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Steelers vs. Giants preseason 2014: Images of 0-4 preseason loom as exhibition season kicks off

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Pittsburgh travels to New Jersey Saturday to take on the Giants, one of four teams to defeat the Steelers in the preseason in 2013.

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

It doesn't matter at all to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Failing to win even one meaningless preseason game has no impact on the team at all, nor is it any kind of indication of how the team will play in the upcoming season.

Except it does.

Post Gazette reporter Gerry Dulac noted recently, the Steelers have finished 0-4 in the preseason three times, in 1987, 2006 and last year. Each of those seasons saw the Steelers win eight games (they played 15 games in the strike-shortened year of 1987).

Three times is a trend. While a team may choose to tank the preseason, or to find a way to go all-out, ensuring a perfect run through the fake season, that stat shows, to some degree, there is some meaning in the preseason, if for no other reason than to establish a team's depth, to provide that "stadium environment" Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has become fond of mentioning this week and to give new players the feeling of live action.

Or, maybe for no other reason, to give a team a renewed sense of what it's like to beat on someone they won't be in the same locker room with later.

No one wants to lose. While they may not find as much frustration in the collective result of what's ultimately a fractured approach aimed more at specific situations, there's something mentally hindering about knowing four other teams, through their example, beat them, starters through to the bottom of their roster.

The conversation last year surrounding the 0-4ness was primarily based in whether it meant anything. In retrospect, it appeared to be rooted in denial more than anything else. To be fair, the preseason's results differ from the regular season in the sense the Steelers had lost two critical starters by the third quarter of the team's first game (a loss). It took another four weeks as well as a bye to figure things out after it, finding themselves mired in the worst start this franchise has had in five decades.

It was a perfect storm. Injuries along with a sagging roster and the re-education of several young players from a team that perhaps wasn't all that great to begin with all hit home in the regular season. But the same team, for all intents and purposes, went 8-4 in its final 12 games, suggesting there was some ability there after all.

Tweaks were made, positions were flipped, they fielded a much more competent, to put it mildly, team on the field (in places other than Oakland and Foxboro, at least).

That momentum is supposed to carry the Steelers - owners of two consecutive non-winning seasons - into an exciting 2014. New draft picks, new offensive strategies, new non-2013 defenses, all of these things provide a fair sense of optimism.

It's possible they take the path most recently traveled, slogging their way through four preseason games. They may decide this is the year to reverse the odd trend of losing four preseason games, followed by winning just eight regular season games. Maybe they battle back to 2-2 or even 3-1 (fans find as much discomfort in winning four preseason games than they do losing four), and with it, head into the regular season with a good feeling.

No matter what people said last year, there wasn't a good feeling having gone winless in the preseason. Whether the four regular season losses had anything to do with it remains up for debate but one thing is clear. Losing is a habit, just as winning is.