The Chicago Bears and the Pittsburgh Steelers are about to meet on the gridiron for the 28th time. While the Bears hold the series advantage at 19-7-1, the Steelers hold the more recent organizational success than the Bears. A whole lot more.
The only thing these two teams have in common is both were founded by football icons and are still controlled by their families. The Bears were founded by George Halas and are now owned by his daughter Virginia McCaskey along with her family. Some argue the divergence in the path is because of her family. We will get to that in a moment.
The Steelers were founded by Art Rooney Sr. and are still controlled by his family. Leadership stability, franchise quarterbacks, and Super Bowl victories are where these two teams diverge in distinct paths. It was a coin flip that set these two teams in polar opposite directions.
In 1969, the Bears and Steelers both bottomed out at 1-13. A coin flip was held to determine who would get the No. 1 pick in the 1970 NFL draft. The prize was the right to draft quarterback Terry Bradshaw. The flip went the Steelers way and the rest is history.
Of course, it was a McCaskey who made the wrong call on the flip.
"“Heads,” Bears representative Ed McCaskey said as Rozelle’s shiny 1921 silver dollar bounced on a cloth-covered table and came up tails.“McCaskey, you bum!” hollered former Chicago sportswriter Jack Griffin from the back of the room to Bears owner George Halas’ son-in-law.“You couldn’t even win a coin flip!”"
Since that fateful day, during 51 years between 1970 to today…
- The Pittsburgh Steelers went on to win six Super Bowls—tied for most by any NFL franchise. They have been in the big game at least once every decade except the 1980s. The Chicago Bears have the iconic 1985 Super Bowl run and a Super Bowl loss in 2006.
- Pittsburgh has been to 16 AFC Championship Games and one in every decade. Chicago has been to five NFC Championship Games.
- The Steelers have been to the playoffs 32 times to the Bears 16 times.
- The Steelers have 24 division titles while Monsters of the Midway have 11.
- Pittsburgh has had just three head coaches–two of them are Hall of Famers in Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher. Plus, all three coaches won the franchise Super Bowl rings. Chicago has gone through 11 different head coaches and only Mike Ditka is a name most of the general public would recognize.
- Pittsburg has won 490 games–the best in that span. Chicago has 393 victories and a below .500 record.
- The Steelers have drafted two franchise quarterbacks—Ben Roethlisberger and Bradshaw. The Bears drafted busts like Cade McNown, Rex Grossman, and Mitchell Trubisky.
- Speaking of quarterbacks, Pittsburgh has had a total of 26 different signal-callers to start a game. The Bears surpassed 26 before 2000 and the starting quarterback situation has been well documented.
- The Steelers have drafted 26 players who made First-Team All-Pro for them. The Bears can only claim 16.
It was just a coin flip but it was a flip of fate that sent one franchise on to be a model NFL franchise. The Bears, the team that called heads and came out as a loser, have been just that, a losing franchise.