Fans often wonder if their team will win it all. The process to get to a championship game takes more than just what happens during the regular season. Some would argue that the path to a title begins before any season starts.
During the past few days, it’s become quite clear, as if anybody had any doubts, that the front office of the Pittsburgh Steelers is thinking about winning right now. They always have. From the moment the season ended this past January in Foxboro, the Steelers front office has worked hard to assemble a 53-man roster that is good enough to make it to Minneapolis this February.
The recent signing of Joe Haden to a 3-year, $27 million dollar contract should be a clear sign of just that. Addressing a problem, and finding a solution. That’s exactly what the team did.
The knock on Haden is that he’s suffered a series of injuries the past few years, and that could continue. From all accounts, Haden has healed and just got tired of playing for a perennial loser. He wanted out of Cleveland, and the Browns obliged him when he refused to take a pay cut.
If you look at his resume, the Steelers are getting a player who still has plenty of upside. He’s far from the decline of his career, as he’s only 28 and still has gas left in the tank. He’s broken up over 100 passes since coming into the league.
The formula for success isn’t always perfect. But there’s a constant variable that proves true in order to get that ball rolling—addressing a problem that leads to a reaction, and finding a solution to fix it.
Just a day prior to the Haden signing, the team felt their tight end position wasn’t measuring up to the production needed. So the team donned a bandit’s mask and basically stole Vance McDonald from the San Francisco 49ers, giving up a 4th-round pick while also getting a 5th-rounder in the deal.
McDonald isn’t a Pro Bowl player by any stretch, but, in four years as a pro, he has proven he can play, averaging more than 13 yards per catch and starting at least 11 games during the past two seasons. He’s also an upgrade over what the team has been trotting out onto the field at the position.
Address a problem. Develop a reaction. Find a solution.
See a pattern developing here?
You can go back over the years and see that, when it came to building a winning team, the Steelers utilize a clear playbook. You can look back at the trade they made to bring Jerome Bettis to town as a prime example. Bettis provided the power back the team needed, and they won with him, culminating in hoisting the Lombardi trophy at Super Bowl XL.
Steelers fans should be proud their franchise doesn’t put money before winning. They have shown a clear commitment over time that the bottom line isn’t what motivates them. Titles do, or at least the chance to improve and give the team every opportunity to win.
That’s rare in professional sports where revenue and profit seem to be the objective with those who’d rather cut a good player just to save—oh I don’t know—$600,000 in salary.
Not that I’m picking on anybody in particular.
Simply put, you can sleep easy after the final meaningless preseason tilt the Steelers and Carolina Panthers played in Charlotte. Well, not meaningless to those who were fighting for roster spots, but the reality is that winning is most important to this franchise. Winning now with this core group of talent is the goal.
The Steelers have taken two big steps to ensure that happens in 2017.
John Phillips is the author of this article and has covered sports in Pittsburgh professionally for over 20 years. He is also a secret member of the Galactic Empire.