Is there panic in the streets of Pittsburgh?
Are Pittsburgh Steelers fans starting the Labor Day weekend early by drowning their sorrows in Iron City beer?
Are online ticket prices for Steelers games at Heinz Field plummeting like the prices of bathing suits after Labor Day?
The Pittsburgh Steelers just wrapped up their third winless preseason since 1965, when Mike Nixon was head coach.
Chuck Noll endured a winless preseason in 1987, long after his salad days with the Steel Curtain.
Bill Cowher’s only Super Bowl victory was behind him when the Steelers failed to win a preseason game in 2006.
Mike Tomlin’s Steelers fell 25-10 to the Carolina Panthers Thursday night to finish the preseason 0-4.
Preseason games don’t count, so going 0-4 is no skin off the Steelers’ backside. The slate is wiped clean. What really matters is what the Steelers do beginning Sept. 8 against the Tennessee Titans at Heinz Field.
Before the Steelers’ game at Carolina, Ben Roethlisberger nearly laughed when the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Alan Robinson asked if there was concern about the Steelers’ winless preseason.
Sure, if the Steelers bring home a seventh Lombardi Trophy, no one will remember their 0-4 preseason.
However, of the 80 teams who have had winless preseasons in the Super Bowl era, only the 1982 Washington Redskins won the Super Bowl, according to footballgeography.com. That came during a nine-game season that was interrupted by a strike. No winless preseason team has won the Super Bowl after a 14- or 16-game season.
While the Steelers are outwardly downplaying the preseason, and rightly so, there’s got to be at least a little bit of consternation behind closed doors at the Steelers’ South Side facility. The last time the Steelers went winless in August, they flopped to a 2-6 start in 2006 on the way to finishing a disappointing 8-8.
Even more worrisome than the Steelers’ preseason record is the fact that this team has a few holes.
Heath Miller was the Steelers’ most valuable player last season and rookie Le’Veon Bell is the anointed savior of their lackluster running game. Both could miss the first month of 2013.
The offensive line is still going through growing pains. According to Pro Football Focus via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert was ranked No. 125 and starting left tackle Mike Adams was ranked No. 136 among all the NFL tackles who played at any point in the first three preseason games.
Maurkice Pouncey continues to be Pro Football Focus’ whipping boy. He was ranked last among the 67 centers who played during the preseason.
The Steelers also are in the same division as the defending Super Bowl-champion Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals, who have their sights set on Super Bowl XLVIII.
The Steelers’ preseason futility is the least of their problems. However, a deeper look at the fortunes of previous preseason booby prize winners reveals that history is not on the Steelers’ side.
Not only has just one of the 80 preseason O-fers since 1966 won a Super Bowl, but the 2000 New York Giants and the 1990 Buffalo Bills were the only other ones to reach the Super Bowl.
OK, how about the conference championship? Winning the Super Bowl is always the goal in Pittsburgh, but reaching the AFC championship game wouldn’t be a total failure for the 2013 Steelers. They did that in 2004, and it gave them the impetus to finally win One for the Thumb in 2005.
Only the 2010 Chicago Bears and the 1967 Houston Oilers, who lost in the AFL championship game before the merger, have come within a win of reaching the Super Bowl after failing to win a game in the preseason. Of the 80, that’s five teams who have been among the last four standing in the postseason.
OK, how about just making the playoffs? If the Steelers get back to the playoffs, they’d avoid their first back-to-back non-playoff seasons since 1999 and 2000 and have something to build on in 2014.
Well, of the aforementioned 80 teams, only 12 have reached the playoffs. Interestingly, one of those teams was the 2005 Indianapolis Colts. They went 0-5 in the preseason, then went 14-2 in the regular season before the Steelers shocked them 21-18 in the AFC divisional playoffs.
Of course, what really matters in the preseason is staying healthy. The Steelers didn’t get through the games unscatched. First-round pick Jarvis Jones has a chest bruise, but should be ready to go. There’s Bell’s foot injury. Fullback Will Johnson injured his hamstring Thursday, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via CBSSports.com. Isaac Redman, who could start at running back in Week 1, is still working his way back from a stinger.
Last year, first-round pick David DeCastro was lost for three quarters of the season and third-round pick Sean Spence still hasn’t returned from the leg injury he suffered.
So compared to 2012, this was a healthy preseason for the Steelers. And that means a lot more than their 0-4 record.
Still, they might want to practice a little harder between now and Sept. 8.