The fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers had never made the postseason in more than two consecutive years from 1998 until 2014 is lost in the discussion taking place this offseason after the team failed to reach the playoffs in 2018. It is the first time since 2013 that the Steelers had not competed in the postseason after earning a berth in each of the previous four seasons.
They won the AFC North in three of those four years and had reached at least the Divisional Round in the three years preceding this past, going so far as the AFC Championship Game in 2017 in spite of the fact that they had a roster decimated by injuries.
Still, in Pittsburgh, failure to even reach the postseason does not sit well and is not something that is accepted, even if it happens more frequently than many might care to realize (and is also true of every team that is not the Bill Belichick-led New England Patriots, who are always the exception in such discussions and thus never a fitting comparison).
The good news, if any of you still take President Art Rooney II seriously, is that he believes this is a team that is very much capable of very quickly righting the ship and getting right back into the postseason mix for 2019.
“Look, everything hasn’t gone as smooth as you might like, but that’s sports these days”, he admitted about the 2018 season during his recent media blitz on local radio stations. “I think that overall, the performance on the field has been not exactly what we would like, but certainly nothing to be embarrassed about as far as I’m concerned”.
He added, “Certainly we want to do better than that, Ron, and to be successful in the postseason you’ve got to start with winning the regular season, so that certainly counts. But bottom line is we want to be a playoff team that’s successful at the end of the season and we need to get back to doing what we need to do to do that”.
He expressed in multiple interviews that he believes the Steelers “have a core group of players that can be the nucleus of another good team and a playoff team”. And most importantly, he still believes that they have a quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger that is always capable of keeping them in the fight.
“Certainly I feel good about Ben and the condition he’s in physically and mentally. Certainly the development of some of the young players that are coming up like JuJu and Conner and T.J. Watt. So there are a lot of things that I think we can build on and get back to where we want to be”.
The Steelers had 10 Pro Bowlers in 2017. They have eight Pro Bowlers this year. There is no denying that they have a number of skilled players. That doesn’t automatically equal success, and there is still much work to do, but it is a good place to start, especially where those talented players emerge as team leaders, as T.J. Watt and perhaps JuJu Smith-Schuster are becoming as they enter their third years.