No matter how things unfold, the Pittsburgh Steelers are in store for a long offseason, and we can say that literally. For the first time since 2013, the Steelers will not participate in a postseason game, and not play in January. For the first time since 2014, they will have failed to reach the Divisional Round. In other words, we have two extra weeks of offseason, at least, than we have become used to.
That in itself is something that is worth talking about. You may have seen me mention this elsewhere, but the fact that the Steelers had reached the postseason in four consecutive seasons from 2014 to 2017 is nothing to take lightly, especially in today’s league.
The Steelers have only recorded three periods in their history in which they went on to reach the postseason in four or more seasons consecutively. Needless to say, the first was during their dynasty years of the 1970s, during which they participated in postseason play in every season from 1972 to 1979.
Then they would miss the postseason in eight of the next 12 years at the end of Chuck Noll’s coaching career before Bill Cowher got things turned around. The Steelers made it to the playoffs in each of Cowher’s first six seasons, reaching the AFC Championship Game three times and the Super Bowl once, though of course they fell short.
He would miss the postseason in five of his nine remaining seasons as the Steelers’ head coach, never making it in more than two seasons in a row. That trend continued under the first seven seasons of the Mike Tomlin era.
He took the Steelers to the playoffs in each of his first two seasons, winning the Super Bowl in his second in 2008, but they would falter in 2009 before again returning to the Super Bowl and losing in 2010. After reaching the postseason again in 2011, they would spend two seasons without postseason play before they made it back in e ach of the past four years.
That’s going to be small solace to most, and entirely meaningless to many others. The expectation of the average Steelers fan is basically playoffs every single year with a handful of Super Bowls sprinkled into every decade. Anything less than that is simply unacceptable.
Is it realistic? No. Is it fair? That’s a more complicated answer. The Steelers embrace the high standards because they set them for themselves. They came up woefully short this year, but still have the makings of a Super Bowl-caliber team, I think, in 2019.