How many times have you heard this one lately? The Steelers have not won a playoff game since the 2010 season and if they do not beat Cincinnati tonight, it will be their longest stretch without a postseason victory since the Immaculate Reception ended 49 years without one.
It’s been five years. My, what a horrible stretch, what a waste of time and money. Can’t even win one measly playoff game in four years? Make it five and there should be changes, right? Front office, coaching staff, maybe even new owners. Shake things up. This cannot continue.
Are some in the, uh, Nation, a little spoiled?
Since many do not see beyond the black and gold uniforms they adore right up until they lose, let’s take a look at what the Steelers have done, historically and recently, and compare it to others in the NFL.
To begin, their 28 playoff berths and 21 division titles are more than any other team since the 1970 NFL merger with the AFL. Their six Lombardi trophies also are more than any team. But you want to know what they’ve done for you lately, so let’s go there.
In this century, since the 2000 season, the Steelers have the third-best record in the NFL at 164-91-1, behind New England (187-69) and Indianapolis (168-88).
In this century, they are tied with Baltimore and the New York Giants as the only teams with two Super Bowl victories after the Patriots’ four, and they are tied for second with the Giants behind New England with three conference championships. And since the Ravens also have won two and no other team from the AFC East (Patriots) or NFC East (Giants) have won a Lombardi in that time, you can argue the merits of playing in a weaker division as opposed to the AFC North.
What have they done even more recently? Their two Super Bowl victories are tied with the Giants for most over the past 10 years and their three conference championships are tied with the Patriots for the most.
The Steelers also have gone 12 years without a losing record.
But that’s not the argument. It is that they have not won a playoff game since 2010, even though they’ve now made the postseason three times since that 2010 season, when they won the AFC championship and lost to Green Bay in the Super Bowl by six points.
"The standard is the standard and the standard was set back in the ’70s."
Here are teams that have not even made the playoffs since then: Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Cleveland, Oakland, Buffalo, Tennessee, Miami, Dallas, Chicago and the New York Jets — 11 teams — more than one third of the league.
You want playoff win droughts? Look no further than tonight’s Steelers opponent. The Bengals have not won a playoff game in 25 years. There are others with longer streaks than the Steelers and not counting those 11 who haven’t even made the playoffs since the last time the Steelers won a post-season game. They include Kansas City (22 years without a playoff win), Washington (10), and Philadelphia (7).
And what’s one playoff victory going to do anyway? Instead of one-and-out, is two-and-out that much better? As Mike Tomlin put it so well to Post-Gazette columnist Ron Cook this week, “I’m not looking for nuggets of success. I don’t want to hang my hat on and feel good because I won a playoff game in recent years.’’
Maybe one playoff win would make the folks in Cincinnati or Kansas City or Cleveland feel good, but in Pittsburgh everyone is spoiled by the success that began in the 1970s, took a dip in the 1980s — yes, under the great Chuck Noll — and came roaring back pretty much for good in the 1990s.
Yes, they have had the advantage of playing with an elite quarterback since 2004. But what have those elite quarterbacks named Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers accomplished? One fewer Super Bowl win, to start. And what of others like Philip Rivers, Andrew Luck, Tony Romo? They’ve never even sniffed one.
You want to follow a team that wins the Super Bowl every year? Can’t help you. Want to follow a team that wins Super Bowls more than anyone and whose only success in most any stretch of this century you want to include is surpassed only by the Patriots? You have it right here.
Tight end Matt Spaeth joined the Steelers in 2007 and spent two seasons with the Chicago Bears before returning. He’s seen the other side.
“I don’t want to call them spoiled,’’ Spaeth said of Steelers fans, “because I guess spoiled has such a negative connotation, but they’ve been blessed with good teams for a long time and any time you fall short of going to the Super bowl or winning the Super Bowl, you know what, it’s a disappointment. That’s how they feel and that’s how we feel. That wouldn’t happen if you were garbage. That just shows you we’re a good team because people expect good things.”
It’s all about expectations then? Center Cody Wallace played for San Francisco, Houston, the New York Jets, Detroit and Tampa Bay before arriving with the Steelers in 2013.
“I’ve been around a lot of teams — they just want to make the playoffs, win their division. They don’t talk about Super Bowls and that’s what we talk about from day one.
“I think the expectations are there and should be because of what we’ve done. The standard is the standard and the standard was set back in the ’70s and it’s something we try to go after every year.”
Wallace said it’s not just the fans who are upset because the Steelers have not been to a Super Bowl since the 2010 season.
“That’s our goal too. When we don’t win, we’re upset too. We went through that last year, losing in the first round; it’s tough. No, we’re not mad at them or anything. We want them to be excited and have those standards. And whenever we reach those goals we can all be excited together about it.”
Just don’t fall short of a Super Bowl.
Ed Bouchette: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @EdBouchette.
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