´ Steel Curtain Rising: July 2008

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Banishing Casey Hampton to the PUP List the Right Punishment?

Mike Tomlin wasted little time in banishing Casey Hampton to physically unable to perform list in response to Hampton’s failure of the team’s annual run test.

Both Ron Cook of the Post-Gazette and John Harris of the Tribune Review hailed Tomlin’s decision, as does Steel Curtin Rising. Hampton is a three time Pro Bowler, and one of the team’s leaders. Tomlin’s message was clear and decisive clear: Everyone is held to the same standard.

The Steelers coach minced no words explaining that Hampton was "He's overweight and not conditioned enough to participate at this point."

While Tomlin clearly took the right course of action, Hampton’s response leads one to wonder about its effectiveness. Hampton displayed a rather caviler attitude toward the entire incident, explaining that his first failure of run test in 2003 coincided with his first Pro Bowl selection. When asked how long he would be out of camp, Hampton retorted “I hope all of camp.”

Sounds like being on the PUP list is right up Hampton’s alley.

Therefore, you've got to ask was putting him on the PUP the right thing to do?

The answer is yes.

There’s probably no there other suitable punishment Tomlin could have dished out. Forcing to him play extra snaps in full pads in the hot sun would not only deprive the team of opportunities to evaluate untested rookies like Kyle Clement, it would also increase Hampton’s exposure to injury.

In the larger picture, Tomlin wins if other players take note of this example. The smart money says they will. If Hampton doesn’t end up enjoying his extra time out of pads, so much the better.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Steelers Put Casey Hampton on PUP List

The Mike Tomlin put Casey Hampton on the physically unable to perform list after he failed the team's annual run test, reports the Post-Gazette. Hampton was unable to complete the final three legs of the eight part run test because he reported to camp over weight.

Given that the health and stability of the defensive line is one of the major issues the team is struggling with this is not good news.

Hampton has never been known for his physical conditioning, but that has never affected his performance. However, as players pass the 30 milestone excess weight not only begins to affect performance, it also can increase the likelyhood of injury.

Tomlin has apparenlty ordered Hampton to get into shape, and the nose tackle will be unable to practice with the team until he is in shape. Tomlin's move is the right one. Although showing up to camp overweight is a bad example, it is far wiser to fail him in his physical and allow him to train on his own, without the wear and tear of contact drills.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Who is Kyle Clement?

One of the most interesting things about running a website/blog, is discovering how people find you on the internet.

You’d think that a site dedicated to the Steelers, would get most of its Google traffic from people searching for the latest on the Rooney family, the Steelers draft, Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Tomlin, or one of our other star players. Keywords related to these folks do supply a lot of traffic, but they’re not the biggest magnet.

On May 3rd Steel Curtain Rising dutifully informed that the Steelers had signed rookie free agent Kyle Clement. And since that time, the most common keyword drawing people to this site has been…. You guessed it: Kyle Clement.

Who is Kyle Clement? A few of our readers have generously given us some more information on this standout from Northwood University (Michigan.) Web research has yielded some more information. But I’d like to know more.

So if you know about Kyle Clement, share your knowledge with us. What is the guy like? What kind of on the field presence does he have? What kind of a guy is he off the field?

If Kyle Clement is going to be the next in a long line of rookie free agents to make an impact with the Steelers, let us know why. All you need to do is leave a comment. The only thing we ask is that you keep the discussion civil.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Chuck Noll vs. Bill Walsh - Head to Head

[The final post an a series analyzing the legacies of Chuck Noll and Bill Walsh.]

The 49ers owned the 1980’s. The Steelers were slightly over .500 during the decade.

Critics argue that the Steelers struggles in the 80’s prove that Noll won in the 70’s “only because he had the players.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Talent deficiencies, not coaching deficiencies, lay at the root of the Steelers woes in the 80’s. If Noll is largely responsibility for that drop in talent, then he wins praise for his ability to coach that talent.

What other coach could win playoff games with the likes of Mark Malone and Bubby Brister?

Dynasty vs. Dynasty

Comparing dynasties from different eras is fun but futile. Think of Steelers of the 70’s vs. the 49er’s of the 80’s debate. The Pittsburgh Steelers were superior, but proving that is impossible.

Players from different eras have training methods and their relative athletic abilities vary too much. Many Steelers from the 70's took off seson jobs just to make ends meet. In the 80's, that was no longer necessary.

