Say what you want about the New England Patriots, but they are the closest thing to a NFL dynasty in an era built around parity. Their reign at or towards the top will eventually end, which begs the question of which team will be next in line? SB Nation took a look at this very question trying to find the next budding dynasty, and the Pittsburgh Steelers were one of the five teams listed as potential candidates.
See what SB Nation's Danny Kelly had to say about putting the Steelers on the list, and why:
They've got the franchise quarterback in Big Ben, known for his knack for big plays in big-time moments. Ben Roethlisberger, 33, isn't getting any younger, but still has at least five years left in his illustrious career if he stays healthy. He doesn't do it all himself, though, and it doesn't hurt that the Steelers appear to be the league's best evaluators in wide receiver talent, giving Roethlisberger an unending supply of speedsters to catch his passes. A focus on balance is pretty important as well, and you could make the argument that Le'Veon Bell could emerge at the top as the NFL's best back after Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch retire. Pittsburgh's explosive, star-studded offense doesn't appear to be going anywhere soon.
That's only part of the equation. The Steelers also have an extremely stable and consistent owner in the Rooney family, a highly respected GM in Kevin Colbert and a tenacious and long-standing coach in Mike Tomlin. That consistency and continuity in system and philosophy helps makes Pittsburgh perennial contenders. They've got two Super Bowl wins in the past 10 years, which gives them a big head start in the legacy department.
The Steelers' leadership core on defense is aging -- Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor retired; James Harrison is 37 -- and Dick LeBeau is gone. However, there's been an infusion of talent through the draft on that side of the ball that could help them continue their tradition of defensive excellence. Their young defensive talent is still a wild card, which makes this projection a little more difficult.
I never underestimate the power of the system and philosophy in Pittsburgh, and it starts from the top-down.
Kelly brings up many valid points in his analysis of the Steelers and where they are headed as a franchise in the foreseeable future. The team has the offense to beat anyone, but the question mark remains square on the defense, at least in the short-term.
The main question for me when discussing such a topic is longevity. For a team to be declared a dynasty, they have to be dominant and relevant for a length of time, not just a few years. The question here is how long Ben Roethlisberger will be able to play at a high level. Everyone will admit he has at least another 5 good years of football left in him, but at that time it will put Roethlisberger at age 38.
Although the Steelers don't need to have a back-up plan in place yet, to win in the NFL you need a quarterback. The Steelers have that, but even the most prolific offense needs a signal caller. For the Steelers to be a true dynasty will require the team having a quarterback in place when Roethlisberger decides enough is enough and calls it a career. If they can do that, and such a task isn't as easy as it may seem, just as the Cleveland Browns, this team has the make-up of a team built for the future.
Other teams listed as potential NFL dynasties: