FORT WORTH, Texas – In the days leading up to Super Bowl XLV the Steelers were asked repeatedly what makes them tick, what it is that gets a franchise to the first weekend in February three times in the last six seasons?
For assistant head coach John Mitchell, that can be summed up by a ride to the airport in Mitchell's first season with the Steelers.
"I lived in Allegheny Center (apartments) in 1994 and I didn't know Mr. (Dan) Rooney that well," Mitchell recalled. "He was living in Allegheny Center while he was having some work done on his father's house, which he moved back into. He rode to the airport with me (for a Steelers road trip).
"How many owners would come to an assistant coach and say, 'Hey, let me ride to the airport with you.'"
For safety Will Allen, who came to the Steelers this season after six seasons in Tampa Bay, it comes down to what the Steelers are all about, and it comes from the top.
"There's an expectation, but they allow you to meet the expectation by how they treat you," Allen said. "A lot of teams don't get that. A lot of teams apply a pressure when things get tough.
"It's not loose here, but they allow you meet the expectation by keeping the communication open, by giving you certain avenues and resources to get the job done. And they've been successful doing it. You see past players and current players, they love the organization for that and, hence, there is success.
"You don't really see that around the league."
This year's Steelers traversed a challenging route to Cowboys Stadium for Super Bowl XLV by overcoming the adversities and injuries all teams must deal with and at least one hurdle that was unprecedented – a season-opening six-game NFL suspension of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger that was eventually reduced to four games – by sticking together.
Offensive tackle Max Starks, on injured reserve but a starter in Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII, maintains the character of the players allows for such adaptability and resiliency.
"I think there are a bunch of characteristics that you must possess," Starks said. "You have to be selfless, hard-working and team-oriented. Those are the key characteristics that all of us possess. That's what makes us all Steelers.
"I think when they draft guys they look for those types of principles. You want a guy who's a smart, intelligent player and is athletic. But you want him to be a selfless individual who puts the team before himself, you want an individual who has a hard work ethic, because if you have that work ethic that makes it a lot easier."
The environment is professional, but the vibe is collegiate.
At least that's how Allen sees it.
"We had a really close group at Ohio State when we won the national championship, but to see it on a pro level is remarkable," he said. "The way that the Rooneys develop a culture of winning, develop a culture for the players, it's amazing."
Added cornerback Anthony Madison, a Super Bowl winner with the Steelers in 2008 in Tampa who landed in Cleveland and Indianapolis last season before eventually returning: "It's a beautiful thing, man. I'm very blessed to be a part of it and I'm sure 99.9 percent of the guys on this team feel the exact same way."