Fortunately, hypotheticals are unnecessary when it comes to evaluating pure coaching talent.

Both Chuck Noll and Bill Walsh coached during the 80’s. In fact, the two men squared off on opposing sidelines three times, and the results are revealing:

  • 1981 49er’s beat Steelers 17-14
  • 1984 Steelers beat 49ers 20-17
  • 1987 Steelers beat 49ers 30-17

Chuck Noll's 1981 Steelers team still had loads of Super Bowl veterans. And if many of these men were past their primes, many others were still playing at a pretty high level. The 1981 squad was Walsh's first Super Bowl team, so credit Bill Walsh's coaching for that win.

Fair enough, but Chuck Noll deserves far more credit for the his victories in the next two meetings.

Joe Montana and Bill Walsh vs. Mark Malone and Chuck Noll

When the two teams played in 1984, only a handful of Super Bowl veterans remained. Frank Pollard and Walter Abercrombie manned the backfield. Greenwood, Holmes, Greene, and White had given way to the likes of Keith Willis, Keith Gray, and Edmund Nelson. David Little and Bryan Hinkle occupied spots once taken by Lambert and Ham. And of course, Mark Malone stood under center.

Despite a vastly inferior roster, Noll and the Steelers carried the day, handing the 15-1 Super Bowl Champion San Francisco 49er’s their only loss.

A similar scene repeated itself on opening day 1987, when only Dwayne Woodruff, John Stalworth, and Mike Webster remained from the glory years. This was a 49ers team that not only had Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott, but also Michael Carter, Roger Craig, and of course, Jerry Rice.

Malone was still the Steelers signal caller. In fact, he started all 12 non-strike games despite a 46.5 passer rating (no misprint, that’s forty six point five.)

Yet once again, the duo of Noll and Malone prevailed over the tandem of Walsh and Montana.

One Victory Might Equal "On Any Given Sunday," but What About Two...?

The “On Any Given Sunday” phenomenon might explain one victory, but winning two out of three? Indeed, the ballyhooed “West Coast Offense” never managed more than 17 points against in three tries against Chuck Noll’s defenses.

When it came facing off on opposing sidelines, the most important measure by far, Noll holds a small, but significant edge over Walsh.

So Who Was Better, Noll or Walsh?

When all is said and done, there’s a compelling case for Chuck Noll. He won more games and more championships. He also vanquished Walsh twice, and with Steeler teams that whose talent was far inferior to their 49er counterparts. There’s a reason why we call him the Emperor.

Ultimately, the answer comes down to what you decide.

But in the spirit of the blogsphere, I’ll close this series of posts with a question.

  • Chuck Noll and Mark Malone beat Bill Walsh and Joe Montana -- twice.

Does anybody think Bill Walsh could have beaten Chuck Noll with Mark Malone as his quarterback?

* Bill Walsh himself responded to the question on the Sports Reporters once, conceding that Pittsburgh would win if 70’s rules were used, but the 49’ers would prevail if 80’s rules were used. He’s probably right.

Click here to return to the main article of the Chuck Noll vs. Bill Walsh series. To display all article under the tag, click here.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Greg Lloyd’s Departure is Now Ten Years in the Past….

Man, how time flies. It hardly seems possible, but it has been ten years since the Steelers cut former All Pro linebacker Greg Lloyd. Pittsburgh yields nothing to the rest of the NFL when it comes to linebacking tradition, and Greg Lloyd distinguished himself as a top member of that elite group.
  • The Steelers drafted in 1987 Greg Lloyd out of Ft. Valley State in the six round.
Expectations of 6th round picks from Ft. Valley State normally run low, but Lloyd so distinguished himself that ESPN honored him last spring by ranking him 37th on this list of “Top 50 All Time Draft Steals.” Lloyd would have ranked higher on the list, but so many of the things Lloyd brought the field were intangible.

If, as Mike Tomlin says, Hines Ward is a football player first and a wide receiver second, then Greg Lloyd was a warrior before he was an outside linebacker.
  • Greg Lloyd was about intensity, attitude, fury, and “Just Plain Nasty.”
What most people fail to realize is that Greg Lloyd played his entire careers with one ACL missing in one knee, and another ACL basically stapled together in his other knee. Lloyd overcame these liabilities because he had an undeniable on-the-field presence.

Lloyd was relentless. Lloyd was not blessed with anything near the athletic skills of Rod Woodson, but Greg Lloyd set the tone for the Steelers defense.

