Sometimes my affinity for MMA and combat sports bleeds over into my articles about my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers. Recently, I was reminded of a quote from Master Bruce Lee that made me envision a future article about the Steelers, and I quickly made note. The famous quote was as follows;
"Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.
Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend".
Do you know what franchise has done the best job of adhering to this mindset? The New England Patriots. They have won six Lombardi Trophies since the turn of the century behind the brilliant coaching of Bill Belichick and the unassuming excellence of Tom Brady. Let me further explain my rationale.
Not once during their Super Bowl winning seasons would even their most staunch supporters have claimed that they had the most talented overall roster in the NFL that season. They actually lost the Super Bowl on a couple of occasions where that claim was arguable.
It's actually hard to believe that Randy Moss never won a Super Bowl in his career, not even when he was teamed up with Brady and dominating the league. Just wanted to throw that out there, now let's get back on point.
So how did Bill and Tommy Boy manage to win six Lombardis? Through the brilliance of simplicity and taking ego out of the equation.
Many coaches outsmart themselves, taking a already successful play and saving it for later in the contest, like a game of cat and mouse. Not Belichick. He will run basically the same play over and over again until the opponent figures out a way to defend it, then he will adjust accordingly. It is never shocking to see a running back, or some other role player, have a huge game in Belichick's system.
If the Patriots' original plan proves futile, then Bill implements Plan B. Every move has a counter move, every attack has a defense. His halftime adjustments are the stuff of legend. Simply put, Belichick is playing chess while the opposition is still learning checkers.
I know what you are thinking. It sounds so simple, why doesn't everybody do it? Because you have to have the creativity and personnel blessed with the football IQ necessary to pull it off. Easier said than done.
Most successful coaches are of the mindset "If it ain't broke why try to fix it?" They strictly adhere to a plan that has brought them success in the past. Therefore they become predictable and much easier to defeat. Rigid if you will, not like water.
Last season the Patriots didn't have the horses needed to win the race. Even Picasso needed paint with which to paint. Due to Gronk's impromptu and short lived retirement, injuries, and suspensions, Belichick had his brush but not enough paint to work another masterpiece. I am going on record right now predicting that the New England Patriots will win the AFC East yet again this season, even with all the opt outs and the loss of Tom Brady.
The Steelers have a loaded roster this season, from top to bottom. They are being overlooked and underrated across the board, from the national sports media to surprisingly some in our very own community. That is perfectly fine, the Steelers have enjoyed great success in past seasons where they were seemingly being disrespected. Big Ben and company relish the underdog role.
For the Steelers to win it all this season and shock the sports world, they need the coaching staff to learn a lesson from Bruce Lee's teachings and Bill Belichick's example. Don't be stubborn and rigid, be flexible and creative.
It makes perfect sense to rely on your starters, because starters are starters for a reason obviously, but don't be afraid or resistant to utilizing your talented depth pieces, especially when the opportunity presents itself and the matchup calls for such a maneuver. That may require a platoon system at running back, or sticking with the hot hand in the moment.
Creativity on both sides of the ball is optimal, and is anything but predictable. The Steelers have a roster blessed with moveable pieces that should prove to be a nightmare matchup problem for the opponents, and a coaching staff with a proven track record of creativity on both offense and defense.
Now they just need to put it all together and go with the flow. Be like water!