Welcome to “Pretty Much Screwed,” our definitive guide to the upcoming NFL season. This team-by-team preview details why your favorite franchise might have to start looking forward to next year — and highlights at least one reason for you to be hopeful. Today: oh, yinz wanna go dahntawn and see the Steelers be screwed n’at?
Some say the NFL stands for “Not For Long.” You’re good now? Wait a bit — you’ll soon be looking up at the rest of your division. One team that has bucked this trend, especially of late: the Pittsburgh Steelers. The franchise has been a model of consistency ever since Chuck Noll took over, with just three coaches total since 1969. Check this out, from Wikipedia:
In the NFL’s “modern era” (since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970) the Steelers have posted the best record in the league. The franchise has won the most regular season games, the most playoff games (33 playoff wins; the Dallas Cowboys are second with 32), won the most divisional titles (20), has played in the most conference championship games (15), hosted the most conference championship games (11), and is tied with the Dallas Cowboys for the most Super Bowl appearances(8). The Steelers have the best winning percentage (including every expansion team), earned the most All-Pro nominations, and have accumulated the most Super Bowl wins (6) since the modern game started in 1970. Since the merger, the team’s playoff record is 33–19 (.635), which is second best in terms of playoff winning percentage behind the Green Bay Packers’ playoff record of 28–16 (.636), through January 23, 2011.
Holy shit. That’s amazing. They’re literally the best team in the league since the league became a league! Lately, the Steelers have showed their resiliency by bouncing back from .500-or-under seasons to win the division twice in the last decade. Good for them! Now that’s a steady franchise.
But the fun is over, guys. Time to come back down to Earth. You don’t have it this year.
The Steelers are still decent — on paper. The thing about paper is, no one gets hurt, and every pass is thrown perfectly, and the coverage is amazing, and the defense gets to the quarterback every time, and everybody in Heinz Field gets free pierogies after the game and we all go home happy.
But that doesn’t happen when your defense is too old, your offense is too young, and everybody is already banged up.
Ben Roethlisberger leads the league in doing shit you wouldn’t think possible while playing with shattered bones, but he hasn’t gotten any help this past offseason. The Steelers let their best wide receiver walk and replaced him with the corpse of Plaxico Burress. They had a laughably bad running game last year (26th in the league) and so they drafted a big name running back who is already battling injuries. (At least he’ll fit right in.)
The defense last year was ranked first the league, but they lost major pieces like James “Fuck You, Hard Knocks” Harrison and Casey Hampton. Troy Polamalu is awesome, but he hasn’t played a full season in five of the last seven years and you just can’t depend on him to stay healthy. One thing this unit doesn’t do is make plays, and — despite some good young pieces like Jarvis Jones — nobody who can be described as a “playmaker” currently resides on the Steelers D.
And look: This isn’t your mid-2000s AFC North. The Ravens won the Super Bowl. The Bengals are a dark horse pick to make it the big game themselves. And the Browns are… okay. It’s going to be a dogfight every week. And when your team is already held together by little more than grit and determination, those nicks and scrapes from Week 1 will be broken legs and torn ACLs by Week 8.
Let me put it this way. Here’s a quote from linebacker Larry Foote:
“When you lose Mike Wallace, James Harrison and Casey Hampton on a team that went 8-8, you’re supposed to say they’re about to fall. If I was a writer, I would write the same thing.”
Ok, sounds good.
Why they might not be screwed: Because they’re the fucking Steelers and the Steelers just make shit happen. Maybe Le’Veon Bell gets healthy by the start of the year and proves to be the back of the future, opening up the passing game for a still spry Roethlisberger. Honestly, as long as that guy is scrambling around the backfield breaking tackles, this team has a chance to beat anybody.
Actual season prediction: 7-9, third in the AFC North. I love you guys, but it’s not your year.
Photos via Getty