The Pittsburgh Steelers have made the postseason in each of the past two years, even if they have little to show for it, pairing together a couple of first-round exits—one as the home team, one as the visiting team. They are still searching for their first postseason win since 2016, even though they have reached the playoffs three times since then, twice as a division winner in 2017 and 2020.
The Steelers squeaked by as the seventh seed in the AFC last year, coming in behind the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North, but while their ultimately goal never changes, they understand there are steps along the way, and as Najee Harris told Mike Florio last week, their most immediate priority is reclaiming the division.
“Teamwise, we want to win our division first, for sure”, he said. “It’s a hard division, and we like that. We embrace that. To come in there and to win our division, I think that will be one of the first things that we want to knock off of our to-do list. Obviously win it all, too, but, you know, take it step by step”.
The Steelers have reached the postseason 10 times in head coach Mike Tomlin’s 15 seasons. They have done so as the winners of the AFC North seven out of those 10 times, winning at least one playoff game in three of those seven seasons, and accounting for three of the four seasons that a Tomlin Steelers team has won at least one playoff game.
Of course, winning the division and hosting a game is no easy recipe for success. The Steelers were division winners in four of the six seasons in which Tomlin’s Steelers reached the playoffs and suffered a one-and done, including a Divisional loss after a first-round bye in 2017.
But it’s always an easier road to go in as a division winner, a higher seed with a guaranteed home game and a greater likelihood of hosting another in a future round. But it won’t be an easy task, as the AFC North certainly has some formidable opponents.
The Bengals, of course, reached the Super Bowl in 2021, and were just a minute or two shy of actually winning it, powered largely by a young offense and quarterback Joe Burrow with wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins.
Then there are the Baltimore Ravens, who were in position for the top seed in the AFC before suffering a six-game skid to end the season when they could no longer sustain the litany of injuries they weathered throughout the year, culminating in Lamar Jackson missing the last month.
While the Cleveland Browns took a step back in 2021, they made one of the biggest moves perhaps in league history this offseason with the acquisition of quarterback Deshaun Watson. Coupled with one of the best offensive lines and running games in the league, and now with Amari Cooper at wide receiver, they could certainly pose a problem.
But the Steelers are hoping that they have enough firepower to compete, with the biggest question being the position under center—and the offensive line. And the offense itself. But yeah, other than that…nothing to worry about.