Even at 6-3, the hyperbole can be heavy on Steelers social media. I’ve seen people say the 2023 Pittsburgh Steelers have the best record with the worst quarterback play in history (Mark Sanchez would like a word). Others say Pittsburgh is the worst 6-3 team of the Super Bowl era. In reality, neither are factual. Despite being currently ranked 26th in scoring, there are actually worse teams in NFL history with 6-3 starts than the 2023 Pittsburgh Steelers.
This is the worst 6-3 team of the Super Bowl era.— Ski ✝️ ✈️ (@FredKernisky) November 12, 2023
Enjoy the ride, but we all know how it is going to end.
No playoff wins and another "non-losing season" participation trophy.
1983 Denver Broncos
John Elway threw 7 touchdowns and 14 interceptions his rookie year. In Week 1 against Pittsburgh, his stat line was 1-8 for 14 yards. That season, Elway was benched, but returned to the starting role due to injury. He ultimately threw for 1,663 yards with a 47.5 completion percentage. Despite having the 26th ranked offense, Denver finished 9-7 and qualified for the playoffs. They lost to Seattle 31-7 in the Wild Card round.
2007 Tennessee Titans
Vince Young threw 9 touchdowns and 17 interceptions this season. Tennessee’s offense was ranked 22nd in points, 27th in passing yards and last in passing touchdowns. The Titans finished 10-6 and made the playoffs, because the Indianapolis Colts rested Peyton Manning in Week 17. But in the Wild Card round, Tennessee only scored 6 points against the Chargers.
1999 Detroit Lions
This team had a top ten passing attack, but they were ranked 21st in scoring and 28th in rushing. More importantly, Detroit gave up the second most turnovers that season and the fourth most interceptions. Despite beating five playoff teams during the regular season, the Lions lost their final four, and finished 8-8. It was still enough to make the post-season, where they lost to Washington badly. In fact at one point, the Lions trailed 27-0.
2016 Houston Texans
Brock Osweiler signed a big $72 million contract that year, only to complete 59% of his passes, including 15 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. The Texans had the 28th scoring offense in the league and were 29th in total yards. They still managed to finish 9-7, enough to win the division. This anemic offense then went on to beat the Raiders in the Wild Card round, before finally losing to the Patriots.
2017 Tennessee Titans
This team lost by at least 24 twice. They were 23rd in yards per game. They needed overtime to beat a winless Cleveland team. Marcus Mariota threw more interceptions than touchdowns. They finished the season 9-7 to make the playoffs, where they actually came back to beat Alex Smith and the Chiefs in the Wild Card round, before losing to patriots.
Those were all bad 6-3 teams that still made the playoffs. History is littered with 6-3 teams that collapsed in the second half of the season and didn’t even make the post-season.
2018 Carolina Panthers: lost seven in a row to finish 7-9 and miss the playoffs.
2009 Denver Broncos: started 6-0, finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. 20th ranked scoring offense.
2008 New York Jets: lost four of their final five to finish 9-7 and miss the playoffs.
2008 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: started 9-3 and lost final four to go 9-7 and miss playoffs.
2003 Minnesota Vikings: started 6-0, but defense was among the worst against the run. Finished 9-7, missing the playoffs.
2002 San Diego Chargers: started 6-1, but lost seven of the final nine to miss the playoffs. Finished with the 30th ranked defense.
By the way, in the last ten years, 43 teams started 6-3. 11 didn’t make the playoffs. That’s about 25%. But only four teams that started 6-3, finished with a winning record, and still didn’t make the playoffs. That’s closer to 9%. So the 2023 Steelers have the odds in their favor. On the flip side, in the last ten years, only one 6-3 team went on to win the Super Bowl: the 2019 Kansas City Chiefs.