For years, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin has been called an underachiever. His rosters have at times been cited as being among the most talented in the NFL, yet he hasn’t had much to show it. since 2011, his teams have reached the postseason five times in nine years, going 3-5 during that time. They have only advanced past the Divisional Round once, in 2016, the year they have last one a postseason game.
Then again, since 2013, John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens have only made the playoffs three times, and are 1-3 since then. Under Lamar Jackson, they are 19-3 in the regular season (20-3 since he first entered the starting lineup), but they were pretty well handled in each of the past two years in their lone postseason game, first by the Los Angeles Chargers and then the Tennessee Titans.
Last year was particularly troubling after going 14-2 in the regular season and locking up the number one seed. The Titans seemed to steamroll them, with Jackson throwing only one touchdown with two interceptions. He threw for 365 yards, but so much of that came late in the game, a 28-12 loss.
That’s not an experience that is easy to move past, and the Ravens aren’t trying to. As Harbaugh said on The Fan last week, “you never get over it. I haven’t gotten over it. I hope to never get over it. I think it’s fuel. I think any failure is fuel. I don’t care how many times you get knocked down in life, you’re not a failure until you choose not to get back up. We’ve been down these roads before, in football and in life. Everybody understands how that works”.
“We had high hopes, but we didn’t get the job done”, he went on to say about that surprising loss to the Titans. “We failed, and we were disappointed in ourselves, and we didn’t play better. We coached and played our worst game of the year in the most critical moment, and that’s a real disappointment, so we better learn from it, and we have, and we intend to”.
This is in contrast from Harbaugh’s early tenure in Baltimore. Despite winning the division only twice in his first five seasons, his teams reached the playoffs each year and won at least one game. He won more than one game twice during that time, including during the 2012 season when they won it all. But they only have one playoff victory in the seven years that have followed.
“I’m very confident that we’ll be mentally tougher because of it”, Harbaugh said of that postseason loss. It’s impossible to deny that they continue to have a very talented roster. But we know that talent doesn’t necessarily always translate into the sort of success that one might expect. Just ask Steelers fans…