Steelers Hope To Avoid Streak That Hasn’t Happened Since The Late 1980s

It’s never a good sign when you’re being compared to the late 80s Pittsburgh Steelers. Those were lean years for the black and gold, the twilight of the Chuck Noll era, a team still trying to figure out what to do at quarterback, a defense that was a shell of itself compared to the Steel Curtain of a decade before.

Now, the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers look to avoid a streak that hasn’t happened since that time period. If Pittsburgh finishes this upcoming season with a negative point differential, allowing more points than they’ve scored, it’ll be the first time that’s happened in consecutive seasons since 1986-1989, a string of four disappointing years.

Last season, the Steelers posted a point differential of -55, only their second negative mark since Mike Tomlin took over in 2007. The only other such year came in 2019, one spent without Ben Roethlisberger for all but six quarters. And even that mark was better than 2021: -14 in 2019, -55 last year.

Most years, the Steelers are comfortably in the black thanks to an offense that’s usually above average and a defense that follows suit or better. Here are the team’s year-by-year PD marks since ’07.

2007: +124
2008: +124
2009: +44
2010: +143
2011: +98
2012: +22
2013: +9
2014: +68
2015: +104
2016: +72
2017: +98
2018: +68
2019: -14
2020: +104
2021: -55

From 2020 to 2021, that’s a 159-point difference, the team’s sharpest swing since 1976-1977 when they decreased by 164 points (+204 to +40).

Pittsburgh is in real danger of finishing in the red in 2022. Their offense has talent but is young and has question marks along the offensive line and at quarterback. Even being average this season would be a win. The Steelers’ defense is its stronger side of the football but comes with its own concerns and will have to prove they can stop the run much more effectively than a year ago. In a tough AFC North and faced with a difficult schedule overall, the odds have to be Pittsburgh being negative in point differential again.

Now, that alone doesn’t guarantee Pittsburgh won’t have a winning record or make the playoffs. They did it last year, winning late in the year against key divisional opponents. Their negative differential in 1989 was thanks to two of the team’s worst losses ever to open a season, 51-0 to Cleveland and 41-10 to Cincinnati, but they rallied, finished 9-7, and won a playoff game, beating the Houston Oilers in the Wild Card Game.

But a negative differential in a highly competitive AFC will make a playoff path extremely narrow. And would put the Steelers in some equally negative team history.

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