If they bring off another Super Bowl Victory, the prdictable photo will depict Terry Bradshaw (age 32), Joe Greene (34), Rocky Bleier (34), Franco Harris and John Stallworth (both 28) with the symbolic rings on all five fingers.
Greene is calling it the quest of "one for the thumb." It could be the end of an era dominated by their names, but not likely the beginning of the end of anything else because the Pittsburgh Steelers regenerate themselves every year in the draft.
In Chuck Noll, they have a coach who has manipulated a flow of personnel so successfully that his chief problem is the NFL's 45-man squad limit. In the trenches, where victories are rooted, he has an excess of performers challenging for attention, both ways.
The linebackers and defensive backs are only slightly less bountiful. Large young running backs abound.
Mike Kruczek was such a sparkly prospect that he started six games as a rookie in 1976, when Bradshaw was injured, and won all of them. He has given up the wait for Bradshaw's retirement and joined the Redskins. So Cliff Stoudt showed in exhibitions this season that he can spell Bradshaw, and the Steelers drafted Mark Malone of Arizona State to be No. 3 quarterback. AFC Central
Once more, the Steelers' chief challenge figures to come within their own Central Division.
Ken Stabler, 34, appears to be just what Earl Campbell wanted to narrow, if not close, the gap between the Houston Oilers and the Steelers.
Stabler, a quick-count, quick-pitch quarterback, works the offense so fast that the Oilers seem to have all 11 players in motion on offense.
Cleveland's new hope of making up some ground in the division is tied to whatever Heisman trophy winner Charles White of Southern California can add to an offense previously built around Greg Pruitt.
The Browns had the third best overall offensive statistics in 1979, but the defense ranked No. 24 overall, 27th against the rush, in a 9-7 season.
Cincinnati has a new coach, Forrest Gregg, trying to turn around a 4-12 record. The Bengals have had several good drafts, but the most noticeable one this year figures to be offensive tackle Anthony Munoz of Southern California, if only because he is 6 feet 5 and 287 pounds. AFC East
The New England Patriots' personnel strategy has been so notable the last few years that they will have five No. 1 draft choices in their defensive backfield and three running backs taken on the first round.
If the Patriots do not improve significantly in the Eastern Division over their 9-7 record of last season season, Coach Ron Erhardt will be questioned in his second season as to whether he is the proper successor to Chuch Fairbanks.
Chuck Foreman, a No. 1 pick from the University of Miami (Fla.) by the Minnesota Vikings, was obtained by the Patriots for a No. 3 draft choice. He is 30, but will be in the backfield with former first-round pick Sam Cunningham or Vagas Ferguson, a No. 1 selection from Notre Dame.
The first-round choices in the defensive backfield are Mike Haynes, Tim Fox, Raymond Clayborn, Rick Sanford and Roland James.
The Patriots led the NFL with 30 scoring passes, 28 by Steve Grogan, but he has been inconsistent, frequently relying on his running ability. Matt Cavanaugh is regarded as ready to take over if Grogan falters.
The defense is solid, leading the league with 57 sacks in 1979 and allowing the fewest average yards per rush, 3.4.
Miami had the best record in the division, 10-6, but Coach Don Shula is in the last year of his contract and may be labeled a "lame duck" with all the speculation of where he may be next year, particularly in light of Dan Devine already announcing this is his last season at Notre Dame.
Bob Griese, the Dolphins' quarterback at 35, is in his 12th season, and Larry Csonka is gone.
The New York Jets have the youngest team (average 24.5 years) and the least experienced (two-year average) but led the NFL in rushing in their second straight 8-8 season.
Richard Todd got a vote of confidence when quarterback Matt Robinson was traded to Denver. Then on the first round the Jets drafted Johnny (Lam) Jones of Texas, 1976 Olympic gold medal winner. He joins at wide receiver speedball Esley Walker, who missed seven games in 1979 with a knee injury. But on defense, the Jets had only 22 sacks last year.
Coach Mike McCormack is taking over a Baltimore Colt team that had two straight 5-11 seasons under Ted Marchibroda. They will go as far as Bert Jones's arm will take them.
There is new speed at running back, Curtis Dickey of Texas A&M, to go with Joe Washington, Cornerback Derrick Hatchett of Texas is justifying being selected on the first round by starting already.
The Buffalo Bills drafted running back Joe Cribbs of Auburn to go with Terry Miller. They hope to turn around a 7-9 record. AFC West
The San Diego Chargers have the momentum of a 12-4 season achieved without tight end Kellen Winslow (their No. 1 draft choice), defensive tackle Louie Kelcher and placekicker Rolf Benirschke.
