clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What will define the current Steelers era?

As fans break seasons into groups by significant events, what will determine this time in Pittsburgh Steelers history?

NFL: DEC 10 Ravens at Steelers Photo by Mark Alberti/ Icon Sportswire

I’ve been contemplating the phrase “end of an era” a lot lately. For anyone who read Jeff Hartman‘s Letter from the Editor earlier today you will understand why. Things change constantly and sometimes moving on is necessary whether it ends up being good or bad.

I find myself trying to define some of the eras in Pittsburgh Steelers history. For me, everything before 1969 is the Pre-Chuck Noll Era which could also be known as the Chasm of Mediocrity Era as well. Since 1969, it’s easy to divide eras by head coaches since the Steelers have only had three. But if looking at the Chuck Noll Era, the Bill Cowher Era, and Mike Tomlin Era, there is a lot that happened within those years.

I often found myself even referring to things as the Kevin Colbert Era going from 2000 onward as being quite convenient. But now when it comes to the general manager and it being the Omar Khan Era, it just isn’t going to be as likely to use this as a classification since it came to a close.

There is no set standard for determining an era of seasons when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers. There are some that stand out and are difficult to call them anything other than what they are. The Steel Curtain Era, a time I would call from 1972 through 1979, is likely the most famous of them all when it comes to looking at players and results. Another easy one would be the Killer Bs Era which I would say runs from 2013 when the Steelers drafted Le’Veon Bell through 2018 which was the last season he actually showed up to play.

It’s also easy to classify eras by quarterback. The Ben Roethlisberger Era runs from 2004 through 2021 but also has some different defining moments within his time in Pittsburgh. The Killer Bs Era was already mentioned before, and the Steelers appearing in three Super Bowls with two wins over a five year period is the time which stands out above others. I’m not sure if there is a decisive name for this time, but I’ve heard the Return to Greatness Era before whether it really caught on or not.

The beginning portion of the Bill Cowher Era brought some great defenses and appearances in AFC Championship games as well as one trip to the Super Bowl in the mid 90s. Maybe it’s just escaping me now, but I’m not exactly sure what that time in Steelers history is labeled.

Another tricky yet short era comes from 2019 through 2021 which I’ve heard people call the End of an Era, a phrase also used in the early 80s, or the Old Ben Roethlisberger Era. It’s not that these times need a name, so the fact that there isn’t one that stands out is not a problem.

Taking all this time to stroll down memory lane is really setting up the ultimate question: What will define the next Steelers era?

The easy answer would be the Steelers quarterback. Starting the Kenny Pickett Era in 2022 would be an easy choice. But being the eternal optimist that I am, I’m hoping the Kenny Pickett Era to last so long, much like the Ben Roethlisberger era, that it needs to be re-defined.

Knowing that eras can sometimes be defined for the wrong reason, I’m really hoping that we are not simply in the Matt Canada Era because after two seasons I don’t necessarily see it being defined for greatness rather than shortcomings.

To answer the question posed in the title, I’m not sure what’s going to define this stage of Steelers football as the team celebrates their 90th birthday. With Kenny Pickett coming in early last season, it was difficult to gauge exactly what the Steelers team can do in the coming seasons. Could this be a Ground and Pound Era of Steelers football that is not the norm in the current NFL? Is it going to be a Dink and Dunk Era as Steelers fans have seen that some over recent seasons? Is it going to be more of a Defense Wins Championships Era? I truly don’t know.

But sometimes not knowing can be very exciting.

When Steelers fans were enjoying the end of the Killer Bs Era, they didn’t know that’s what it was when it started. Yes, Antonio Brown was coming on and Ben Roethlisberger was already a veteran quarterback, but the offensive explosion given by those players as well as Le’Veon Bell probably wasn’t as obvious at the beginning as it is looking back.

So while I enjoy looking at what this era of Steelers football could be, and I like taking a guess of how it could develop, it does not mean that’s how it’s going to actually turn out. Seeing the Steelers team in the Post-Ben Roethlisberger Era they are in right now and knowing that someday it could be defined as something better raises my anticipation even more for the 2023 season.