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Future Steelers’ success hinges on the decisions made by Art Rooney II

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With the bad taste of the Jacksonville loss still lingering from a season that started with high hopes, it’s up to Art Rooney II to change the course of his franchise, much like his father Dan did nearly 50 years ago.

Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

As if the upcoming Super Bowl, featuring two teams I’d rather watch being dangled in front of hungry lions than playing to win a Vince Lombardi Trophy, isn’t bad enough, it goes without saying that it just doesn’t feel right with the Steelers not preparing to march to Minneapolis.

Granted, Steelers Nation feels it’s our birthright to make it to the championship game every year—yet over the past 16 years, we’ve been watching the New England Patriots do it most often. In fact, this will be the 10th trip to the big game for this franchise overall, and the 8th in the Tom Brady era.

You’d have to think that owner Robert Kraft is pleased with his decision to hire Bill Belichick back in 2000. It’s paid off handsomely for the franchise which is poised to win its sixth title.

Say what you want about Spygate, his demeanor, how he conducts himself and runs his locker room—it works. And for as many NFL fans who despise what he represents, Belichick keeps on finding ways to win and return to play for the NFL’s biggest prize.

And it makes me wonder what Art Rooney II has to say about all of this.

There’s no doubt Art II has full reign of the Steelers’ franchise at this point--the one left to him by his father in 2000 and previously by his grandfather Art Rooney, the Chief. Both men who preceded him left a lasting legacy, casting a large shadow for him to walk under.

Since 2000, under Art II’s guidance, the team has won two Super Bowls and they’ve played in a third, so it’s not like he hasn’t crafted a recipe for success or doesn’t know how to win. Perhaps the question I’m looking to answer is whether he can find a winning formula under the current conditions of his team.

There’s a fine line between winning and losing. Today’s NFL—and society in general for that matter—run at a much different pace set by social media. You can’t go a single day without checking your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to see who’s doing what, eating where, traveling to, or just plain old telling you they’ve changed underwear.

Maybe that last one is a bit overboard.

Everyone has to be a brand.

Every player has something to market, sell or make your interest in them peak at each opportunity they get to distract your eyes and attention from what you really should be focused on, to what they want you focused on.

And in most cases, it’s not about winning football games.

I hear a lot from Steelers fans who say, “I hate the Patriots! They cheat! Tom Brady cries! That coach they have is a cheater!”

Perhaps. I suppose there’s some truth to it. Spygate did happen. There is reason to think the league helped cover it up. Current commissioner Roger Goodell owes Robert Kraft a great deal, as his support pushed the former to become the man in charge of the league.

According to some, when Spygate went down, Goodell did his best to destroy all the evidence in order to keep the Patriots (and the league) from looking bad. His way of making up for it (if you wish to look at it this way) was to suspend Tom Brady for ‘deflategate’ a few years later.

The Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl that year.

All they do is win.

And all the Steelers do, like the rest of the league, is watch them do it.

The Patriots have Tom Brady. A superstar if there ever was one in sports. All that guy does is win. As for the rest of the team, well...

It’s a bunch of castoffs.

And all they do is follow the orders of their head coach. They follow his lead and his rules. It’s his way or the highway. You choose to buy into his brand of leadership and if you’re willing to throw down your ego and stay off of social media, you get the chance to win championships.

Are you telling me Danny Amendola is a better wide receiver than Antonio Brown? More athletic than Martavis Bryant? Faster than JuJu Smith-Schuster? The answers are clearly no, no and oh my god no. Yet in nine days, Amendola will be playing in his third Super Bowl under Belichick.

It’s the locker-room culture. Simply put, under this robotic mad genius, players buy into it. And the players win. And the franchise wins.

And in just over a week’s time, the New England Patriots have a chance to knock the Steelers off of their perch as the top dog in the league in terms of Super Bowl wins.

My question is this? Does that idea make Art Rooney II sick to his stomach? Sick enough that he gathers his head coach and GM Kevin Colbert to sit down and really think about what approach this franchise needs to take in order to get back on top?

I hear a lot of Pirates fans (me being one of them) that complain owner Bob Nutting cares about nothing more than making a profit. They hold that putting a winning team together is so far down his list of importance that it makes it hard to be a fan of the team.

I don’t know if that’s the case with the city’s pro football franchise, but I do know this: if the Steelers really want to win a seventh Super Bowl, it’s going to come down to the ownership’s desire. The quest to win championships starts in the front office. Say what you want about Mike Tomlin—and I have—but without a rock-solid ownership group providing stability enabling the coaching staff to operate, you can’t win at any level of sport.

It’s time for Art Rooney II to roll up his sleeves and get dirty. His leadership, experience and guidance can play a big part in pushing this franchise towards a Super Bowl run. Here’s to that path being blazed as soon as possible.

If he’s not chasing down jedi scum across the Fort Pitt Bridge, you can find John Phillips writing articles for BTSC. Something he’s enjoyed doing since 2014.