The Pittsburgh Steelers have had more than their fair share of years recently that could be divided just about right down the middle between good and bad.
This started in 2009, when they once again got off to a 6-2 start. But injuries to key players such as Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith, and a shaky secondary that wasn’t on the same page with each other and William Gay in over his head as a first-time starter, saw the Steelers drop five games in a row.
They managed to charge back, winning their last three games to finish 9-7 and barely missing the playoffs.
In 2012, the Steelers were off to a 6-3 start when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was injured and missed the following three games. The Steelers managed to win one of them, but when Roethlisberger returned, he was not the same player.
He only managed to win one of his four starts at the end of the year and drew the team to a disappointing .500 record after a promising beginning to the year.
It didn’t get any better to begin last season, as the Steelers dropped their first four games, and six of their first eight. Going back to the previous season, they had a 4-11 record in their last 15 games, and things simply were not looking good.
But this time a poor first half gave way to a strong finish, even if it ultimately wasn’t enough for the Steelers to advance to the postseason.
Pittsburgh went 6-2 in their last eight games, twice putting together three-game winning streaks in the process, and they’re looking to build off that momentum to carry them into this season, as the misfortunes of 2012 dragged into last year.
Offensive lineman Ramon Foster talked about their promising finish last year earlier this offseason and how he’s getting his teammates to work from that foundation to help build a championship team:
I think we have a very firm foundation, especially with the offensive line in that room right now. Guys understand what it takes to win, what it is to finish in this league. I think there were more positives out of this season than negatives and those are things championship teams are built on, and I think we have the makings for that.
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley also recalled the successes of the late surge from a year ago, and how that started putting the pieces together for a strong team heading into this season:
The second half of the season, we did a lot of good things, as we worked our way through adversity when you couldn’t see much light at the end of the tunnel. I think a lot of good came out of that. I think a lot of the guys that were here and are still here, feel that and know what we have to accomplish. We are all interested in building off of that finish.
As we saw last year, it’s not easy to carry over a strong first half of a season into the next if there’s a weak second half separating the two. The Steelers had that poor 4-11 stretch spanning the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
But bookmarking that were two strong runs of winning football, which together translate to a 12-5 record. We’ll see how the team manages this year coming off a weak start and strong finish, rather than vice versa. Was that 4-11 stretch merely growing pains, getting them to where they are now? That question can only be answered on the field.