One of the things that the NFL prides itself on is the notion that, in any given year, you will see about five teams reach the postseason who did not do so the year before. The Pittsburgh Steelers failed to reach the postseason two years in a row now after making it four years straight, so they are looking to help the league keep up with that five-team turnover.
And the fact that there is an extra playoff berth in either conference this year already means that two teams who didn’t make it last year will this year. In each of the past two years, the Steelers would have been the team in that extra spot. They are hoping for better—the division, even the first-round bye—but Steve Mariucci believes they will at least be one of the teams making it back to the dance, as he said on NFL Network yesterday on NFL Total Access:
The team in the AFC last year who had the best record who didn’t get in, 8-8, the Pittsburgh Steelers. I want all you Steeler Nation fans to just pray that those three little [tendons] in Ben’s elbow hold up this year. Because this is a heck of a football team, and you talk about a great defenses? One of the best defenses, with three All-Pro guys: T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, and Minkah Fitzpatrick. I love the kid they drafted from Michigan, Devin Bush. And you know what, if Big Ben is healthy, with those [tendons], they’re gonna be really explosive again. James Conner’s gonna be more useful than he was last year, with JuJu, and then Chase Claypool they drafted. I like this team. They can go way better than 8-8. I’m not saying they’re gonna win the division, because Baltimore should, but one of those three Wildcard spots? Come on! The Pittsburgh Steelers outta do this easy.
The Steelers did finish 8-8 last season, but it was an interesting way to get there. After starting the season 1-4, they proceeded to go on a great 7-1 run in the middle of the season, but after reaching an 8-5 record and putting themselves in the position to claim the number five seed—the division was even still on the table—they dropped their final three games.
The year prior to that, Pittsburgh posted a 9-6-1 record, and in both cases, they entered the finale with a chance to make the playoffs, but did not get the help that they needed on either occasion. Some key losses down the stretch doomed them.
This was just after posting one of their best records in franchise history in 2017 at 13-3, qualifying for their first first-round bye since 2010. And the year prior to that, after winning the division, they advanced to the AFC Championship game, also since the first time since 2010.
— NFL Total Access (@NFLTotalAccess) August 11, 2020