When Woodson went down in the first game of the 1995 season, Lloyd animated the concept of stepping it up. In his best season ever, Lloyd made 117 tackles, registered 10 sacks, intercepted three balls, and forced seven fumbles.

Greg Lloyd exploded at the snap and wrought havoc in the offensive backfield. Seldom was 95 outside of the camera view when a tackle was being made. Lloyd was the rare player who altered the course games with the sheer force of his will.

The Steelers were losing 9-3 at half time in the final game of the 1993 season to a mediocre Browns team. They needed to win for a shot at the playoffs. In the locker room Greg Lloyd read his team the riot act, smashing a chair, offering to go out and play offense if that unit continued to be unable to do its part.

Lloyd backed word with deed. Two weeks prior he’d torn his hamstring, but readied to play by doing more than the required rehabilitation. He dominated the Browns, leading the team in tackles, making one sack, forceing two fumbles, and saving a touchdown by running down a Brown ball carrier from what seemed like ten yards behind.
  • Unfortunately, in the first game of 1996 it was Lloyd’s turn to go down with a season-ending injury. 
He recovered and was back on the field for opening day 1997, but was slow to regain his dominating presence. Lloyd opened the second half of the season by registering a sack in games 9, 10, and 11. He opened week 12 against the Eagles like a house of fire, knocking Bobby Hoying down as he threw the ball away on an early pass. After that play I remember proclaiming to the members of the PSFCOB at the Purple Goose Saloon, “Greg Lloyd is Back!”

Alas, that would be Lloyd’s last play for the Steelers. He seriously injured his ankle on that play, and a brush with Veteran’s Stadium artificial turf resulted in a staph infection that caused him to lose more than 20 pounds.

Hobbled by injury, Lloyd nonetheless reported to mini-camp and drilled with the team. Bill Cowher praised his competitive drive, but the team was forced to cut him shortly before training camp.

That was ten years ago this week. While Joey Porter, James Farrior, Jason Gildon, and most recently James Harrison have certainly carried on the Steelers linebacker legacy, no one has ever matched Greg Lloyd's intensity, explosiveness, or on-the-field presence since then.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Watch Tower: Excellent Reporting by Carl Prine on Steelers Restructuring

Kudos to the Tribune-Review's Carl Prine for digging deep to bring Steelers Nation relevant news on the Steelers restructuring.

Not much new has surfaced in the last few days, save for Druckenmiller's statement that he is only interested in holding all of the marbels (or at least an out right majority of them) . Prine's article does recycle some of the same quotes by Art Rooney Jr. that have been circulating in the papers for days, but he really goes into detail about how shares of the Steelers are valued.

He's found this information by sifting through court records filed as part of a divorice settlement of one of the Rooney cousins. Its a good read, and most-well reported stories I've seen yet.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Steelers Nation Loses its Oldest “New” Fan

As regular readers know, Steel Curtain Rising suddenly dropped the story of the Steelers ownership restructuring in the last few days.

The reason for this is that my father-in-law, Ruben Jorge Sosa “Cito” passed away on Thursday, July 10th. He was a great guy. Although he was 83, strangers regularly pegged him at 60, 65, perhaps 70 (I think we even got one person to say 55-60.) I thoroughly enjoyed seeing their faces when I told them Rubencito was in his 80’s.

It’s a safe bet to say that Rubencito was Steelers nation’s oldest “newest” fan. For most of us being Steelers fans is a life-long occupation. My father-in-law did not discover his affection for the Black and Gold until he was 81.

Always one to share fully in the passions of his loved ones, he stayed up to watch the Steelers play in Super Bowl XL. As soon as the game was over, he excitedly called asking, “Is it over? The Steelers won, didn’t they?” Not bad for an Argentine man who had never even seen an American Football game until two years before.

Based on that we talked about offically making him the "elder statesmen" of the Pittsburgh Steeler Fan Club of Buenos Aires, but we never got around to swearing him in. Its a shame, whe would have had a field day with it. (Lesson: if you have something you want to do for a loved one -- do it!)

On our last trip to the states, my wife and I got him a Steelers, Super Bowl XL key chain, which he loved immediately put to use. It’s safe to say that Rubencito was the only person in PAMI (the Argentine health system for retirees,) who had a Steelers key chain.

Fortunately he passed away peacefully without suffering, although my wife and I sorely miss him already.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Several Questions on Steelers Sale Answered by Post-Gazette Reporting

Dogged reporting by Gary Dulac and Bob Smizik have answered many questions about the Steelers impending sale/ownership restructuring.

