AFC North: Rooney Family

Two weeks ago, Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers was the top-rated safety in ESPN.com's Power Rankings.

Last week, the Rooney family was No. 1 among owners, earning first-place votes from half the panel.

On Tuesday, the Steelers continued their streak of Power Rankings success, albeit in a non-conventional category. Pittsburgh was voted as having the best-looking helmet in the NFL, giving the team the top spot for the third consecutive week.

Pittsburgh has a combination of solid colors, symbolism and uniqueness. The three diamond shapes each represent an element of steel, which was once a major industry in Pittsburgh. The Steelers also are the only NFL team with the helmet logo on one side.

Perhaps more than any other Power Ranking, this voting was subject to personal preference. So there's no point in getting too deep with analysis. A total of 26 out of a possible 32 helmets received votes.

It's also worthy to note the Cleveland Browns registered their first top-10 finish in this year's Power Rankings series. The Browns' helmet ranked No. 8 in the NFL. I did not vote for the Browns and actually feel their helmet is one of the worst in the league. But, again, the voting really came down to personal tastes.

ESPN.com's helmet Power Rankings

1. Pittsburgh Steelers

2. Indianapolis Colts

3. Oakland Raiders

4. Green Bay Packers

5. San Diego Chargers

6. Dallas Cowboys

7. Minnesota Vikings

8. Cleveland Browns

9. Chicago Bears

10. Miami Dolphins

Walker's helmet Power Rankings

1. Pittsburgh Steelers

2. Dallas Cowboys

3. Oakland Raiders

4. San Diego Chargers

5. Denver Broncos

6. Seattle Seahawks

7. Washington Redskins

8. New England Patriots

9. Philadelphia Eagles

10. Miami Dolphins
Our offseason Power Rankings series has examined the very best at a variety of positions, and it turns out the AFC North is holding its own near the top of the overall standings.

NFC West blogger Mike Sando updated the most recent scorecard, and the AFC North (669 points) is third, only a few points behind the NFC East (674) and significantly behind the clubhouse leader -- the NFC North (793) -- for the top spot. We still have several more Power Rankings to go, but the AFC North is showing its quality, depth and talent across the board.

The AFC North made a recent surge up the Power Rankings following a pair of strong showings the past two weeks.

The division recently dominated in the safety rankings, with Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Ed Reed of the Baltimore Ravens finishing No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. This week's ownership Power Rankings also saw the Steelers finish No. 1 with the Rooney family and Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti at No. 6, adding to the total tally.

What is impressive is the AFC North is sitting at the top of the standings with virtually no help from two teams in the division.

The Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals have contributed just nine points combined out of a possible 669. Peyton Hillis of Cleveland garnered two points for running backs, and Johnathan Joseph of Cincinnati added seven points for corners. But neither player cracked the top 10 at their positions.
I can't fully explain it. But there is a different feeling I get around the Pittsburgh Steelers than with other teams.

Every week you get the sense the Steelers have supreme confidence they're going to win the next game. Every season you feel they think they'll win the division, or win the Super Bowl -- even if it doesn't always turn out to be the case.

[+] EnlargeDan Rooney and Art Rooney
AP Photo, FileArt Rooney II (right) and his father Dan take the No. 1 spot in this week's ESPN.com Power Rankings.
Pittsburgh is the only NFL team I know which treats a 9-7 record like it's 0-16. Anything short of a Super Bowl is not good enough, which puts immense pressure on Pittsburgh. But the Steelers fearlessly embrace it.

It starts at the top with the Rooney family, who were voted the No. 1 ownership group in this week's ESPN.com Power Rankings. The Rooney family and the Steelers own more Super Bowl victories (six) than anyone and also hired the fewest head coaches (three) since 1969. That's a combination no other team can match.

A winning culture is not something that can fully be defined. It's something every team is chasing and trying to build, but few can do it successfully. Meanwhile, the Steelers have it down to a science.

