Had to share this one last article with all of you. It's long but rife with history, names, and key priciples in the storied history of the two franchises. FYI

Role Models
November 21, 2009 - Enrique Siu |

My dad loved playing chess. Without a doubt, it was one of the most fascinating activities he ever enjoyed because he knew that in order to win, he had to try thinking like his opponent; he needed to figure out his rival’s strategy to be one step ahead and eventually come out on top.

As one might imagine, my brother and I relished being his challengers and we engaged in some good battles over the years. With time, my brother finally beat him. He was able to absorb his mindset and decipher his approach. I’ll never forget the expression on my father’s face when he did. He was beaming with pride.

At noon on Sunday, Todd Haley is going to face one more time the mindset of his father, materialized in the squad that constitutes his personal Mount Everest: the Pittsburgh Steelers. It will represent his most important instruction to date as a head coach because he’ll be fighting history.

The Steelers are the premier organization in professional football. They run a stable institution, they have a loyal and adoring fan base, and they will step onto the field of Arrowhead Stadium as the defending World Champions. No other team has hoisted six Lombardi trophies like the Men of Steal have.

Yes, the Men of Steal, you read that right. Why? Because they have unknowingly stolen the Chiefs’ soul.
When the Dallas Texans signed former Pittsburgh first rounder and NFL castoff Len Dawson, coach Hank Stram found the man to lead his team to its glory years. Up to January 1970, Lamar Hunt’s franchise was one of the premier forces in football, after being arguably the best team in the American Football League. Three AFL Championships and two Super Bowl berths were their testament.

Not to diminish Dawson and the offense’s efforts, but that team blossomed by establishing a punishing defense that was integrated by DT’s Buck Buchanan and Jerry Mays (who later converted to DE); linebacker extraordinaires Jim Lynch, E.J. Holub, Bobby Bell, and “Honey Bear” Willie Lanier (whose presence influenced Holub to convert to center); and a standout secondary bolstered by CB Emmitt Thomas and S Johnny Robinson. Their common bond: they’re all Hall of Famers — some in Canton, all in Chiefs’ lore — and one for every line of defense. They were truly a steel curtain before the Steel Curtain.

When the AFL and the NFL united in ‘70, the Steelers were taking baby steps under the direction of Chuck Noll when they first got a taste of the world champion Kansas City Chiefs in their backyard. Making the transition from NFL to AFC members, the pride of Pennsylvania and Art Rooney, Sr. needed to get their feet wet in the nuances of AFL-vintage play, since there were assigned to a territory that was flooded with the remaining teams of the defunct league.

Hosting them in that autumn day resulted in a Chiefs’ 31-14 beating of the Steelers (where K.C.’s defense held Pittsburgh to 202 total yards and produced six takeaways.) Noll must have liked what he saw; the Chiefs had done a nice job in educating them.

One year later, in 1971, Dick Haley was anointed as the Steelers’ director of player personnel with the job of finding players that could surround defensive stalwarts Mean Joe Greene and L. C. Greenwood. It was at that point when the fortunes of two franchises were forever altered.

With a trained eye for spotting talent, Haley was instrumental in choosing the pieces that built Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain. Starting in the second round of the ‘71 Draft with LB Jack Ham; whom Haley says “is the best player I’ve ever seen, at any position.” He set the tempo for future draft considerations and the rest is history. They would stack up future defensive Hall of Famers and they would become the greatest defense in the history of the game. Again this is not to diminish Terry Bradshaw and the rest of the offense’s efforts, but defense reigned supreme in the Steel City.

Beginning in ‘72 and for the rest of the decade, Pittsburgh blasted Kansas City every time they met; the Steelers thrived and the Chiefs decomposed. Pittsburgh won four Super Bowls while Kansas City failed to make the playoffs. The Steelers fans waved Terrible Towels as homage to a dynasty and Chiefs followers pulled out handkerchiefs to dry the tears that accompanied the departure of their golden era. Even more remarkable was the fact that the Steelers supplanted the Chiefs as the Raiders bitter enemy during the 70’s. Eerie indeed.