Last night, Steel Curtain Rising pointed out two major inconsistencies in the national stories on Stanly Drunkenmiller bid to acquire controlling interest in the Steelers.

Those reports indicated that Druckenmiller was close to an agreement with Tim, John, and Pat Rooney to buy their shares of the Steelers. However, those shares would only bring Drunkenmiller 48% of the Steelers.

Gary Dulac of the Post Gazette has confirmed, with two sources, that Art Rooney Jr. is also considering selling to Druckenmiller. That would give him 64%. This is also supported by a press release issued by the four Rooney brothers, confirming that they had hired Goldman Sacks to advise them on a potential sale.

Credit Dulac for actually getting Tom McGinley on the record. McGinley’s comments confirm that this is quite serious, and not just a product of idle speculation.

McGinley also sheds light on the tenor of these negotiations, as he expressed to Dulac his hope that this works out, given that he regards the Rooney boys like brothers. This both suggests that some of the reported tension within the family is real, but it also holds out the possibility of an amicable settlement.

Dulac explicated stated that McGinley’s willingness to sell is unknown, although this comment is a little odd given that one must figure that if he spoke to McGinley, he must have queried McGinley about his intent.

Dan’s Share of the Race Tracks

The Post Gazette’s Bob Smizk also spoke to an issue first raised by Steel Curtian Rising when the story broke, namely what is going to happen to Dan Rooney’s interest in the family race tracks. While Smizk reports no new facts, he does suggest that any such deal would include Dan’s brother buying his share of the race tracks.

Various press reports have cited studies assessing the value of the Steelers at between 800 million and one billion dollars. No media have reported on the value of the racetracks role.

Smizik suggests, as did Steel Curtin Rising, that any consolidation would include Dan Rooney’s shares in the race tracks, which is logical given that this move was spurred by a need to conform to NFL anti-gambling policies.

Smizik’s is interesting, if perhaps flawed. He concludes, probably correctly, that Rooney cannot afford to buy out all of his brothers. He continues to say that Dan Rooney can probably not afford to buy out even one of his brothers, even if he includes his shares in the race track as part of the price.

This second assumption by Smizik is less certain, as it has got to be easier to put together the money to buy 16% of the Steelers as opposed to the money needed to by 64%. However, any proposal by Dan Rooney was almost certainly predicated on him and/or Art II using their share of the profits to finance the deal, and a smaller ownership stake would naturally correspond to a smaller ownership stake.

Timing

Gary Dulac’s reporting stands in sharp contrast to reports issue by both the Associated Press (as reported on ESPN) and the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. Both of those reports indicated that a deal might close within days. Dulac’s indicates a timeline of about a month.

The Rooney brother’s press release indicates that they are contracting Goldman Sacks as part of any estate planning process, and also indicates support for Dan and Art II Rooney’s statement reassuring a place for Rooney family in the teams management.

If the timeline reported by Dulac is correct, then it increases the probability that a deal will be worked out that leaves Dan Rooney in control of the team, and possible preserving controlling interest by the Rooney/McGinleys.

On the other hand, if the AP and Trib. Review are correct, and the deal will close in the next few days, then it is unlikely that the Rooneys will maintain controlling interest.

Danger of Rooney Losing Steelers Appears Real, As “Restructuring” Rapidly Evolves

The restructuring of the Steelers ownership is a evolving fast.

On Monday, July 7th both national and local news reports indicated that Rooney was attempting to put together a deal to buy out his brothers, both to conform to NFL anti-gambling guidelines and assure an orderly succession that would keep the team in family hands.

Tuesday July 8th brought the news that Stanley Druckenmiller of Duquesne Capital Fund Management had emerged as a possible buyer for the shares of Tim, John, and Pat Rooney. Early reports in both the Post-Gazette and the Tribune-Review cited unidentified sources that indicated whatever transaction took place, the Steelers management was not likely to be altered.

Some of those reports sought to dispute an article published in the Wall Street Journal, that painted a picture of acrimony within the Rooney family emerging over these negotiations. One unidentified source that was quoted in several reports indicated that the Rooney family was still close, but that there were concerns about inheritance tax.

The tenor of these reports generally held that the Rooney’s sought outside investors because they were concerned that Dan’s offer to his brothers was undervalued, and that he was taking on too much debt. One source suggested that outside bids were being considered as part of the “due diligence” process.

