Heitritter/Kozora Debate: What Is The Definition Of A Successful Steelers’ Season?

New series for the site over the next month. I promise we’re not going all Embrace Debate on you but Jonathan Heitritter and I have teamed up to debate issues we have genuine, good-faith disagreement over Steelers-related topics. Let us know who made the better argument and what side of the debate you come in on in the comments below.

Today’s topic is…


Jonathan – Wild Card Playoff Win

Does Santa Claus get the job done if he slides down the chimney, but doesn’t deliver the presents? Heck no.

How about UPS man showing up to your doorstep, but not having the package to give to you? I don’t think so.

So, if these guys show up to the party but don’t get job done, it’s likely seen as a failure rather than a success, right?

Let me ask then: why would the Pittsburgh Steelers simply making it to the playoffs be any different?

Showing up is one thing. Closing is another. That sweet girl over there at the party isn’t going to notice you just because you showed up. Action is required. Results are needed. Go up to that girl and ask for her number or to take her out on a date. And for the Steelers heading into 2022, they need to do more than show up to the dance. They need to win a playoff game.

“But Jonathan, Pittsburgh is undergoing a complete identity change this season! Ben Roethlisberger, Stephon Tuitt, Keith Butler, and Kevin Colbert retired. The coaching staff and front office were shaken up. The offensive line experienced a slight overhaul. The team will have to rely on a reclamation project or a rookie at QB to lead the offense. Expectations should be tampered this season as the team takes a “gap year” and looks to compete in 2023, more likely 2024.”

Uh… excuse me?

What is Mike Tomlin’s famous Tomlinism again?

The Standard is The Standard. That standard isn’t just making it to the playoffs. I said the same thing earlier this offseason and stand by it today. Not having a losing season doesn’t count. Neither does simply making the playoffs. The Standard is winning playoff games, representing the AFC in the Super Bowl, and winning the dang thing. Mike Tomlin understands this all too well.


Owner Art Rooney II comes from a lineage where taking a gap year or tanking for a top draft pick isn’t an option. The Standard is competing for championship every season, regardless of the circumstances. So what if Pittsburgh is going through a state of change? The rest of the NFL doesn’t care, and frankly, they shouldn’t. This is a results-driven business and following in the footsteps of historic teams of the past that have shown the grit, will, and determination to overcome the odds shouldn’t change now. Let me drop a final nugget here.


Zero playoff wins in the last five seasons.

Is this the new “Standard” in Pittsburgh? Showing up to the dance, but not delivering? I sure hope not. I know it’s not for Mr. Rooney, or Mike Tomlin based on what he says, or for the players who play this game to win in the playoffs in pursuit for a Lombardi Trophy.

Making the playoffs is one thing. Winning in the playoffs is another. Pittsburgh is too proud of a franchise to associate themselves with the likes of the Lions, Jets, Giants, and Bears on this list who are considered teams with low expectations. That’s not the team I fell in love with as a child seeing them win two Super Bowls and appear in another in a five-year span despite the adversity they faced.

Go ahead and write the season off as a success in Pittsburgh makes the playoffs if you want. As for me, it’s time this team came through for their fans, ownership, and frankly themselves and win a damn playoff game for the season to be considered a success.

Alex – Make The Playoffs

Here’s where Jonathan and I differ. Slightly. For this season, making the playoffs is enough. And trust me, there’s no one who has mentioned the Steelers’ postseason victory drought more. I loathe the “Mike Tomlin’s never had a losing season” stat that’s brought up over and over. I’m going to deactivate all social media if and when this team hits nine wins this season just so I don’t hear whatever bland ESPN pundit talk about it during highlights. I want a playoff win as much as the next Steelers’ fan. Jonathan is right a season that ends with a playoff win feels better than a season without one. That’s an easy answer. It’s like asking if you want $1000 or $10,000. Both are good. One is better.

But this year, I’ll take just getting to the postseason. It wouldn’t be ideal, nothing is without a Lombardi trophy added to your case, but it would be a success.

Sitting here today, making the playoffs feels unexpected. All the change on the offense, along the offensive line, at quarterback, adding a couple of rookie receivers and coaches. A defense that should be better, especially against the run, but doesn’t appear to be the dominant, lockdown version it was in 2019 and 2020. And above all, playing a tough schedule in arguably the second-best division in football, an AFC North that may have Deshaun Watson active in it for longer than we thought. A road to the playoffs seems daunting and narrow.

A postseason appearance, even with another first-round loss, would sting in the moment. But it’d offer a promising light for the future, especially if Kenny Pickett helped get Pittsburgh to the postseason. But even if it was Trubisky, and odds are it would be, it would mean the rest of the roster is rounding out nicely; it’s doubtful Trubisky had a MVP-type of season. An offensive line that blocked a whole lot better than they did a year ago, creating an effective and efficient run game. It means the receivers played well, George Pickens probably showed up and Chase Claypool bounced back from a rocky sophomore season. Being postseason bound would pretty much require a 180 degree change in the Steelers’ run defense from last in the league to something hovering around at least top ten, if not better. A pass rush that remained fierce, a secondary that took the ball away more often, and a team that probably won close games, an area they’ve excelled under Roethlisberger the past two years.

Barring something unforeseen, I’d strongly believe a playoff appearance this year means not just a playoff win next year but the potential for a Super Bowl contender and team that can be in the mix year-after-year. Just like the prime Roethlisberger days. I know that means another year of patience, another year of defeat, another year of frustration and angst. But it’d be worth it come 2023 and beyond.

Past Debates

Should The Steelers Pay Diontae Johnson?
Will TJ Watt Set The Sack Record In 2022?
Should Derek Watt and Connor Heyward Make The Roster?
Should The Steelers Explore Trading Mason Rudolph?
Will Devin Bush Return In 2023?

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