Now those injured principals are back and the chargers hope there is some journeyman football left in one-time Heisman trophy winner John Cappelletti, whom they obtained from the Los Angeles Rams.
In his first full season with the Chargers, Coach Don Coryell took advantage of the recent rules changes to open offenses and San Diego became the first division winner to pass more often than run. Quarterback Dan Fouts won the AFC passing title, and the defense allowed the fewest points in the fewest points in the conference.
The Denver Broncos, seeking their fourth playoff appearance under Red Miller, have revised their attitude toward offense.
Rod Dowhower, former head coach at Stanford, was hired as the Bronco offensive coordinator. A No. 1 draft choice and quarterback Craig Penrose were traded to the Jets for Matt Robinson.
Last year, coordinator Joe Collier's defense was toughest in the NFL, allowing only 11 touchdown passes and an average of 105.8 yards rushing a game. a
Seattle is coming on as an expansion club with its second 9-7 season in a row. Quarterback Jim Zorn is another pass-happy quarterback. He has thrown for more yards in his first four seasons than any other quarterback except Joe Namath. Wide receiver Steve Largent's 66 receptions led the league and running back Sherman Smith gained 775 yards and scored 11 touchdowns.
The Oakland Raiders stack up as a lame duck, hoping to be relocated in Los Angeles for the 1981 season.
After missing the playoffs with a 9-7 record, in the first year that John Madden was missing from the coaching lines, the Raiders have disposed of familiars such as Ken Stabler, Jack Tatum and Phil Villapiano.
Having obtained strong-arm Dan Pastorini from Houston in a straight-up deal for Stabler, Oakland's passing offense may harken back to the days of Daryle Lamonica, the "Mad Bomber." Behind 31-year-old Pastorini will be All-America quarterback Marc Wilson of Brigham Young and Jim Plunkett.
At Kansas City, Coach Marv Levy took the Chiefs from a 4-12 record in 1978 to 7-9 last season. But the offense ranked 27th in the NFL under rookie quarterback Steve Fuller. The Chiefs grabbed off All-America guard Brad Budde of Southern California on the first round of the draft and running back James Hadnot of Texas Tech on the third round. NFC East
The Dallas Cowboys are coming off winning their fourth straight Eastern Division title in the National Conference. Still, the team that has been so highly regarded for a perennial flow of quality personnel has to prove itself all over again because of the retirement of Roger Staubach.
Other NFL teams have won division titles without superstar quarterbacks, yet the Cowboys are suspect under Danny White despite leading the NFC in total offense and points scored. Tony Dorsett will be trying to top 1,000 yards rushing for the fourth straight season, something unprecedented in the league.
Not many clubs will field a front four to match Harvey Martin and Ed (Too Tall) Jones at the ends and Randy White and John Dutton at the tackles.
The Philadelphia Eagles equaled the Cowboys' 11-5 record in attaining the playoffs for the second year in a row, but their late-season victory over Dallas was the first in 10 tries against the Cowboys.
Six-season veteran quarterback Ron Jaworski threw 18 touchdown passes and had only 12 interceptions, and Wilbert Montgomery rushed for 1,512 yards. Seven Eagles made the Pro Bowl. Harold Carmichael caught 52 passes, including 11 for touchdowns. Otherwise, the Eagles' talent is hardly as extensive as that of the Cowboys.
The New York Giants do not pose a serious threat to the Cowboys' defense of the division title, coming off a 6-10 season under their new coach. Ray Perkins. The Giants uncovered a promising quarterback, Phil Simms, after an 0-5 start, but were 27th in the league in scoring while giving up 323 points, fourth worst in the five-team division.
The St. Louis Cardinals have a new head coach, Jim Hanifan, after 6-10 and 5-11 seasons under Bud Wilkinson. The Cardinals led the NFC in rushing, mostly because Ottis Anderson set a league record for a rookie by gaining 1605 yards, including nine 100-yard games.
In his second year, Theotis Brown figures to help at fullback and the Cardinals may have found the eventual replacement for the late J.V. Cain by drafting tight end Doug Marsh of Michigan. Jim Hart, a 15-year veteran, threw only nine scoring passes, his lowest total since 1972. NFC Central
When they set out to defend their divisional title the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play a first-place team's schedule, rather than that of the fifth-place finisher they had in 1978.
Coach John McKay conceds, "We shouldn't be able to sneak up on anybody anymore, but I think anyone who feels the Buccaneers are just a one-year fluke is sadly mistaken."
