MORRISSEY: Unlike the Bears, the Steelers learned how to win years ago
The Bears get credit for being around since the NFL’s birth in 1920. It’s their calling card, bent and tired and faded as it is.
The Steelers have been around since 1933. As if to make up for their relative youthfulness, they have made a name for themselves by — what’s that obscure word? — winning.
Winning consistently for the last four-plus decades. Winning as though it’s the most natural thing in the world. Winning — such a strange, alien concept.
The teams play Sunday at historic Soldier Field, where old colonnades meet postmodern renovations meet ‘‘How about those ’85 Bears!’’ The Steelers are 2-0, and the Bears are 0-2. That doesn’t mean the Bears will walk away losers Sunday; it just means the natural order seems to be humming along.
In the last 25 seasons, the Steelers have won at least 10 games 16 times. They have had only three losing seasons.
During the same span, the Bears have won at least 10 games five times. They have had 15 losing seasons, including a 3-13 dose of unpleasantness in 2016.
The Steelers know what they’re doing, and the Bears don’t — or at least haven’t. We’ll see whether general manager Ryan Pace has an eye for talent. But if you’re looking for a franchise that regularly hires the right people on and off the field, you might want to follow the one that has current players worth celebrating. Ben Roethlisberger, not Sid Luckman.
The Bears are rebuilding, and hope, so intoxicating in these parts, has been stirred up, thanks to the arrival of rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who is waiting his turn behind Mike Glennon.
Waiting on this franchise — and waiting this long — is bone-wearying. You’re right: It took the Cubs 108 years to win a World Series, so what’s 32 years? The Cubs were just starting to get acne at that point in their life of losing.
But it’s different with the Bears, perhaps because they mean so much to so many people or perhaps because their vote isn’t split the way it is with the Cubs and White Sox.
With parity, the salary cap, the aligning of planets and the theory of blind squirrels and acorns, you would think the Bears would have found a formula. But no. They’re sending out signals to the universe and haven’t received any response on their coaching headsets.
It just gets old. It got old eons ago.
Ah, but Trubisky is here. Maybe, just maybe, he’s the answer to all that has ailed the Bears since that magical 1985 season, when one of the most dominant teams in NFL history won the Super Bowl. We talk about 1985 as though it were yesterday when, in fact — and perhaps I’ve mentioned this already — it was 32 years ago. I think the McCaskeys want to win football games, but they spend a lot of time in a sepia-toned haze.
The Bears and Steelers both embrace the past. One of them isn’t stuck there.
‘‘I call them the Cadillac franchises,’’ said Bears coach John Fox, who was a Steelers assistant in 1989-91. ‘‘They kind of started the league. They weren’t millionaires and billionaires that bought them. They basically started from scratch in those days. [Late Steelers chairman] Dan Rooney once told me, ‘Believe it or not, we were giving these tickets away.’ That says a lot about those organizations.’’
Forbes magazine might rank the Bears seventh among NFL teams in terms of value ($2.85 billion), but they’re near the bottom in terms of the product they bring to the marketplace. So the Cadillac imagery? I’m thinking more Ford Fiesta.
The Steelers’ extended success hasn’t been a matter of simply having Roethlisberger, a future Hall of Famer. The Steelers had 10-victory seasons with Neil O’Donnell, Mike Tomczak, Kordell Stewart and Tommy Maddox at quarterback. They’ve had good players on both sides of the ball.
Please don’t make me list the Bears quarterbacks since 1992. Thank you.
The Steelers have had excellent coaches, from Chuck Noll to Bill Cowher to Mike Tomlin. The Bears haven’t.
The Steelers have had people who could identify talent. Dick Haley, a former director of player personnel for the Steelers, helped select their 1974 draft class, which included future Hall of Famers Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster.
The Bears once had someone like that, too, in Jim Finks, who helped build the ’85 team. Haley stayed with the Steelers for 19 seasons. Finks lasted eight with the Bears. He quit in 1982, when owner George Halas hired Mike Ditka as coach without consulting him. That’s so Bears.
The Steelers have been to four Super Bowls since 1992, winning twice. During the same span, the Bears went to the Super Bowl once and lost.
Even when both teams were awful, the Steelers ended up winning. After each team finished 1-13 in 1969, the Steelers won a coin flip for the first pick in the draft and chose quarterback Terry Bradshaw. Perhaps you’ve heard of him and his four Super Bowl rings.
If the Bears had gone winless that season, history might have looked a lot different. Their one victory? Against the Steelers. Naturally.
Follow me on Twitter @MorrisseyCST.