PRESEASON IMPORTANT FOR PITTSBURGH
Most view the preseason as nothing more than a way of evaluating new players, especially rookies, and getting back into the swing of things. There is a wide belief that winning games in the preseason is not a gauge for how a team will perform during the course of the regular season, but rather exhibition games to entertain fans. Obviously, there are a lot of examples to support this theory, the most recent of which took place last year. The Detroit Lions finished the 2008 preseason with a perfect 4-0 record. The Lions outscored their opponents in the preseason, 80-32, or an average score of, 20-8. This caused many prognosticators to predict that the Detroit Lions would be one of the surprise teams in 2008. The Detroit Lions certainly surprised a lot of people, but unfortunately it was for a very different reason. The 2008 Lions became the first team in the history of the NFL to lose every game in a 16 game schedule. Not only did the Lions lose every game they played during the 2008 regular season, they were outscored by their opponents, 517-268, or by an average score of, 32-17. This once again, supports the theory that the preseason is not an accurate indicator of how a team will play during the regular season.
Since 2000, one team that goes against this belief is the Pittsburgh Steelers. If Steeler fans want to know how the Black and Gold will do this season, just take a look at their record after the preseason is completed. Only 3 times since 2000, have the Pittsburgh Steelers not made the playoffs (2000, 2003 and 2006) and 2 of those 3 years (2003 and 2006), the Steelers finished the preseason with a losing record. The year that they had a winning preseason (2000), the Steelers did not make the playoffs. The Steelers of 2000, got off to an 0-3 start to the regular season. Despite finishing 9-4 the rest of the way, Pittsburgh just missed making playoffs. The worst preseason for the Steelers this century, happened after winning Super Bowl XL. Pittsburgh finished a terrible 0-4 in the 2006 preseason and that carried over to a 2-6 start to the regular season. It took an overtime catch and run for a touchdown by then rookie Santonio Holmes, to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals in week 17 and finish the regular season at 8-8. Sure there were a lot of reasons given as to why the Pittsburgh Steelers struggled so much during 2006. There was the so-called “Super Bowl Hangover,” quarterback Ben Roethlisbeger's offseason motorcycle accident, as well as his emergency appendectomy just days before the opening game of the regular season, and the sense that it would be Bill Cowher's last season as head coach. The fact remains that the Steelers of the 21st century, have a combined regular season record of 14-18 following a preseason in which they had a losing record. On the flip side, since 2000, the Steelers have a regular season record of 80-31-1 after a preseason where they finish with a .500 or better record. Just to take this one step further, when the Pittsburgh Steelers won their fifth and sixth Lombardi Trophies, in 2005 and 2008 respectively, they finished the preseason both times with a 3-1 record. The only other time since 2000 that the Steelers had a 3-1 record in the preseason was 2001. That year, Pittsburgh finished the regular season 13-3 and reached the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots. I won't go into any details about that game since we all know what happened that day in January 2002.
Right now, the Pittsburgh Steelers are 1-1 at the halfway point of the preseason. For most of the teams in the National Football League, the preseason doesn't mean very much; however, if you believe in what has been mentioned in this article, then you know that the next two preseason games against the Buffalo Bills and Carolina Panthers might be as important to the Steelers success in 2009 as a game against Baltimore in late December.