Tim Benz: This decade of Steelers football isn’t what numbers suggest
This was an interesting find by TribLive’s Chris Adamski.
He came across this table compiled by German stats guy René Bugner.
No commentary from Bugner. Just the numbers.
It’s a list of the best decades ever compiled by NFL teams. His numbers outline the best combined regular-season and playoff win-loss percentage for any team in a decade since the NFL-AFL merger.
The Steelers in this decade — 2010 through 2018 — are in the top 15. No. 14 to be exact.
The Steelers of the ‘70s are sixth. And the Steelers of the ’90s are 12th.
Best combined regular season & playoff win-loss percentage for any team in a DECADE since the NFL-AFL merger.
The Patriots have won 77,7% of their games since the start of the 2010 season. They could finish 2019 with a 3-13 record and still would be on top of this list! pic.twitter.com/4RF5f6L3u9
— René Bugner (Rainbowcave) (@RNBWCV) June 6, 2019
Now let’s get into the commentary part.
I’d say these numbers are as damning of this run of Steelers football under Mike Tomlin as they are complimentary.
On the one hand, you may look at this table and say, “Wow! The current-decade Steelers have been more successful than the Cowboys and Bills of the ’90s. That’s pretty good!”
Yeah. It is. Until you look at the numbers besides regular-season wins.
There’s a zero in the “Super Bowl wins” column for these Steelers. And there’s only a “1” in “Super Bowl appearances.”
Meanwhile, those teams from Dallas and Buffalo in the ’90s combined for seven berths and three titles. It sure feels like the company these Steelers are worthy of keeping on this list is much more in line with the ’70s Rams or the Eagles of the early 2000s.
Those were teams that were always good but rarely great. And never champions.
Also, keep in mind, there’s one year left to play in this decade. For the Steelers to keep a high enough winning percentage to maintain their current slot on this table, they’d have to go 11-5.
The Steelers have hit or exceeded that win total six times since Tomlin was hired in 2007. That is also the main reason for their presence in this discussion in the first place.
Consistent excellence in the regular season.
But not in the playoffs. Of the 17 teams on this list, the 2010s Steelers are one of only five teams that failed to win a Super Bowl in the allotted timeframe.
They are also one of only five with just one conference title and Super Bowl appearance. Plus, every other team on the list has made it to its conference championship at least three times. The Steelers have been only twice.
Of those 99 victories, only five are in the playoffs in six appearances. The Redskins of the ’80s are the lone team with fewer playoff appearances than these Steelers.
So, what do all of these numbers tell us about the last decade of Steelers football? Well, frankly, what a lot of us already knew.
Tomlin’s Steelers are usually good enough to break your heart but never bad enough for you to give up hope. His team’s appearance on this list is as much of a reflection of the franchise never bottoming out as it is anything else. The Steelers have never lost more than eight games in a season during this stretch.
Those ’90s Bills and Cowboys clubs did. Twice each. As did that Redskins group in the ’80s. Actually, the Steelers of the 1970s had two such campaigns to start the decade.
Those kinds of losing seasons have kept the Bears of the ’80s (.602 winning percentage for playoffs and regular season) and the Seahawks of the 2010s (.619 winning percentage for playoffs and regular season) off the list.
But don’t you think those two fan bases have more fond memories of those teams’ championship years than Steelers fans do of the past nine? I do.
So, this graphic is essentially a monument to the Steelers’ unending desire to prioritize consistency beyond all else.
That’s true in terms of draft approach, free agency and coaching staff retention.
But it is also an indictment of their inability to capitalize on the very foundation they have poured and hold so dear.