From one point of view, you can say that the Pittsburgh Steelers finishing a season 8-8 puts them in familiar territory. They finished with that same record in consecutive seasons not so long ago, in both the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Yet those years were quite different from this. Even those were different from one another.
In 2012, for example, the Steelers went 6-3 in their first nine games. Ben Roethlisberger was injured in that ninth game, however, and they struggled when he missed time. When he returned, he was not playing at the same level.
The following year, they got off to a dreary start, losing their first four games. They would win two before losing two more, then winning three, losing two, and finally ending on a three-game winning streak. They went 8-4 in the final twelve games, and that largely saw them focus more on the running game with Le’Veon Bell.
This year’s 8-8 is quite different from either of those, and features Roethlisberger being sidelined for 14-plus games. It is also several years later. And so Mike Tomlin finds no lessons to be learned in adjusting from this time in that history lesson.
“I don’t do a whole bunch of that”, he said in looking for help in the past. “The variables are ever changing. The men that you are working with are ever changing. I am just focused on as I transition to 2019 to lay a good foundation for 2020 where we are not having this discussion”.
it’s fair to say that the roster has changed dramatically since 2012. Cameron Heyward is the only defensive player still with the team from that season. Offensively, only Roethlisberger, Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster, and David DeCastro remain, and DeCastro missed the first 12 games as a rookie due to injury.
So, literally, there are only five players remaining from 2012. And you only collect one more if you go ahead to 2013, when Vince Williams was drafted. It goes without saying that the causes of going 8-8 then would be very different from the causes of the current situation. Even the coordinators are different.
At least in this case, I think it’s fair to point at the quarterback position as the primary cause. Neither Mason Rudolph nor Devlin Hodges had ever thrown a pass before this season, and they were clearly not read to take on the task of starting long stretches of games. It doesn’t help that they combined for 18 giveaways to 18 touchdowns. You definitely want to be better than 1:1.