By Jeremy Hritz
It’s been a long, long time.
Eight seasons to be exact.
The year was 2003, and it was the last time the Pittsburgh Steelers finished a regular season with a losing record. That season, with the fragile Tommy Maddox at the helm, the Steelers limped into the offseason with a 6-10 record. Since that time, the Steelers have enjoyed an era of excellence marked by three Super Bowl appearances and two Super Bowl victories.
While the Steelers have missed the playoffs twice during the span from 2004 to 2011, they have not dipped below the eight-win mark, the lowest win output that came in Bill Cowher’s final season with the team (2006).
For the Steelers, the past eight years have been black and gold sunshine and smiles.
But one cannot help to think that like all things, this too shall pass. The question is not if, but when. And with all of the changes, player and coaching departures and additions, is it possible that 2012 will be the end of one tremendous run? While it would be amazing if the Steelers could achieve a winning record every year, it Is unrealistic to believe that such a thing will happen.
But history shows that the winning can continue.
From 1992 to 2004, the Green Bay Packers enjoyed 13 consecutive winning seasons. Starting in 2001 up until last season, the New England Patriots have strung together 11 winning seasons. The Indianapolis Colts, from 2002 to 2010 under Peyton Manning, stacked nine consecutive winning seasons. The Steelers very well could add to their streak this season by putting together at least nine wins, yet the expectation for team this season are much greater than that.
Eventually though, the run will have to end, as major injuries to irreplaceable players do occur, and sometimes, as the tired cliché goes, the ball just doesn’t bounce your way. Let’s just hope it doesn’t happen this year,
As a fan, there is nothing more agonizing than watching your team stumble its way through a losing season. We endure all offseason with the anticipation that our team will be in the thick of the competition and making a push for the Super Bowl come January. And when that dream is dashed by a flood of losses, knowing that you have to suffer through the playoffs and another absurdly long offseason, life can just plain suck.
As Steelers fans, most of us sometimes forget just how fortunate and lucky we are to root for a first-class team that year after year puts an outstanding group of players on the field. Winning, as is the tradition is in Pittsburgh, is the standard, and for a long time now, we have not experienced the other end of the spectrum, and none of us wants to.
Rather than depending on a losing season to make us realize how grateful we should be for winning year after year, let’s just take a moment today and sit back and reflect on how lucky we are as a fanbase.
In that last losing season from 2003, the Steelers opened up with a huge win over the Ravens, 34-15. So regardless of the loss Sunday night in Denver, remember, one game does not a season make.
Whatever the outcome going forward, here’s to the Steelers and Steelers Nation making it nine in a row.