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History shows how crucial it is for the Steelers to avoid 0-2 start

Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on prior to a game against the San Francisco 49ers at Acrisure Stadium on September 10, 2023 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Pittsburgh Steelers HC Mike Tomlin will look to avoid a disastrous 0-2 start to the 2023 season with a win over the Cleveland Browns on Monday Night Football. Of course, an 0-2 start doesn’t mean the end of the season — far from it, even if the rest of the AFC North is struggling similarly. It is, however, a big hole to climb out from which provides very little room for error through the rest of the season.

Just how crucial is it that this team avoid an 0-2 start? The data for teams starting 0-2 isn’t encouraging. According to, there have been 406 teams to start 0-2 since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger... and their seasons were mostly forgettable. Just 14% of those 406 teams went on to finish the season with a winning record, with just 9.6% going on to make the playoffs.

The Steelers specifically have accounted for eight of those 0-2 starts dating back to the merger. Here’s a look at the Steelers record in each of those seasons with an 0-2 start.

  • 1970 (Chuck Noll): 5-9
  • 1981 (Chuck Noll): 8-8
  • 1986 (Chuck Noll): 6-10
  • 1989 (Chuck Noll): 9-7, lost in the Divisional round
  • 1993 (Bill Cowher): 9-7, lost in the Wild Card round
  • 2002 (Bill Cowher): 10-5-1
  • 2013 (Mike Tomlin): 8-8
  • 2019 (Mike Tomlin): 8-8

You’ll note that two of those eight instances have come during Mike Tomlin’s tenure as a head coach, in the 2013 and 2019 seasons. Each of those 0-2 starts under Tomlin resulted in an 8-8 season and a missed trip to the postseason.

Should the offense come out to struggle once again, the team will need to take action swiftly in order to force a bounceback. Part of that would surely need to come by evaluating the contributions of OC Matt Canada, who has yet to coach a single game where the offense has exceeded 400 total yards. For context, there have been 10 instances just this season where a team has exceeded 400 total yards — yes, this season — and Week 2 hasn’t even wrapped yet!

Though not all problems can be traced back to OC Matt Canada, he also doesn’t limit any problems within the offense with his current scheme. They’ll be forced to to evaluate Pickett’s prospects as a long-term asset, and if they elect to hold onto Canada given what we’ve seen so far, it will be a challenge to do so.

Ahead of the Steelers’ Week 2 matchup, their odds to make the playoffs are at +170 on DraftKings Sportsbook.