While the Pittsburgh Steelers roster may not be quite stacked top to bottom as it once was even five or six years ago, they still have many very accomplished and talented players at the top, such as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, tight end Heath Miller, and wide receiver Antonio Brown.
But what sticks out the most about one of those three players has nothing to do with statistics, but rather with hardware. Roethlisberger and Miller have a pair of Super Bowl rings. They have held the Lombardi Trophy over their heads twice. Brown has played in a Super Bowl, but the confetti didn’t fall for him. It fell for Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, and the Packers.
Brown has had some remarkable accomplishments in his career, statistically speaking, that put him in the same conversation with some of the greats of NFL history, and may one day find him on the fast track to Canton and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He has even surpassed the numbers of the great wide receivers of Steelers teams past, including Hall of Famers such as John Stallworth and Lynn Swann, not to mention Hines Ward, whose records he has had to spend the past few years breaking, and who helped mentor him as a rookie.
But they have Super Bowl rings. In fact, they have 10 Super Bowl rings between them, spanning all six of the Steelers’ Super Bowl victories, with Stallworth and Swann both sharing in the first four of the 70s dynasty and Ward playing a key role in Pittsburgh’s championship rebirth in the second half of the 00s.
No matter what players such as Brown, and Cameron Heyward, and Maurkice Pouncey may accomplish in their careers, there will always be a blank on their resume if they never conclude a season with that sticky silver trophy raised above their heads.
Brown said that head coach Mike Tomlin reminds him of that fact frequently, letting him know, in his words, “if I’m going to be a great one, you’re measured in hardware”. So far, the only hardware that he has is an AFC Championship game trophy, the name of which I’m sure most cannot name (named for Lamar Hunt, who founded the AFL, since 1984).
There is a palpable feeling of something missing for these accomplished players, particularly those in the middle of their career, knowing that they have yet to win a championship. “You feel incomplete because you’re not on that board yet” said Heyward, for example, who is in his fifth season.
Not that even the veterans who have been there and done that are coasting en route to their retirement. For Miller, for example, the early successes that he had in his career—two Super Bowl victories in his first four seasons—have helped him keep in perspective how valuable those experiences are, and to not take them for granted.
In order to get to the Super Bowl, however, they first must get through the Bengals in the Wildcard game today. “It’s one playoff game”, said Heyward, “but we want it to be one of four. But to get four you’ve got to get one”.