That news was reassuring to the faithful of Steelers Nation, but the good news did not last for long.

In the early hours of Wednesday July 9th, both SI.com and ESPN’s websites are running an Associated Press report that says that Druckenmiller will make an offer to buy majority interest in the team. The report also states that: “The impending sale is the result of a feud among members of one of sport's most renowned families and has been simmering about two years.”

The Post-Gazette had reported the Druckenmiller was merely interested in providing capital, and that he would leave Rooney in control of the team, leaving the implication that a deal would leave Dan Rooney as majority owner.

However, the latest AP report diverges from that line sharply, stating that Drunkenmiller “is said to want to keep Art and Dan as part of the ownership group.” According to the AP, the deal could close in as soon as two days.

Unanswered Questions [Note, new information has come to light answering some of these questions since this this was first posted.]

It is now clear that there is a very real possibility that the Rooney’s could soon lose control of the Steelers for the first time in their 75 year history.

Two days of press reports reveal a significant contrast between national and local coverage. National coverage has strongly slanted toward the conflict angle, whereas local coverage has leaned toward continuity, although the Tribune-Review's most recent article about the story refers to a "Rooney family feud."

It is impossible to know which set of reporters has better sources, although events on the ground do seem to be breaking toward the version depicted by the national media.

All press reports indicate that each of the Rooney boys own 16% of the team, with the McGinley family owning the remaining 20%. Press reports indicate that Drunkenmiller is going to buy out the three Rooney sons, John, Tim, and Pat.

If each son owns 16%, then that only adds up to 48%. If only two brothers sell, as some reports have indicated, then that only adds up to 16%. No press report has indicated that Art Rooney Jr. is interested in selling out, which makes sense as he has worked for the team, and only one report has mentioned the McGinley family selling, but that story mentioned that they would sell part of their shares to Rooney.

In addition, it must be assumed that any deal would require Dan selling his shares in the two race tracks that his brothers would like to continue to operate. Steel Curtin Rising’s speculation yesterday that the racetracks were declining in value has been contradicted by press reports indicating that both Pat and Dan Rooney declared in 2002 that the racetracks were more profitable than the Steelers.

If that is the case then it is hard then it would seem that Dan Rooney would need less cash to complete a partial buyout of one or more of his brothers.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Steelers for Sale? Ownership in “Transition” - Analysis

While the news that the Steelers ownership is in transition might have caught Steelers Nation off guard, it shouldn’t have. Dan Rooney is 75, and while he’s in good health and his father lived to be 87 securing the Steelers future has to have been on his mind.

To my knowledge, this issue has been publicly discussed twice. Once in a book by Ed Bouchette and another time in a book by Jim O’Brien.

In his book The Dawn of a New Steel Age, Ed Bouchette reported that the Rooney’s were aware a situation like this would arise. Bouchette focused on the fact that if each brother passed ownership along to his children, the Steelers management structure would become unwieldy. Offering little in the way of detail, Bouchette suggested that Dan Rooney would attempt to buy out his brothers. It would seem that he is attempting this is now.

However, The Dawn of a New Steel Age was written in 1993, before NFL franchises held the astronomical value that they hold today. The reports by ESPN and MVN.com that the other Rooney brothers are interested in discovering what they can get on the open market are a potentially ominous sign.

ESPN has reported that Forbes Magazine has assessed the Steelers potential value at 717 million dollars. An earlier report by Biz Journals estimated the team’s value at 820 million dollars.

One must assume that each Rooney boy owns an equal share of all assets in the family’s portfolio. But given that racetracks are in decline while the NFL is still appreciating, these negotiations cannot be easy.

It figures that any deal will involve Rooney exchanging his shares in the family’s other holdings plus a large amount of cash for his brother’s collective interests in the Steelers. Given the NFL’s restrictions on gambling, its almost certain that the other Rooney boys must fully divest, that it won’t be enough for Dan and Art to put together the money to acquire 51%.

In other words, if Dan and Art II want to keep the team, they’re going to need to fork over a lot of cash if they are to keep the team.

Reports indicate that Dan and Art II. are assembling to do just that, but a push by the other Rooney boys to shop the team could spell trouble.

The Steelers are one of the NFL’s marquee franchises, and it is easy to imagine an auction quickly spinning out of control. Dan and Art will certainly secure a substantial credit line, but with the Steelers reporting an estimated $36.5 million operating profit, one must question their ability to sustain themselves in a bidding war.

