Since Mike Tomlin has took over for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2007, he’s won a Super Bowl and never had a losing season, but in recent times more has been made of his non-losing season record than his Super Bowl win. Part of that is due to him helping below-average Steeler rosters get to .500 and the playoffs. This, though, has made the view on the Steelers nowadays as just a good team with a high floor and low ceiling.
During an episode of Speak on FS1, Emmanuel Acho said what a lot of people think about the Steelers, they know what they are getting before the season even starts. When asked if he has any question marks about the Steelers he said no, they’re going to be good and win around nine or ten games.
“The Steelers are going to win ten games, they’re going to win nine games, I don’t have a question mark,” Acho said.” They’re gonna be good, they’re not gonna be great.”
Pittsburgh has only surpassed the ten-win mark once since the 2017 season, going 12-4 in the 2020 year that was played in mostly-empty stadiums due to Covid-19. Part of the reason is that the rosters for the Steelers haven’t been all that great, or injuries ravaged the team. Whatever you want to say for the reasoning though, Pittsburgh has simply been an average team the past five seasons. They can sneak into the playoffs but they can’t ever seem to make noise.
This year though, Pittsburgh has talent and are now just waiting for good quarterback play. The past couple of seasons showed that Tomlin can get nine wins out of this team with below-average quarterback play. In 2023 Kenny Pickett has to take the next step as a player to elevate this team.
While Acho has a point in that we kind of know what we are getting with the Steelers, I think he is a little misguided in saying that there are no questions surrounding this year’s team. Pickett is a huge question mark on whether he can make a leap this season and if he does the Steelers can be a very good football team. With good quarterback play and some injury luck, Pittsburgh can win 12-13 games. I don’t think the cap on this year’s team is ten wins with the additions made this offseason.
However, it is hard to blame Acho for thinking this, as the past five years have simply been mediocrity. No playoff wins since the 2016 season and two playoff appearances in the last five years isn’t “The Standard,” but many in the national media have assumed that’s what it is due to how simply ok Pittsburgh has been. The team doesn’t make big splashes in free agency and doesn’t have any offensive superstars. When the national media talking point for the past few years is Mike Tomlin’s non-losing season streak it is hard to think of the team as anything other than slightly over .500.
Pittsburgh can truly be great this year with an improved roster and quarterback play, but it may take some time to convince the national media of that after half a decade of just being good.