Focus On Strong Finish, Not 0-4 Start

By Jeremy Hritz

The day after a KC kick went wide right, the Pittsburgh beat writers are making certain they don’t let anyone forget that the Steelers dropped their first four games, resulting in their role as observers, not participants in the upcoming postseason. And while this is factual, it diminishes the performance of this Steelers team after such a dismal start.

There is no comparison between the Steelers from the first quarter of the season, to the squad that beat the Browns 20-7 at Heinz Field yesterday. The 0-4 Steelers lacked identity and playmakers, while the 8-4 Steelers found both.

At 0-4, there were fears that this team was several drafts away from being a contender again, as they failed to score points and failed to stop big plays on defense. But slowly, gradually, players written off or already pigeonholed as a certain type of player, destroyed their stereotypes and showed just what they are capable of doing.

Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Kelvin Beachum, David DeCastro, Cameron Heyward, and Jason Worilds, all had years to remember and are causes for optimism in future seasons. But who would have thought that would have been the case after 0-4?

Bill Cowher always referenced the fine line between winning and losing in the NFL, and this Steelers season was an exemplar for this axiom. And while playing the “what-if” game is a futile exercise, it is eye-opening when considering just how close this Steelers team was. Countless injuries, dropped passes, toes barely out of bounds, and kicks slightly off, all miniscule in scale, yet monumental in their impact on where the Steelers are now positioned at the end of the NFL regular season.

The talk this offseason was that the Steelers were a team in transition, and it proved to be true. Yet despite all of the adversity that this team faced, they battled for the entire season to finish with some respectability at 8-8.

Sure, 8-8 did not result in a playoff berth, and it ultimately means a second year in a row out of the postseason, but the strong finish is indicative of the make up of this team. Had the Steelers been unable to climb out of the early season funk and continued their losing ways, there would be serious questions not only about the talent on the roster, but also about the coaching staff. But they were able to, and several concerns have been allayed.

With that said, it is not the 0-4 start that should define this team, it is their response to that start that should be the focus.

While there are still questions to be answered on the defensive side of the ball, offensively, the Steelers head into the offseason in excellent shape, and the 2014 version of the unit could be the best they have had in a long, long time. And if they can add the right pieces to the puzzle on defense and get development out of some of the younger players like Jarvis Jones, Cortez Allen, and a healthy Sean Spence, a 4-0 start will be more realistic than 0-4.

The agonizing wait for training camp now officially begins.

  • Josh Knepshield

    All this is true, but I focus on Oakland, Tennessee, & Minnesota losses.

  • WilliamSekinger

    I completely agree. 8-4 after 0-4 or if you prefer 6-2 after 2-6. This team played extremely well down the stretch and it’s a testament to both the players AND coaches.

    But, some here will not agree and will only focus on the bad part of the season to inflate their sense of self importance and their ‘see-I-told-you-so’ attitudes.

    I enjoyed the article.

  • Matt Manzo

    Was a great finish! I think Haley, as well as players mentioned above, have us thinking differently now. I think Haley showed us a great offense the second half. I have hope for him next season! Seems like all we need is good #2 WR and the rest of the picks on defense? Maybe an OG or OT?

  • Jacob Dixon

    What about Marcus Wheaton

  • Bob Loblaw

    We’ve seen so little of Wheaton it’s hard to say what we’ve got there.

  • Bob Loblaw

    I’m certainly more optimistic right now than I was at this point last year.

  • Jeff

    I think it’s a lot more important that they finished strong, as opposed to starting weak. I had more excitement watching the last half of this season than I’ve had watching the Steelers in a long time. Definitely feeling optimistic for 2014!

    Looking for a CB, TE, and maybe a big WR for ben in the early rounds of the draft..

  • BurgherinMD

    Thanks to Goodell wanting to milk every last network $$$ out of this draft it is in freaking May.

  • alex

    agonizing to wait for next year and pains of the what ifs….

    how does any team recover from losing two of your three QBs, Pouncey and Foote, on day one?!

    Steeler style, we fight thru, go 6-2 to end the season and take it into next season strong!

  • srdan

    Great article.

    This has quickly become a young team with a high ceiling. A lot to be optimistic about and build on.

    I like the fact that we have position battles heading into next season and we dont have to pick up or draft players to create them.

  • Don2727

    Big thanks to Steelers Depot!..Pretty much just stuck to this blog all year long for all of my Steelers info and news..Going into hibernation after this season..See ya around draft time

  • Jacob Dixon

    I know but why use a draft pick when they didn’t even give him a chance and the steelers have more important needs like cornerback

  • Tom

    I am definitely feeling good about 2013.

