Sometimes you have to take a step backwards, before taking two steps forward.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are hoping this is the case after they finally made it to the postseason in 2014 only to have their hopes of a long playoff run dashed at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens in the Wild Card round of the AFC Playoffs. The fact of the matter is, the Steelers will be better off after the playoff loss in many different areas.
The most obvious way the playoff loss has ultimately prepared the team for success in 2015 is showing how glaringly obvious it was how reliant the offense was on Le'Veon Bell. When Bell was injured against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17 of the 2014 season, his absence out of the lineup was painfully obvious.
Fast forward to 2015 and the Steelers are not only more prepared to live life without Bell throughout this suspension to start the season, but also if he were to get injured again. The team has bolstered their running back depth with the signing of DeAngelo Williams, giving them a vested veteran who can step in for Bell if the situation calls for it.
On top of the team's ability to overcome the loss of such an integral part of the offense, the simple experience of the 11-5, AFC North championship season will pay huge dividends for a team very inexperienced at many different positions. Fans often forget the team had come off back-to-back 8-8 seasons, and missing the postseason both years. This made 2014 the first playoff game for players like Cameron Heyward, Ryan Shazier, David DeCastro and Kelvin Beachum among others.
Who's Better: DeMarco Murray or Le'Veon Bell?
Did Demarco Murray benefit from one of the best offensive lines when he was with the Dallas Cowboys, and will Le'Veon Bell be able to duplicate his 2014 successes? And who is the better back? 2015 will provide the ultimate answer to these questions.
Experience is the best teacher, and the Steelers making the postseason will give players a "been there, done that" type of attitude if/when the team makes a return to the playoffs in 2015.
Lastly, the Steelers loss provided the team with the ultimate motivation for 2015. Getting a taste of the playoffs, only to have it taken away by a bitter rival like the Ravens will remain in the minds of players as they prepare for next season. A chip on the shoulder will ultimately be needed for the team to get through the murderer's row schedule they will face in 2015.
No one enjoys losing in the playoffs, but there are times where you can take positives out of a negative. This would certainly be one of those times as the Steelers look to take what they learned from the 2014 season, especially the playoff loss, and help it pay huge dividends in the 2015 season.