Ever since the NFL-AFL merger, there hasn’t been a team in the league that has been more consistent than the Pittsburgh Steelers. At least up until recently they have ranked at the top of many crucial categories, and remain at or near, such as Super Bowl victories, division titles, postseason victories, and postseason appearances.
There was one aspect in particular that long stood out for them above everybody else, which was the frequency with which they not only reached the postseason, but had success. They were the only team, for example, who had never gone five consecutive years without a postseason victory—until now. With Sunday’s loss, they now join the rest of the entire league in having at least one such streak of that length since the merger.
Prior to the most recent run, the Steelers only had three streaks of more than three seasons in which they did not record a playoff victory. That was a four-season span between 1985 and 1988 during which they didn’t even qualify. But they won one game in 1984 and 1989. They failed to record a playoff win from 1990 through 1993 as well, though they qualified twice.
Under Mike Tomlin, they also went four seasons without a playoff victory following their loss in Super Bowl XLV in 2010, losing Wild Card games in 2011 and 2014, failing to qualify in the two seasons in between. They won three games over the next two postseasons, but have not won since—losing three games during that time, and now four in a row, which is their longest postseason losing streak in team history.
As for the rest of the league, where do they stack up? We might as well start in the AFC North. The Brown failed to win a postseason game between 1995 and 2019. The Cincinnati Bengals just won their first game since 1990. These were two of the longest streaks in NFL history. The Baltimore Ravens most recent dry spell of five or more years was under Brian Billick. They went without a postseason victory between the 2002 and 2008 seasons. That run was bookended by losses to the Steelers.
In the AFC East, the Buffalo Bills went winless between 1996 and 2019. The New York Jets are on an 11-year drought right now. The Miami Dolphins have last won a playoff game in 2000. The New England Patriots went winless between 1986 and 1995.
In the AFC West, the Denver Broncos are on a six-year dry spell. The Los Angeles Chargers did not win between 1995 and 2007. The Las Vegas Raiders have not won since 2002. The Kansas City Chiefs failed to win between 1994 and 2014.
In the AFC South, the Tennessee Titans went winless between 2004 and 2016. The Indianapolis Colts did the same between 1996 and 2002. The Jacksonville Jaguars went between 2000 and 2016 without a win. The Houston Texans went from their founding in 2002 through 2010 before their first win.
Turning now to the NFC, in the East, the Dallas Cowboys failed to win between 1997 and 2008. The Philadelphia Eagles did not win between 2009 and 2016. The Washington Football Team has not won since 2005. The New York Giants have not won since 2011.
In the North, the Green Bay Packers went without a postseason victory between 1983 and 1992. The Minnesota Vikings were winless from 2010 through 2016. The Chicago Bears last won in 2010. The Detroit Lions last won in 1991, currently the longest dry spell after the Bengals won. Before that…well…um…their last win was before Dick LeBeau was even playing, in 1957.
For the South, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did not win a postseason game since their 2002 Super Bowl until their 2020 Super Bowl run, going without between 2003 and 2019. The New Orleans Saints went winless between 2001 and 2005…and between 1967 and 2000. The Atlanta Falcons’ most recent dry spell was between 2005 and 2011. For the Carolina Panthers, they’re in the midst of a six-year absence.
Wrapping up with the West, the Los Angeles Rams won no playoff games between 2005 and 2017. The Arizona Cardinals are on a six-year streak now. The San Francisco 49ers were winless between 2003 and 2010. Finally, the Seattle Seahawks won nothing between 1985 and 2004.
The Steelers were the final team since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 to experience a dry spell as they’re currently in, and most organizations have streaks that are considerably longer. While it’s certainly no feat to go five years without a postseason game, it does say something about the team’s consistency that it took this long for it to happen in the modern era. One just hopes it’s a streak that ends sooner rather than later.
|Division||Team||Most Recent Streak||Length|
|AFC North||Pittsburgh Steelers||2017-2021||5*|
|AFC East||New England Patriots||1986-1995||10|
|New York Jets||2011-2021||11*|
|AFC West||Kansas City Chiefs||1994-2014||21|
|Los Angeles Chargers||1995-2007||13|
|Las Vegas Raiders||2003-2021||19*|
|AFC South||Tennessee Titans||2004-2016||13|
|NFC North||Green Bay Packers||1983-1992||10|
|NFC East||Dallas Cowboys||1997-2008||12|
|New York Giants||2012-2021||10*|
|Washington Football Team||2005-2021||17*|
|NFC West||Seattle Seahawks||1985-2004||20|
|San Francisco 49ers||2003-2010||8|
|Los Angeles Rams||2005-2017||13|
|NFC South||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||2003-2019||17|
|New Orleans Saints||2001-2005||5|
- * Denotes an active winless streak.
- ^ The Browns did not have a team between the 1996-1998 seasons, so the number here reflects seasons, not years.
- The above list only includes a team’s most recent streak of five-plus postseasons without a win, and not necessarily its longest streak.