2023 Offseason Questions: How Far Away Are Steelers From Competing With Bengals?

The Steelers are now in their offseason after failing to reach the playoffs in 2022, coming up just a game short of sneaking in as the seventh seed. They needed help in week 18 and only got some of it, so instead, they sat home and watched the playoffs with the rest of us.

On tap is figuring out how to be on the field in January and February instead of being a spectator. They started out 2-6, digging a hole that proved too deep to dig out of even if they managed to go 7-2 in the second half of the year.

Starting from the end of the regular season and leading all the way up to the beginning of the 2023 season, there are plenty of questions that need answering, starting with who will be the offensive coordinator. Which free agents will be kept? Who might be let go due to their salary? How might they tackle free agency with this new front office? We’ll try to frame the conversation in relevant ways as long as you stick with us throughout this offseason, as we have for many years.

Question: How far away are the Steelers from competing with the Cincinnati Bengals?

The Steelers suddenly find themselves looking up to the Bengals, and that’s not a place the team, or their fans, like to be. Cincinnati has won five postseason games and counting over the past two seasons, set to compete in the AFC Championship game for the second year in a row.

They can reach the Super Bowl for the second straight year as well, which would make them the third consecutive AFC team to repeat as conference champion (the Chiefs doing it in 2019-20 and the Patriots in 2016-18).

The Steelers have not won a single playoff game since 2016. They needed the New York Jets to not lose to the Miami Dolphins and their third-string quarterback, among other things, in Week 18 just to make it into the postseason this time around.

They did go on a 7-2 run in the second half of the season, ending on a four-game winning streak. It was known that this would be a developing team this year, and they should be better in 2023. But the question is, how close are they to competing with the Bengals?

They did sneak one by Cincinnati in the opener, albeit barely (it required a blocked extra point at the end of regulation to send it into overtime), but the Bengals went 12-3 after that, while the Steelers went 8-8 and were handled in the rematch.

The Bengals looked eminently fallible against the Baltimore Ravens in the wildcard round, perhaps surviving only because of an improbable 98-yard fumble return for a touchdown. But they looked like the better team against the Buffalo Bills yesterday in the snow.

The bottom line is they’re still playing and the Steelers’ season has been over for weeks. When will Pittsburgh next play a game after the Bengals’ season is over?

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