The Steelers are a huge part of the identity of Pittsburgh, which is very much a blue-collar city. The players also have a sense of pride for the organization they're playing for. I cannot a recall instances of players being unhappy and wanting out of Pittsburgh. If anything, more veterans take less money to stay there and compete for a championship.

The Steelers have figured out how to stay consistent in a league which thrives on inconsistency. That is perhaps the biggest challenge for all 32 organizations.

I also like what the Baltimore Ravens are doing. Owner Steve Bisciotti, who is No. 6 in our Power Rankings, is helping build a winning culture similar to Pittsburgh's. But the Ravens simply don't have the history or the rings to match the Steelers.

It takes time.

ESPN.com's Ownership Power Rankings

1. Rooney family, Pittsburgh Steelers

2. Robert Kraft, New England Patriots

3. Packers board, Green Bay Packers

4. John Mara/Steve Tisch, New York Giants

5. Jeffrey Lurie, Philadelphia Eagles

6. Steve Bisciotti, Baltimore Ravens

7. Jim Irsay, Indianapolis Colts

8. Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys

9. Arthur Blank, Atlanta Falcons

10. Woody Johnson, New York Jets

Walker's Ownership Power Rankings

1. Rooney family, Pittsburgh Steelers

2. Robert Kraft, New England Patriots

3. Packers board, Green Bay Packers

4. John Mara/Steve Tisch, New York Giants

5. Jeffrey Lurie, Philadelphia Eagles

6. Pat Bowlen, Denver Broncos

7. Jim Irsay, Indianapolis Colts

8. McCaskey family, Chicago Bears

9. Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys

10. Steve Bisciotti, Baltimore Ravens

Who are the top NFL owners?

May, 9, 2011
5/09/11
3:00
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We have another interesting set of Power Rankings coming up on ESPN.com. This week we rank the NFL's best owners.

Will any teams from the AFC North make the cut?

Ownership with the Pittsburgh Steelers (Rooney family) and Baltimore Ravens (Steve Bisciotti) are highly regarded in NFL circles. Both teams provide stable, winning environments that make for attractive destinations for players and coaches. Will either of these owners make the top 10?

Also, what about the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals? Both Ohio teams have struggled for long stretches and combine for zero playoff wins since 1999, which is the year the Browns returned to the NFL. Will Cleveland owner Randy Lerner or Cincinnati owner Mike Brown make the top 10?

Find out who the best owners are in the NFL when we continue our Power Rankings series on Tuesday.

Holmes took fall for bad behavior

April, 11, 2010
4/11/10
11:54
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The Pittsburgh Steelers have earned more negative press than any NFL team in recent weeks, and that didn't sit well with ownership or the team's front office.

[+] EnlargeSantonio Holmes
Jason Bridge/US PresswireSantonio Holmes caught 79 passes for 1,248 yards and five touchdowns last season, but had off-the-field incidents.
Therefore, it was a matter of time before someone took the fall, and that player turned out to be receiver Santonio Holmes.

The Steelers traded the former Super Bowl MVP to the New York Jets for a fifth-round pick, according to ESPN.com's John Clayton. Yes, the Jets fleeced the Steelers by giving up a late-round pick for a very good receiver. But it's clear this move had more to do with off-the-field behavior than on-the-field performance for Pittsburgh.

Holmes was on track to become Pittsburgh's No. 1 receiver before recent incidents put him in the doghouse with the Steelers' brass. He was suspended by the team during the 2008 season for being caught with marijuana in his vehicle. Holmes also admitted to selling drugs as a youth before Super Bowl XLIII, in addition to facing recent allegations from a woman who claimed a drink was thrown at her.

Add in the recent legal troubles with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and the Steelers felt something had to be done to begin restoring their public image.

In the end, it's much easier for Pittsburgh to trade a receiver than a $100 million franchise quarterback.

