They say there’s a time and place for everything, including reflection.
Just the other day, I was thinking about the Steelers recent streak of playoff appearances that reached four between 2014-2017, when it occurred to me that this was the third-longest such run in franchise history.
It didn’t take me long to verify this, either. In fact, I didn’t really have to do much of anything other than think about it.
We all know the story of the first 40 years of the Pittsburgh Steelers, when the postseason was easier for players to miss than soot from the surrounding steel mills. Obviously, the 1970s brought franchise-redefining championship greatness under Chuck Noll, along with eight-straight trips to the postseason from 1972-1979 (the longest postseason run in franchise history). The 1990s saw a return to greatness with hometown boy Bill Cowher, who took the Steelers to the playoffs six years in a row, starting with his inaugural season as head coach in 1992 (the second-longest postseason run in team history).
The 1980s weren’t as kind to Chuck Noll and the Steelers as the previous decade was. The team made the playoffs four times, but only three of those trips occurred consecutively (1982-1984). Even the 2000s, literally the second-greatest decade in franchise history—one that produced four trips to the AFC title game and two Super Bowl victories—didn’t include the third-longest run of playoff appearances. In-fact, despite making the playoffs six times, the Steelers never actually had a streak of appearances longer than two (2001-’02; 2004-’05; 2007-’08).
That leaves the aforementioned recent run of appearances, when head coach Mike Tomlin took the Steelers to the postseason four-straight years, a stretch that included three AFC North Division titles.
So what is my point? Is this an attempt by a writer to troll the readers (as if pointing out something cool can seriously be categorized as trolling)? No. It just shocked me that 2014-2017 was actually the third-longest run because of how zany things have been of late.
There’s been so much turmoil with the team in recent years, along with palpable unrest among the fans, it’s easy to forget just how stable and consistent things have actually been on the football field.
This isn’t to say Tomlin is above reproach. This isn’t to say we don’t have a right to be unsatisfied with zero titles in over a decade. This doesn’t mean we didn’t have a right to be completely and utterly disgusted with watching a 2.5 game lead in the division vanish before our very eyes over the final six weeks of the 2018 regular season. This doesn’t mean important changes shouldn’t be on the horizon if the results don’t meet the expectations of the fans and, more importantly, the organization as a whole.
But it does mean—at least in my opinion—that things may not be as bad as they seem. Making it to the postseason once is hard enough. Making it four years in a row is pretty rare as far as NFL teams are concerned.
Believe me, this isn’t an attempt to sway anyone’s opinion. If you’re optimistic about the current state of affairs, this article will only reinforce those beliefs. If you’re not, you will state rather emphatically that the Steelers don’t celebrate postseason streaks, and neither do their fans.
I’m only pointing out that the current Pittsburgh Steelers—these Pittsburgh Steelers—have recently had the third-longest run of playoff appearances in team history. That may be a reality that’s hard to grasp in late-December when you’re down after a disappointing conclusion to what should have been a great season.
But in April, that’s when football fans reflect.
2014-2017: the third-longest run of playoff appearances in Steelers history. That’s pretty cool.