Blood Runs Thicker than Water, but Neither is Green

The Rooney’s have been held up as an NFL equivalent of a mom and pop store. The bonds that tie the brothers by all accounts are quite strong.

But money’s power to corrupt can be horrendous, and more than one close-knit family has been broken apart by bitter disputes over what to do with the family business.

The Rooney brother’s have already shown a willingness to sacrifice self interest for the good of the family – Art Rooney Jr. quietly accept being fired by Dan in the mid-80’s.

While that’s a solid precedent, past performance is no guarantee of future results, especially when hundreds of billions are potentially at stake….

The only other piece of published evidence we have on this matter comes from Jim O’Brien’s 2001 book The Chief, where he described about how the Rooney’s have been selling off assets as they aged. He speculated that that the Rooney’s might sell the Steelers one day too, cautioning that it would be “for the right reason.”

Between the Lines

Both Dan and Art II issued the following statements:

  • Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney stated, “I have spent my entire life devoted to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the National Football League. I will do everything possible to work out a solution to ensure my father’s legacy of keeping the Steelers in the Rooney family and in Pittsburgh for at least another 75 years.”
  • Steelers President Art Rooney II stated, “There is no reason to believe that the current internal discussions will have any impact on our fans or on our team this season or in the seasons to come.”

Reading between the lines, Dan’s statement is far less positive than Art’s. “I will do everything possible to work out a solution…” sounds like a man facing an uphill battle.

Art’s is much more categorical, and much more positive, simply stating that the fans or the team will not see any impact.

What to make of these differences? Absent inside information, its all in the eye of the beholder.

League Involvement

The fact that the NFL has appointed Paul Tagliabue to “represent” the league’s interests, shows that the league see this as a serious matter, when was the last time when was the last time the league got involved in an internal ownership issue? With that said, Dan Rooney is close to both Roger Goodell and Paul Tagliabue, so their involvement is likely a good sign.

Watch Tower

It is interesting to note that neither of the Pittsburgh publications cited the desire of the other Rooney brothers to shop the team around, while national outlets did report this fact?

Did the Pittsburgh press leave this out because their reporting discounted that as a rumor, or did the national press scoop the local media? It is impossible to tell, as no report is citing sources as of yet. (The national press got it wrong on Bill Cowher’s successor.) It’s also possible that interested buyers have leaked word to the national press in an attempt to rouse interest from within the family – but that is purely speculation.

Likewise, there is little indication as to who, how or why the story broke today. The Steelers issued a press release, but it is impossible to tell if they did this on their own, if they did so because they got wind the story was going to break, or if this was in reaction to published press reports.

Hottest story

Twenty three days before training camp, this is clearly become the hottest story of the Steelers’s 2008 off season. Steel Curtain Rising asked Ed Bouchette a number of times to update what he’d written in 1993 to no avail. It seems that he’ll have no choice but to address the issue now.

Steelers for Sale? Ownership Structure in “Transition” – The Facts

The Post-Gazette, the Tribune-Review as well as ESPN are reporting that the Steelers ownership structure is in transition.

The Rooney family has controlled the Steelers since Art Rooney Sr. bought the team in 1933. When Art passed away in 1988, ownership of the team passed to the five Rooney sons and the McGinley family.

In addition to the Steelers, the Rooney family has had holdings in real estate as well as the race tracks. As MVN website reports, many of the Rooney’s race tracks have now turned to slot machines, and this runs contrary to NFL ownership policy.

The current plan is for Dan and Art II to buy out their brothers, Art Jr., Pat, Tim, and John. All accounts concur that these negotiations have been on-going for two years now.

The NFL has reported that the Roger Goodell has appointed former commissioner Paul Tagliabue to represent the league’s interests in this matter. I

In a press release issued this afternoon, both Dan and Art II sought to reassure fans that the team would stay in the Rooney family, although other press reports indicate that the transition might not be smooth or seamless. (See, Steelers for Sale? Analysis)

For more news see "Steelers for Sale? Ownership Structure in “Transition” – Analysis."

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Is Mike Tomlin A Good Coach - Trackback

James Pete from the website mvc.com has posed an open question, "Is Mike Tomlin A Good Coach?"

His question is an interesting one, and one that will be answered in the between now and January. But Pete is asking people for what they think now. Fair enough.

Regular readers of Steel Curtain Rising has explored this issue at length.