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

 Here is a look at the interesting stories around the AFC North:

  • According to an article in the USA Today, Pittsburgh Steelers fans would not be happy with the Rooney Family if they sold the team.

Walker's take: This article is dead on. People are naturally resistant to change, and the Rooneys have spoiled the city of Pittsburgh for generations by being the most stable ownership group in NFL history. A complete sale to anyone would be a punch in the stomach to Steelers fans. Plus, there would be lingering concerns of a new owner that's less committed to the city and could move at any point.

  • In an attempt to pile on, The Cleveland Plain Dealer (jokingly) suggests that the city of Cleveland should purchase the Steelers.

Walker's take: If you can't beat 'em, buy 'em.

  • The Baltimore Ravens held a naming contest for two birds they will use during pregame ceremonies. They settled on "Rise" and "Conquer."

Walker's take: Those are good choices. But I was thinking more on the lines of "Elvis" and "Grbac."

  • In honor of Trent Dilfer announcing his retirement this week, Steve Greenberg of SportingNews.com listed the 10 worst quarterbacks to ever win a Super Bowl. Dilfer, as a member of the Ravens in 2000, was No. 2.

Walker's take: The kick-a-man-while-he's-retiring-tour continues for Dilfer, but the list was pretty comprehensive. The only real shock was that Eli Manning of the New York Giants, the most recent Super Bowl winning quarterback, was right behind Dilfer at No. 3 on Greenberg's list. Wow.

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Here is a look at the most interesting stories around the AFC North:

  • Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News, one of the top NFL writers in the country, picks the Cleveland Browns to reach the Super Bowl.

Walker's take: Interestingly, Gosselin also likes the New York Giants to win the NFC. I'd say the team in Gosselin's backyard has a much better chance than these two picks.

Walker's take: Druckenmiller attends every Steelers home game and, according to the article, paints his face black-and-gold. That would certainly earn brownie points in Steel Town. Still, I don't see the Rooneys giving up principal ownership. Maybe Druckenmiller can buy the Pirates instead.

  • According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, former Bengals receiver Chris Henry blew through about $2.5 million and is hurting for money.

Walker's take: Another case of poor financial management. But Henry could get another chance if he gets through his trial on July 14.

  • Former Baltimore Ravens quarterback Steve McNair is hosting a football camp Friday at the University of Southern Mississippi for ages 9-17.

Walker's take: Will McNair get the "itch" once he throws to high school receivers?

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Here is a look at the most interesting stories around the AFC North:

Walker's take: Baltimore better hope it chose the right trainer. If anything goes wrong, the Ravens (the team, not the bird) will get even more heat than they are receiving now.

Walker's take: When your career record is 42-38 AND you're head coach of the Bengals, I would say Lewis is getting a bad rap with all of this hot-seat talk. Obviously there is negativity in Cincinnati. But Lewis' career winning percentage (.525) is much better than Cleveland Browns counterpart Romeo Crennel's (.417), who is revered and well respected in Ohio. Sometimes perception gets in the way of the facts.

  • John Harris of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review went to Orlando, Fla., to talk to four Steelers who are working out before training camp. Those players were linebacker James Farrior, receiver Santonio Holmes and cornerbacks Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden.

Walker's take: As mentioned in the article, Orlando is an ideal training spot for players this time of year. They can workout in the mornings, then spend quality time with their families at Disney World and have a mini-vacation before camp.

  • In more Steelers news, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the franchise is being "secretly" shopped to potential buyers. The report cites some division amongst the sons of Steelers founder Art Rooney Sr.

Walker's take: Although there will be restructuring and some Rooneys likely will leave the football business, I can't see majority owners Dan Rooney and Art Rooney II turning the franchise over to anyone. Too much history. Too much profit.

Walker's take: Let's see if Bengals, Browns, Ravens or Steelers fans are more creative: Now that you can watch the Bengals in high definition this year, [fill in the blank].

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