Only four teams over the course of the past five seasons can say that they reached the postseason at least four times in that span. The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of them, in spite of the fact that they squandered a playoff opportunity in 2018 by finishing the season 2-6 after being in position for a first-round bye at 7-2-1 prior to that.
The Steelers did make the postseason every year from 2014 through the 2017 season, winning at least one game in 2014 and 2015. They advanced to the Divisional Round in 2014 before losing to the Denver Broncos, without Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. The following year, they made it to the AFC Championship Game, being handled by the New England Patriots, in a game in which Bell left early.
Pittsburgh had one of its best regular seasons in its history in 2017, going 13-3, which realistically could have been 14-2 had the ruling of a go-ahead touchdown by Jesse James stood in the waning minutes. Despite earning a first-round bye, however, they lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars, going one-and-done in the Divisional Round.
Even though the Steelers’ track record remains better than that of most franchises, nobody is happy with their recent showings. Mike Tomlin, their head coach, is well aware of it, and agrees with it fully, as he told Bruce Rader as he hosted his Hampton Roads Youth Foundation event recently.
“I love that”, he said when asked about the pressure to perform that comes with his job in the Steelers organization.
“To be honest with you, that’s what I love most about the job”, the 13th-year head coach continued. “I embrace the high expectations associated with the job. I like the fact that Steeler Nation is pissed off, you know. As am I and we are. And so we’re excited about meeting the challenges of 2019 and answering some of those questions that are out there about us”.
One of the criticisms that Tomlin’s detractors often level at him is that he doesn’t seem as invested as he should, which is an argument that I’ve never quite understood. Just because he takes a hands-off approach with the media’s questions more often than not doesn’t mean that he is not very concerned about the business of winning football games.
After all, it’s his job that’s on the line if they’re not winning. And just because the Steelers haven’t fired a coach since 1969 doesn’t mean they can’t do it if one really loses the plot. Tomlin may have won two Super Bowls (once as an assistant with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers), but just ask Tom Brady if it ever gets old.
The objective every year in Pittsburgh is to win the Super Bowl. The expectation every year is to win the Super Bowl. Every time that doesn’t happen is a failure. Seemingly everyone in the organization is on the record in saying this. They are pissed off about how last season ended as much as anybody. The question is, have they found the solution this offseason?