Mike Florio of the Sporting News may raise the ire of a number of Steeler fans. Not because he says the Steelers will fail to make the playoffs — everyone is entitled to their opinions, and playoff fortunes ebb and flow as the years pass anyway — but because he claims the “Steelers of the free-agency era have developed a trend of exceeding low expectations and failing to meet high ones.” Yes, I railed recently about the fact that I’m disappointed each year when we fail to win the Super Bowl. But that comes from a long history of success, even in the free-agency era. While it took Bill Cowher a long time to win his first (and possibly only) NFL championship, there were a number of trips to the AFC Championship and even more playoff appearances. But to say that a team that won the Super Bowl just two and a half years ago has made a habit of letting fans down is just ludicrous.
Can they miss the playoffs this year? Yes, but it’s unlikely. For all their offensive line problems, including the loss of its leader, this is a team that has show resilience through the years and has, at the very least, managed to get younger on the offensive front with the departure of Faneca. There are too many unknowns (can Kemoeatu step up? is Hartwig really an improvement over Mahan? Will Max Starks finally live up to all the hype and potential?) to call the season a wash before we even get to training camp. Add to that the fact that Cleveland’s biggest move on defense (the addition of Shaun Rogers on the defensive line) cost them Leigh Bodden, their top cornerback, weakening an already horrendous secondary, and it’s hard to see where the Steelers’ biggest division rival actually improved this offseason. A rival the Steelers have defeated nine consecutive times, no less.
And let’s not forget one other important detail: despite late-season struggles following key injuries, the Steelers still wound up with the number-one defense in the NFL. Keep in mind the old addage: offense wins games, defense wins championships.