For the first Sunday this season, the Steelers won’t play. Which means that, for the first Sunday this season, the Steelers won’t lose.
As the winless six-time Super Bowl champions prepare to face the equally winless Bengals on Monday night, Steelers fans should begin to at least consider the possibility that the team could be in danger of having their worst season in 50 years.
It was 1969. That’s when Chuck Noll arrived to turn around a historically mediocre-at-best franchise, drafted Hall of Fame defensive tackle Joe Greene with the fourth overall selection, and then lost 13 of 14 games, laying the foundation to draft quarterback Terry Bradshaw with the first overall pick in 1970.
In 1970, the Steelers generated a 5-9 record. Since then, the Steelers have never won fewer than five games. Only once, in 1988, did the Steelers generate a five-win season.
With three losses in three games to start 2019, the Steelers now need to go 5-8 over the next 13 games to avoid producing their worst season since 1969.
They’ll have to do it without Ben Roethlisberger, obviously. And with a receiving corps that doesn’t seem to be nearly as talented as it’s been in recent years. And with a running game that can’t get going because the downfield passing game scares no one.
So here’s the challenge, in a nutshell: Win five games against the Bengals twice, the Ravens twice, at the Chargers, the Dolphins, Colts, Rams, the Browns twice, at the Cardinals, and at the Jets. Even with a depleted team, victories should come against the Dolphins, at least one against the Bengals, and the Cardinals.
Ultimately, whether the Steelers go 5-11 or 4-12 could come down to a Week 17 showdown against former Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell. And if the Steelers do indeed fail to turn things around, they won’t have the solace of the high first-round pick that became in past disastrous years the likes of Joe Greene and Terry Bradshaw.
Thanks to the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade, the Dolphins own that pick.