As someone who was born in 1972, when I think of the down seasons involving the Pittsburgh Steelers, I harken back to my youth and the decade of the 1980s.
Following the most dominant and successful decade in franchise history—the 1970s—Pittsburgh failed to make the playoffs six times in the ‘80s. Furthermore, the Steelers only finished with double-digit wins one time during that decade—1983—and had a stretch between 1985-1988 where they finished with records of 7-9, 6-10 and 5-11.
It was certainly not a fun time to be a fan of the Steelers, as old Three Rivers Stadium, a place that used to scare the bejeezus out of opposing players, became a bit of a safe haven for visiting squads.
Anyway, coming into the regular season without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as the face of the Steelers franchise for the first time in nearly two decades, and with the team appearing to be in decline for the past few years, 2022 was already giving off those ‘80s vibes before Week 1 even officially kicked off at Cincinnati’s Paycor Stadium.
Throw in a 1-4 start, including two defeats at Acrisure Stadium, and let's just say that I went into Sunday’s Steelers’ home game against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers expecting the worst.
I don’t want to be too dramatic, but my skin began to crawl when the Fox broadcasting crew mentioned during the game that Pittsburgh was trying to prevent its first 0-3 home start since 1986.
Maybe it was fitting that I watched the game at my mom’s house because the only things that were missing were my my full head of hair, my high school sweatpants, and the junk food I used to eat while watching Mark Malone and Co. stink it up back in the mid-’80s.
You know how things unfolded, of course: The Steelers, a 10-point home dog in some circles, upset Tampa Bay to improve to 2-4 overall and 1-2 at the newly-named Acrisure Stadium.
Does this mean that things are looking up for the Steelers? That remains to be seen, of course. It is worth noting that a recent trend has seen slow starts for Pittsburgh (see 2019 and 2021) followed by a quick climb to or above the .500 mark just in time for the bye.
It’s hard to predict how these Steelers, without Roethlisberger around acting as a muse and crutch, will respond to, of all things, an unexpected home victory.
But at least the 2022 Steelers have delayed a return to the 1980s.
You can put away your cassette tapes, hairspray and that VHS copy of Back To The Future.