A Decade Of Steelers Excellence - By Keno Sultan

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

With three division championships, one 15-1 regular season in 2004, one AFC championship along with a Super Bowl championship in 2006, this has definitely been a decade of excellence for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Super Bowl XLFrom 2000-2005, the Steelers have amassed a productive record of 71-34-1. Their record in the playoffs is 7-3. Of those seven wins, two of those came against previous Super Bowl champions Baltimore and most recently Denver in the 2005 AFC championship game at Mile High Stadium.

Since 1992, when William Laird Cowher assumed the position of head coach, his teams have played football the way it is embraced in the Steel City; fast, hard, and physical. In his fourth year, the Steelers claimed a conference title. However, their bid for their fifth Super Bowl title disappeared into the waiting hands of cornerback Larry Brown and the Dallas Cowboys. Brown's two interceptions boosted the Cowboys to a 27-17 victory over the Steelers in Super Bowl XXX.

The Steelers faced times of trial and tribulation over the next 10 seasons. The franchise endured losing seasons in 1998 (7-9), 1999 (6-10), and 2003 (6-10). There was also the excruciating home AFC title game losses to Denver in 1997 and two to New England in 2001 and 2004. The latter Patriots loss ended a franchise record 15-game winning streak, and stopped Pittsburgh's title hopes after a franchise-record 15-1 regular season.

The longest tenured head coach in the NFL was enduring criticism that he could not "win the big one." It was taking its toll on Cowher - a Pittsburgh native. He endured the lean times with humility and strength of character. Exactly what you'd expect from a veteran head coach, who recently completed his 14th year as the head man of this celebrated franchise.

Many coaches have come and gone in the National Football League. Cowher might easily have been one of them if it was not for the support of the Rooney family along with the steel-tough fans who stand behind the team win or lose.

The franchise's and the fans' support never waivered. They were eventually rewarded in the 2005 season. The Steelers gutted out three road wins in the AFC playoffs - something that has never been done in NFL history - and peaking with Pittsburgh's first world championship since Super Bowl XIV.

After the Steelers 34-17 AFC title game win over Denver, it might have been easy for Cowher to snap back at his detractors after receiving so much criticism for not winning a Super Bowl.

Handing the Vince Lombardi trophy to owner Dan Rooney is something that Cowher had always wanted to do. He got his chance to do that on Feb. 5 of this year as he led his hometown Steelers to a 21-10 win over the vaunted Seattle Seahawks at Ford Field in Detroit. And fortunately for Steelers fans, there seems to be no end in sight to his tenure.

People in Pittsburgh have appreciated Cowher and his team for their hard work during the last 14 years. That along with last season's Super Bowl triumph is a reason why this has been a decade of Pittsburgh Steelers excellence.