The only reason that the Pittsburgh Steelers were in position to draft one of the greatest and most accomplished quarterbacks in NFL history back in 2004 when they held the 11th-overall pick is because they were a bad team the year before. Since the Super Bowl era, no fan base in the NFL understands less well what it’s like to follow a team that is doing poorly than to Steelers fans.
While there were lean years, of course, through the 1980s and the early 1990s as the last vestiges of the 1970s dynasty wore away, the defensive Blitzburgh of the Bill Cowher era brought a lot of success, albeit without a Lombardi, until they bottomed out to find their quarterback of the next, perhaps, two decades.
Since then, the Steelers have never experienced a losing record, have won seven division titles, have reached the postseason 10 times, reached the AFC Championship Game five times, participated in the Super Bowl in three different years, and were NFL champions twice.
The fact that that might not even sound all that great to you is exactly how you know you are a Steelers fan, which is a point to which Ben Roethlisberger, that future Hall of Fame quarterback, spoke last night after Pittsburgh was eliminated from postseason contention for the first time in five years.
“It’s tough. You want to win a Super Bowl every year. Every team does, and only one team gets to”, he said following the conclusion of the Baltimore Ravens’ win that gave them the AFC North title. “We’ve made the playoffs the last few years, so we’ve been a little spoiled in that sense, but we got a little spoiled because we went to a lot of Super Bowls early”.
The Steelers reached the AFC Championship Game during Roethlisberger’s 15-1 rookie season. They won the Super Bowl a year later in 2005, and then again in 2008, making it back to the title game but losing in 2010. They have only reached the AFC Championship Game again once since then.
“We kind of thought we were gonna do it every year, or every other year, every third year, and it’s not that easy”, he said of the experience of the early success in his career. “I mean, look at teams that have never been there, how long it takes them between Super Bowls or playoff runs. So we could be spoiled here as players, but we still strive for that every year”.
Roethlisberger may sound like he is making excuses, and perhaps he is, but what he says is also simply true. It’s hard to win consistently, and constantly pointing to the gigantic outlier doesn’t change that fact. It sucks that the Steelers failed to reach the postseason this year, and perhaps that indicates that some changes need to be made. But let’s keep things in perspective.