The 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers were special. Week two in Baltimore, Tommy Maddox goes down with an elbow injury, and a young gun slinger named Ben Roethlisberger takes the helm and leads the team to a 15-1 record and to the AFC Championship game, only to lose to the much maligned New England Patriots at Heinz Field.
Regardless of the ending, that team was a sign of things to come. Steelers fans everywhere knew that although their favorite team didn't reach the pinnacle that particular season, they knew there would be more opportunities in the near future. Turns out, it only took one more season to win that elusive 'one for the thumb'.
Why the stroll down memory lane? In an interview with Steelers.com, Ben Roethlisberger compared the 2004 Steelers to the current roster of players at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA.
"We have those older guys. And as older guys we feel we have a good younger group, whether it’s rookies, second-year guys, third-year guys, even some guys – Maurkice Pouney's been here for a little bit but is still a younger guy – who hopefully can get us back over that hump of becoming a championship team again."
"We have a good group of young guys," "We have a really good second-year class that needs to step up –Jarvis Jones, Markus Wheaton, Le’Veon Bell, those guys, and I’m excited about where they’re going because they’ve put the work in and they know they need to step up and help this team."
Typical lip service when the star quarterback gives an interview, but could this 2014 team be one of the more successful teams that the Steelers have seen, similar to that record breaking 2004 team? It is certainly possible.
If you look back at that 2004 team, there are a few things that stood out. It was a team that had a great group of veterans like Jerome Bettis, Alan Faneca, Hines Ward and Joey Porter, among others. With those veterans was some youth infused in the lineup. Roethlisberger along with Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu gave those veterans a boost.
What will be the true measuring stick for the current batch of Steelers and the 2004 squad, was that the 2004 team knew how to win. They never wavered, even in games where they were playing down to a lesser opponent.
Let's look at some examples. A week 11 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals 19-14. A 17-16 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 12. A 33-30 shootout against the New York Giants in Week 15. You get the picture.
The team knew how to win, and good teams find ways to win games, even the ugly ones. That is the one aspect of this comparison that needs to change for there to even be a conversation about the two teams being comparable.
Sure, this current roster has quality veterans in players like Roethlisberger, Polamalu, Heath Miller and Taylor, with a great group of young talent in players like David DeCastro, Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Ryan Shazier, but can they put everything together like the 2004 team? That is a question that has yet to be determined.
If you were alive, or sober enough, to remember that magical 2004 season, you know that it only takes one season to figure things out and a team could be on their way. After all, the 2003 Steelers stumbled to a 6-10 record, which got the team Ben Roethlisberger.
Maybe Ben is onto something with this comparison. As fans, we can only hope and pray he is right.