Patriots: Matchup with Pittsburgh is a meeting of dynastic organizations looking to return to glory

For the last 20 years, the Patriots have been the model franchise in the NFL.

Whether it’s the six Super Bowl wins, the elite quarterback play from you-know-who or just the consistency that has become the norm at 1 Patriot Place, it’s something every NFL franchise has been striving for.

Back in the 1970’s (way before some of our younger readers or myself were even thought about) the Steelers held the throne before the 49ers in the 80’s and Cowboys in the 90’s. When these two teams meet in Pittsburgh on Sunday, it’ll be a strange site seeing both organizations in a transitional period, but that element of history will always hover over both franchises, and with good reason.

“Chuck [Noll], to Bill [Cowher], to Mike [Tomlin]. So Chuck [Noll] was the last — I think I was his last game. It was his last year when I was at Cleveland. Then Bill [Cowher] came in, then Mike [Tomllin] came in. The Steelers have a brand of football, and they’ve been very consistent in it through the years,” Bill Belichick said on Friday morning. “I think they deserve a lot of credit as an organization for that type of consistency that they’ve put out there. Through their head coaches and just their general playing style, regardless of exactly what the scheme was, or who the quarterback was, or so forth. They’ve had pretty consistent style there.

“It probably does go back to Coach [Noll]. I don’t when did he start, late 60’s? 70’s? Whatever it was. Definitely there in the 70’s. So I forget exactly what year it was, ’67? ’68? I don’t know something like that. So three coaches over how many years is that — 50. That’s a lot. Pretty good. Mike’s [Tomlin] done a great job. Fifteen straight winning seasons, that’s pretty impressive.”

Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season, which is a pretty remarkable feat in today’s NFL. The Patriots did in 2020, but that of course came after a long line of dominance in the AFC East and the AFC as a whole. Whichever team wins on Sunday will have a slight leg up on the other in terms of returning to those glory days of not-so-log-ago.

“They’re one of the best at it. Their style of play has, especially defensively, since Bill Cowher took over it’s been pretty consistent,” Belichick added. “So it’s almost like you can look at a college player and say, ‘oh he would play there for the Steelers.’ Whether that’s this year, five years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago – he player’s skills and how they would use them and this would be a perfect Steeler. He would play at this position for them. So they’ve had a lot of guys like that. Whether it’s the speed at inside linebacker, or from [James] Farrior, to [Lawrence] Timmons, to [Ryan] Shazier to [Devin] Bush, to Jack [Lambert]. Or the edge rushers from Kevin Greene, to [Joe] Gilliam, to [James] Harrison, and all the guys that go down there, to [T.J.] Watt. It’s kind of — they have a lot of good zone safeties, [Troy] Polamalu, [Minkah] Fitzpatrick and guys that kind of play the same position. Not saying they’re the same, but similar guys, similar positions, similar styles of play.

“They’ve gotten those guys, and they’ve put them into their system. They know what they’re looking for, and they find them. So there’s not too many teams that have been at that kind of consistency over that period of time I can think of.”