Pittsburgh Steelers fans often find themselves complaining about their plight without realizing how well-off they are as football fans relative to much of the rest of the National Football League. The Steelers are indisputably one of the most successful franchises, both historically and in the current climate.
Just imagine being a fan of the Cincinnati Bengals, an organization that has not won a playoff game in decades. The Steelers, for the record, have never gone even five seasons without winning at least one playoff game since the merger, and they are the only one of all 32 teams able to make that claim.
Cincinnati’s plight is so dire that the team’s quarterback expressing his belief that the team is “close” to returning to the playoffs seems ambitious. They have posted losing records in each of the past two seasons, though to be fair they did reach the postseason in five consecutive seasons prior to that, losing in the Wildcard round each time.
“If you look at last year, there’s four or five games that came down to the last couple of minutes of the game and under a touchdown difference”, Andy Dalton told reporters recently. “I think if a couple of those games had flipped we could have made the playoffs last year, but obviously we didn’t finish some of these games. I think we’re close. I think we’ve got the right guys. We’ll add some more once the draft happens”.
Aside from Dalton, the Bengals have Pro Bowler A.J. Green at wide receiver, and have re-signed another Pro Bowl talent in tight end Tyler Eifert, though he has rarely been on the field for the past two seasons. Second-year running back Joe Mixon figures to have a bigger role in 2018, while the team is desperately counting upon a big impact from wide receiver John Ross, last year’s first-round pick.
The quarterback is hoping that the offense continues to build and evolve under Bill Lazor, who was the team’s quarterbacks coach prior to Week Three last season. The Bengals fired offensive coordinator Ken Zampese after they were shut out in the first two weeks of the season, so this will be Lazor’s first offseason in that role.
“I’ve really enjoyed Bill Lazor being there”, Dalton said. “I know he’s got a plan for us and a plan of how he wants to do things. So for him obviously taking over in the third week last year, he didn’t have a chance to really put his stamp on everything. He was kind of evolving what we were doing”.
He sees the offseason as “a chance for him to have a full offseason, full OTAs, training camp to put his stuff in and to do it how he wants to do it”, and told reporters that he’s “looking forward to that”. I’m sure he’s looking forward to winning more than seven games again as well.