However, for the benefit of those who are following the conversation on mvc.com we're link this post to previous articles:

Mike Tomlin: The Glass Half Empty or Glass Half Full?
Assessing Mike Tomlin: The Quest for Objectivity
Tomlin Reveals Willingness to Adapt in 2008 Offseason

Feel free to link back to any of these older posts and/leave a comment here.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Chuck Noll vs. Bill Walsh – What makes a Legacy?

An NFL coach’s success is defined by the answers to two questions: Does he win and does he win championships?

Great coaches answer both questions in the affirmative.

If that is the case, then how does a coach’s “legacy,” those contributions that go beyond simply winning, factor into the measure of his greatness?

This question is directly relevant to the Chuck Noll/Bill Walsh debate.

Both men not only won big, but they won multiple championships. But Bill Walsh’s name is always bandied about when the “greatest ever” discussions heat up, while few rarely bother to suggest Noll’s. This apparent contradiction is explained by Bill Walsh’s “legacy” and Chuck Noll’s perceived lack thereof.

What Constitutes a Coaching Legacy?

Some great coaches leave “legacies.” Men such as George Halas, Paul Brown, and Tom Landry were innovators and mentors to succeeding generations of coaches. Bill Walsh falls into this group.

Even the casual NFL fan knows that Bill Walsh is the father of the “West Coast Offense” and that he started the Bill Walsh coaching tree.

The West Coast Offense is “chink and dink” for true, Smash Mouth Football purists, but it has been used extensively and successful for almost three decades. The Bill Walsh coaching tree goes hand in hand with the West Coast Offense, as it has served as the foundation for the success of Walsh’s disciples.

Other genuinely great coaches left little in the way of a “legacy.” Consider:

  • Don Shula had the “No Name Defense” and employed what was simply know as “the system.” (His one alum of note was of course Chuck Noll). Shula won two Super Bowls, appeared in two more, and his the winningest coach in history.
  • A true legend in his own right, Vince Lombardi’s greatness was as much a function of his personality as it was anything else. He won two Super Bowls, and 3 NFL titles.
  • Joe Gibbs was a superb strategist and almost certainly the greatest coach of the modern era. He was so good at coaxing the most out of his players that he equaled Walsh’s Super Bowl total, with far less talent. Yet, despite Gibbs' offensive genius, he left the game with nothing comparable to the "West Coast Offense." Likewise, Gibbs pupils who’ve coached elsewhere have enjoyed nothing close to the success of Walsh’s.

Noll sits in good company with this second cadre of coaches. Noll was neither beholden to sexy schemes nor sought flashy innovations. He excelled by putting the right people in the right places, and having them execute. Likewise, he spawned little in the way coaching off spring, with the notable exception of Tony Dungy.

Perception and the Press (as it relates to Walsh and Noll)

The media’s influence on how we perceive coaching legacies is also critically important. As journalist/college professor Elliot King argues, a public figure’s personal relations with the press greatly impacts the tone of his or her media coverage. King’s argument comes from study of politics, but applies equally to sports.

In his book Double Yoi, Myron Cope recounts how Noll alienated much of the national NFL press corps at his first Super Bowl by “grudgingly [giving] short answers to the questions asked of him…. ‘Condescending’ was the adjective they hung on him. In their stories, they ripped him.”

Even after Noll’s hand was adorned with a few Super Bowl rings, the out of town press continued to mistakenly call him “Chuck Knox.” In fact, after Joe Gilliam’s death, even the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette failed to correct a story it published from a Dallas newspaper which had mistakenly refered to the coaching legend as "Chuck Knoll."

Bill Walsh not only had excellent relations with the press, he became one of them, working on NBC’s top play-by-play team in his first few years of retirement. This long-standing relationship with the press has certainly served to amplify Walsh’s already tremendous achievements to the benefit of his image and the perception of his legacy.

Legacy vs. Legacy

Chuck Noll’s 209 total wins, 9 Hall of Famers, and four Super Bowls constitute his legacy. The lack of a legion of successful assistant coaches or a scheme tied to his name in no way diminish his accomplishments.

But Bill Walsh does have both of those things to add to his wins, Super Bowls and Hall of Famers. And rightly or wrongly, that fact is always going to be cited when his place among the coaching greats is discussed.

Edge: Bill Walsh.

Click here to read Part V of the Chuck Noll vs. Bill Walsh series, click here to return to the main article.