    After a 2-5 finish to 2012, a 0-4 preseason, and 0-4 start to 2013…..things were looking pretty bleak.

  • cp72

    Dude the Senior Bowl is in a month. The Combine is a few weeks after that. Free Agency then is just right around the corner. There’s to much to take a break.

    I am a total draft nerd so even though it was a disappointing year I totally love the off season stuff.

  • Bill May

    The Steelers averaged 5.4 yards per play through the first 8 games. They averaged 5.4 yards per play through the final 8 games. Make of that what you will.

  • Bill May

    The Steelers averaged 5.4 yards per play through the first 8 games. They averaged 5.4 yards per play through the final 8 games. Make of that what you will.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    I like to look at the 6-2 ending as the development of a team which should, from some perspective, be nothing but positive. The interesting thing is the 2 losses could just as easily have been wins.

    If Brown steps 1 foot to his right….if Sanders catches that 2 point conversion…..BOTH of those 2 losses could….notice I said COULD have been wins.

  • Jeff Johnson

    They seem to not play well out in Oakland for some reason. The offense scored pts vs the vikings but the defense let Cassel look like a top 5 QB

  • Matt Manzo

    I think Wheaton will be fine. I meant to say a BIG WR. I still think we need a bigger wr. I know we won a SB with Ward and Randle El, but I wish we had a Calvin Johnson.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    Big-bodied WR like Jeffrey, yes. Calvin Johnson? Not worth the contract for less than 50% of catching rate. I actually rather have me a Vernon Davis than a big-bodied WR. That’s who I am looking at, Eric Ebron from North Carolina.

  • David Edward

    I’m with you on the offseason stuff CP72! These days, it’s not enough for me to just be a fan or even play fantasy football..fantasy GM is where it’s at for me! Sometimes I laugh when I look at Colbert’s or Haley’s background.


    Although I am shocked at how we got to 8-8, I was never surprised by it. Before the season began, we talked about how if everything went just perfect, the Steelers could be a 9-7 or 10-6 team. However, it was more likely for a 7-9 or 8-8 season. Now, if you throw in how this team stuck together despite injury, a Ben rumor, and an 0-4 start, that is something to be proud of. With some key drafted players and the hopeful emergence of last year’s rookies, I am more hopeful going into this season. I can see them competing for that top spot. Heck, if the Steelers would have “snuck” into the playoffs, I think they would have beaten the Bengals.


    I meant Top spot in the AFC North.


    Right now, it seems like going after a receiver high in the draft would be a luxury. We need to build that Defense back up. There might even be a decent WR2 option in free agency.


    I am with you. We could have been a 10-6 team, but I was okay with the progress the team made. I expect to see bigger things next year though. There is no reason why we will not compete in the AFC North. Do we get the 2nd place schedule or 3rd? 2nd – Chiefs, Titans and Jets 3rd – Miami, Chargers, Jags.Either way, I do not think we get the Patriots or Denver.

  • Ryan Barton

    1. Mike Evans or Best available CB.
    2. MLB (Or CB if Evans is taken in 1st rd).
    3. DE/OLB for OLB depth.
    4. Defensive line or Safety depth
    5. RB (Speed/Change-of-pace).
    6. Defense
    7. Defense

    Wouldn’t be surprised if the Steelers take 2 OLB prospects for depth.

  • joed32

    It’s only a week later than last year.

  • joed32


  • Nolrog

    I agree completely. Starting off the year, even at the half way point, I thought we were in big trouble. But a couple good moves and a good solid draft and we’ll be OK.

  • Nolrog

    Sometimes you are the windshield and sometimes you are the bug. This year, we were the bug. Next year, we will be the windshield.

  • James Kling

    While it was gratifying to see some playmaking, some cohesion, some bright prospects for 2014, going 8-4 down the stretch still deserves an asterisk IMO. Did we really beat any quality opponents? The self-destructing Lions? The Rodgers-less Pack? The best case you might make is the Bengals, and they don’t impress me except for Green and their D. You have to beat who’s on your schedule, sure, but in 2014 I want to see these Steelers DOMINATE who’s on the schedule, not just see-saw along to nailbiter wins.

  • BurgherinMD

    I know it just means an extra week of the NFL Network’s top ten long snappers of all time.

  • John Hinton

    Points taken; however, our achilles heel so to speak has been our inability to beat the league’s worst teams like OAK, MIN and TN). If we can correct this in 2014, it could be a special year.