In the 80’s, even though the Steelers got old, the script was pretty much the same because the Chiefs touched rock bottom and never made the adjustments to revert to their winning ways. The Steelers dominated Kansas City during the decade taking six of nine games. The only highlight for K.C. from 1980-89 was when the Chiefs earned their first playoff trip in 15 years with a victory at Three Rivers Stadium in 1986. That outcome spoke much more about Frank Gansz’ quality of work than anything else. It took a special man to lead the special teams that achieved that victory. Consequently, trapped in respective transition stages at the conclusion of the 80’s, the Chiefs and the Steelers fed off of each other trying to find a winning recipe as they entered the 90’s, and wouldn’t you know, they succeeded.
How else can you explain that the Chiefs turned the corner at the time they signed Mike Webster to be their center? How can you explain that the “Stealers” would eventually return to glory by snatching Bill Cowher, when he was the Chiefs’ D-coordinator under Marty Schottenheimer? How do you avoid the fact that on their way to their only trip to the AFC Championship game in ‘93, the Chiefs defeated the Steelers to get there? Why is it impossible to forget that even though the Chiefs lost Elvis Grbac to a broken collarbone in a ‘97 Monday Night game, ultimately K.C. won when Rich Gannon subbed for him? Or, is it that the Steelers actually messed with the Chiefs by sparking the Gannon-Grbac debate? I have no idea.

Stepping into a new millennium didn’t cause things to change. In fact, they got worse. And the tip of the iceberg was the ‘03 Draft. Although the Chiefs were desperate to find some defensive help following the ‘02 season, they somehow agreed to trade places in the first round with the Steelers, who selected Troy Polamalu. The Chiefs grabbed Larry Johnson. Pittsburgh held off Kansas City for the final playoff berth on the last day of the ‘05 season, and they went on to win their first championship in 26 years, adding another one this last season on the strength of a new-born Steel Curtain, led by — who else — Troy Polamalu. The Chiefs have been so helpless against the Steelers, that a microcosm of their struggles came when Johnson brought down Polamalu by grabbing his hair during an interception return.

Why all of this has happened is beyond me. If you ever paid attention to the world of sports in a consistent basis, you are aware that there are particular angles that gobble up the headlines. There’s always one distinctive subplot where all fingers are pointed to explain such dominances. As a fan, I’ve done my proper research; I’ve checked my TV recordings, I’ve read the media guides, I’ve surfed the web, I’ve asked Bob Gretz (the only man with dual K.C.-Pittsburgh knowledge) for insight, and so far, I haven’t found anything.

If the Steelers are determined in making the Chiefs pay for Len Dawson’s revival, well, they have executed their vengeance with style. What stands out above everything is that the Steelers have made Arrowhead Stadium – universally regarded as one of the nastiest places for visiting teams – one of their favorite road venues of all-time by winning 9 of 13 games. The Steelers have owned the Chiefs ever since the team moved to One Arrowhead Drive and that has become even more apparent as the seasons have gone by. They have schooled them, plain and simple.

And somehow, maybe it all resides there. Maybe the hard work, the discipline, and the commitment to continuity that make up the Steelers’ traits, have not been together with the pride of Missouri since the glory days, and perhaps that’s why the Steelers have been so harsh with the Chiefs. Maybe what they wanted all along was for us to learn a true winning way as payment for that lesson that occurred back in 1970. I got to say: in some way, that makes more sense.

Translate to present and that’s why Todd Haley is so important. The former Steelers’ water boy and son of Dick Haley, is the perfect man to lay the blueprint for success against his childhood team. He understands they were all about. If he can’t do it, probably no one will.

The Chiefs’ head coach is conscious of the foundations of their winning tradition. As offensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals, he got a closer look at the 2.0 version in last February’s Super Bowl. I’m pretty sure that the encounter pushed him to reinstall the 3-4 defense in Kansas City the moment he took the job; not as much as a copycat impulse but out of respect to his football heritage. I wouldn’t expect less.

The suspension of Dwayne Bowe and the injury to Mike Vrabel are not helpful at all. But this isn’t necessarily the time to trade blows with the champions because the Chiefs are not fit to do so. They are taking baby steps and the Steelers are in a teaching mode. This is sponge-time – time to shut up, listen and learn. Haley needs to pick up whatever other qualities evolved from the legendary group, with the express purpose of integrating such information to his squad. That way he’ll be a step closer to making his team better prepared to overtake the Steelers in the long run. To get one Lombardi trophy of his own, he’s compelled to finish the task by out-thinking the legacy of his old man, if not for professional satisfaction; let’s just say to make his father proud.

And nothing would top that.