The Pittsburgh Steelers have failed to win more than nine games in either of the past two seasons, posting an overall record of 17-13-1 during that timespan. In both years, they finished 7th in the AFC, just outside of qualifying for the postseason. It’s the fourth time under Mike Tomlin’s tenure in which they have finished 7th in the conference during the past 13 seasons, having never finished worse than 8-8.
Earlier this year, the league approved a rule change that expands the postseason to seven seeds per conference, adding a third wildcard team to the format in addition to the four teams who qualify by virtue of winning their division. Had this format been in place previously, Tomlin would have never missed the postseason.
Heading into 2020, the Steelers would figure to be in a better position than in either of the past two years, with a much better defense, and an offense that has to be better than a year ago after finishing at or near the bottom of so many of the most critical categories.
Despite that, Pro Football Focus only gives them a 41 percent chance of reaching the postseason, which doesn’t sound like a lot. Considering the fact that they give the Cleveland Browns a 46 percent chance of making the postseason, even though they’ve only done so twice since 1999, I think Steelers fans might take issue.
The Steelers are in third, but they’re not far behind, and actually would have squeaked into the playoffs under this format last season, despite their QBs combining to earn the second-lowest PFF grade. With Big Ben back, JuJu healthy, and Diontae Johnson coming off a really strong rookie campaign, the Steelers have a 41 percent chance to make it all the way to the big dance.
Now, of course they’re not going to have a 100 percent chance to make the playoffs. Even the Baltimore Ravens were given an 87 percent chance to return for the third year in a row, even though they went 14-2 last season and outscored their opponents by an average of something like 15 points per game.
The fact that the Steelers are in the same division as the Ravens obviously hurts their chances of making the postseason, but even with the uncertainty around Ben Roethlisberger and his arm, I find it hard to stomach the idea that the Browns are more likely to make it. They might look good on paper, but so did the ‘Dream Team’ Philadelphia Eagles.