Doug Williams completed only 41.8 percent of his passes, but threw 18 touchdowns and let the NFC with 14.7 yards per completion, as the Bucs finished 10-6.
Ricky Bell rushed 1,263 yards and Jerry Eckwood 690. The defense, led by defensive end Lee Roy Selmon, held the Bucaneers together. Tampa Bay led the NFL in that department, allowing an average of 246.8 yards a game, and the fewest points, 237.
The Chicago Bears matched Tampa Bay's 10-6 record, the most victories by a Bears team since 1963, a championship year.
Their 7-1 record in the second half of the season was the best in the league. The Bears averaged 26 points the last nine games. The rushing game was second in the conference, wht Walter Payton gaining 1,610 yards for his fourth straight NFC title.
Quarterback Mike Phipps won nine of his 10 starts as the Bears increased their scoring passes over 1978 from seven to 16 and decreased interceptions from 26 to 16.
The defense was No. 3 in the league at No. 1 draft pick Dan Hampton became the first rookie to start for the Bears since 1975.
The Minnesota Vikings' 7-9 record represented their first losing season since 1967, but Tommy Kramer took over at quarterback and threw 23 touchdown passes, though he had 24 interceptions.
Ahmad Rashad led the wide receivers in the NFL with 80 catches and nine touchdowns. With Jim Marshall and Carl Eller gone, the Vikings finished ninth in the conference on defense.
On the first round the Vikings drafted defense tackle Doug Martin of the University of Washington, the fourth defensive lineman taken on the first round in the last six years.
The Green Bay Packers toppled from an 8-7-1 record in 1977 to 5-11 last season and this year they drafted defensive tackle Bruce Clark of Penn State on the first round, only to lose him to Toronto of the Canadian Football League.
The Packers finished 13th on defense and 12th on offense in the NFC. Running backs Barty Smith, Eddie Lee Ivery, and Steve Atkins were hampered by injuries.
The detroit Lions figure they have no way to go but up from a 2-14 record, with former Heisman trophy winner Billy Sims at running back quarterback Gary Danielson returning from a knee injury, an improved offensive line and Al Baker setting an example to the defense with 16 sacks last season. NFC West
The Los Angeles Rams figure to retain the NFC title in their first season at Anaheim in a Western Divisoion where no rivals had winning records last year.
The Rams won their seventh straight division title with a 9-7 record but eventually lost to Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl 31-19. Los Angeles first has to contend with what effect there will be from a contest at quarterback. It matches Pat 'aden, who started 10 games before breaking a finger on his throwing hand, against Vince Ferragamo, who took the Rams the rest of the way and acquitted himself more than adequately in the playoffs and the Super Bowl.
Wendell Tyler rushed for 1,109 yards, but injured his hip July 4 in an auto accident that will delay his role as a starter. Elvis Peacock is back after missing 1979 with a knee injury. Eight-year veteran Cullen Bryant returns as the fullback.
The defense again ranked third in the NFC and is the team's chief strength.
The New Orleans Saints finished behind only Dallas in scoring in the NFC while achieving their first nonlosing season (8-3) in Dick Nolan's second season as head coach.
Five Saints were chosen for the Pro Bowl -- running back Chuck Muncie (the game's most valuable player), quarterback Archie Manning, wide receiver Wes Chandler, tight end Henry Childs and safety Tommy Myers.
Muncie rushed 1,198 yards. Tony Galbreath ran for 708 yards and 10 touchdowns and caught 58 passes. Chandler caught 65 passes.
The Atlanta Falcons, despite their previous stress on defense, slipped from a 9-7 record in 1978 to 6-10 last season. In 1977 they set a modern record by allowing only 129 points in 14 games. In 1978 they allowed 290 and in a 16-game season in 1979 they yielded 388.
The offense scored 60 more points in 1979 than in 1978, while running back William Andrews was rushing for 1,023 yards and wide receiver Wallace Francis caught 74 passes for 1,013 yards and eight touchdowns.
The San Francisoc 49ers have the elements to qualify as a "sleeper" candidate, having finished first in passing and third overall on offense in the NFC, despite a 2-14 record.
Coach Bill Walsh has a reputation as an offensive genius who developed quarterbacks at Stanford. He inherited a team, that also finished 2-14 in 1978. In 1979, only Cincinnati allowed more points, 421 to 416 and the 49ers ranked 20th in defense.
Steve DeBerg set NFL records for attempts and completions and the 49ers drafted running back Earl Cooper of Rice. To begin the turnaround on defense, defensive tackle Jim Stuckey of Clemson was selected. "Certainly, we should win three times as many games as last year, "Walsh says, "but that isn't many."