazy the last few years, maybe more so than usual that we’re used to dealing with,” said Roethlisberger as he spoke to reporters over the weekend in a quote courtesy of the New York Post. “So to kind of get back to quote-unquote normalcy is kind of nice.”

I have to agree, it is quite nice—this whole normalcy thing.

But while news involving the Steelers has been quite crazy in recent years, has it really been that bad? I know what you’re going to say, “Heck (or another word) yeah!” OK, I’ll give you that, but here’s the thing about bad; here’s the thing about team turmoil, we tend to overreact to a lot of things these days due to social media and, say it with me, the 24/7 news-cycle.

Speaking of Team Turmoil (I used capital T’s this time because this denotes an official name), my co-host on The Hangover, Bryan Anthony Davis, dubbed the Steelers that as far back as two years ago when they were smack-dab in the middle of a whole bunch of crazy (if only 2017 had the ability to see into the future and warn 2018 and the early portion of 2019 and tell them to look the freak out).

Yes, the drama surrounding the current Pittsburgh Steelers has been a bit much (even for me), but I recently watched an episode of A Football Life (A Football Life is an NFL Films produced show about former players/coaches/teams/seasons). The 1993 Houston Oilers were the team chronicled in the particular episode that inspired this article.

The Oilers were a super-talented football team in the late-’80s and early-’90s that boasted some of the NFL’s biggest stars—including future Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon and future Hall of Fame offensive lineman Mike Munchak. The Oilers of those years were constantly in contention for a championship but could never quite get over the hump. I know what you’re going to say, “This sounds an awful lot like the current Steelers.” Does it? I mean, does it, really?

Maybe the statuses of perennial contenders are the same. Maybe the talent is on a somewhat equal basis. But the failures and turmoil? If you think they’re the same, I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news.

The Oilers made the playoffs seven straight seasons from 1987 to 1993 and not once did they even make it to the AFC title game.

The ‘93 campaign was a particularly damning one for the Oilers, a campaign that was preceded by the biggest collapse in postseason history, when they blew a 35-3 second half lead to the Bills in a wild card loss following the 1992 season.

As for the ‘93 season, I’m trying to remember everything as best I can:

  • The Oilers hired defensive guru (and big-time jerk) Buddy Ryan as the defensive coordinator in the offseason. (The owner, Bud Adams, actually made this hire, and not Jack Pardee, the easy-going (neutered) head coach at the time.
  • Ryan immediately caused a rift between the defense and offense by mocking the Run and Shoot scheme that was employed by offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride.
  • At training camp that summer, the rift continued, as Ryan would often ignore scripted defensive plays that were requested by Gilbride to, you know, get his offense ready for the regular season. One afternoon, things got so heated between Ryan and Gilbride, the former ordered his entire unit—including players and coaches—into the locker room, while Pardee, the actual boss of training camp and everything else football field-related, did nothing authoritative.
  • As for the season, the Oilers got off to a very bad start and even benched Moon in favor of Cody Carlson.
  • Moon handled the benching so well, he was seen heading to his car one afternoon with his face shielded (you know, like a murder suspect) as reporters tried to pry answers out of him about his benching to a guy named Cody.
  • Moon eventually got his job back, and the Oilers even rebounded to win a lot of games.
  • But not before Ernest Givens, one of Houston’s star receivers, publicly told the always mocking Ryan to f-off (or whatever).
  • And even while the Oilers were winning, they couldn’t avoid controversy, as some offensive lineman made headlines for dividing the locker room in half by skipping out on a regular season game and electing to go home and spend time with his wife during and after she gave birth to their child (Adams, the owner, publicly scolded the lineman through the media).
  • Things were so bad in Houston that year, a local paper actually published an article about the Oilers dysfunction and used a headline titled (I kid you not) Team Turmoil.
  • Tragically, Jeff Alm, a defensive lineman, took his own life after he lost control of his vehicle while driving home from a fun night out with his childhood friend. After he realized that this crash caused the death of his best friend, Alm committed suicide after alerting 911 of the accident.
  • During a regular season finale between the Oilers and Jets, Ryan was so angry at the performance of Gilbride’s offense, the former was seen trying to punch out the latter on the sidelines.
  • Last but not least, the Oilers, AFC Central Division champions and owners of the number two seed and a bye, lost another heartbreaker, this time to the Chiefs in the divisional round of the playoffs.

To reiterate, this marked the seventh straight year Houston failed to get to within a game of the Super Bowl. Soon, this talented team was dismantled, and within a few years, the Houston Oilers would become the Tennessee Titans, as Adams moved his franchise north to Tennessee.

So what’s my point in all of this? Only that, while the Steelers have had some serious issues, those issues have probably been amplified a great deal due to the modern era.

Twitter beefs really aren’t all that bad when you consider what went down in Houston in ‘93.

The Steelers certainly have some demons to exorcise, but Team Turmoil?

The 1993 Houston Oilers say, “What’s up?”