There are some, myself included, who believe if Tom Brady had just been born about a decade earlier, the Pittsburgh Steelers would have a lot more than six Super Bowls. Ben Roethlisberger and company would certainly have made it to more AFC Championship games, and Super Bowls, without the Patriots and Brady getting in their way.
That is just wishful thinking, as Brady has been a thorn in the Steelers’ sides since the early 2000s, but if you truly want to know why the Steelers haven’t won more Lombardi trophies in the Super Bowl era, look not at New England, but at the team’s defense.
Check out these numbers by Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders:
Points allowed in playoff losses in Roethlisberger era— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) January 14, 2018
2004 - 41 (NE)
2007 - 31 (JAX)
2010 - 31 (GB)
2011 - 29 (DEN)
2014 - 30 (BAL)
2015 - 23 (DEN)
2016 - 36 (NE)
2017 - 45 (JAX)
Some return TDs in there, but if you want to know why Roethlisberger might only win 2 SB...
As Kacsmar pointed out, there were several return touchdowns, mostly the pick-six variety, which could skew the statistics slightly. Nonetheless, it was extremely interesting to me to find the Steelers defense, even those vaunted defenses in the early 2000s, never held a team to less than 23-points in a playoff loss.
In the AFC Wild Card game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Buffalo Bills this year, the Buffalo defense held Jacksonville to 10-points in the loss. That never happened in the Roethlisberger era.
What might be the most surprising is how when people talk about those grand defenses featuring the names of James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Aaron Smith, etc. they never talk about playoff failures, and this trend seems to have haunted Roethlisberger his entire career.
He has been to three Super Bowls, and won two, and while it might be fun/depressing to consider how many he might have been in/won, it should put the onus back on the team’s defense moving forward. After surrendering 45-points to Jacksonville, ending their season, it is up to the front office to ensure the holes are filled to get Roethlisberger back to the big dance, and for the Steelers to put another Lombardi in their trophy case.