Against the Ravens, 16 of Pittsburgh's 22 starters had been drafted by the team. Five others, like tackles Flozell Adams and Jonathan Scott, were street free agents, low-cost imports or minimum-salary insurance policies who ended up starting because of injuries to others. Of those five, no one more typifies Pittsburgh's genius for diamonds in the rough than Harrison, who arrived as an undrafted free agent out of Kent State in 2002 and was cut three times before finally learning Dick LeBeau's system and sticking in 2004. He earned his fourth Pro Bowl nod this season and had three sacks of Flacco on Saturday.
Then there's the 22nd starter, Ryan Clark, a low-cost 2006 free agent who nearly jumped to the Dolphins this off-season for midlevel money. The Rooneys stretched themselves to retain Clark (four years, a relatively modest $14 million) in March because they valued his leadership on the defense. On Saturday, Clark forced a Ray Rice fumble and intercepted a Flacco pass, leading to short-field third-quarter touchdowns that knotted the game at 21. "Name the last big free agent we got," Clark said. Then he noted three Steelers Super Bowl winners who left the team only to be welcomed back this year: "Larry Foote. Bryant McFadden. Antwaan Randle El. It's not our way to break the bank for guys."
"The reason it works," Tomlin said Friday, "is because the Rooneys have built a climate of consistency and stability in a business that doesn't have a lot of that. It's a business model. It's smart. And everyone here lives by it. It's daily."
It ain't broke. And if making five AFC Championship Games in 10 years is any indication, it doesn't look as if it'll ever need fixing.