The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.
And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.
Question: Is a loss in the Super Bowl worse than losing in an earlier round of the postseason?
The Pittsburgh Steelers, much like 29 other teams around the NFL, found themselves watching the Super Bowl on their television sets at home like the most of the rest of us. That is the nature of the beast when you don’t make it to the NFL championship game.
But they did get further than they have gotten in years, reaching the AFC Championship game for the first time since 2011. They failed to make the playoffs at all for two years, before losing in the Wildcard round in 2014, and then in the Divisional round in 2015. They have been incrementally taking a step closer.
That progress demonstrates obvious, tangible improvement, having gone from missing the playoffs entirely in 2013 to reaching the AFC Championship game in 2016. And yet it seems that each loss deeper into the postseason is harder to take. At this rate, they will reach the Super Bowl, but lose, in 2017, and then win it all in 2018.
Pittsburgh marched through a comfortable victory in the Wildcard round, but had to hold on late against the Chiefs in the Divisional round as they struggled to get into the end zone. They got pretty much manhandled for most of the AFC Championship game, however, and that as harder to take.
But would it have been worse to win that game, only to lose in the Super Bowl two weeks later? For me, personally, it may feel worse in the short term, but it is clearly better in the long run. After all, it is quite impressive to reach the Super Bowl seven times, even if you didn’t win all of them.
The Steelers have been to more Conference final games in the modern era than any other team, reaching their 16th this season. it ended terribly, but after the emotional reaction fades, it’s easier to appreciate what that means. At least, that’s my take. What’s yours?