The Steelers have not finished in the basement of the division they play in for over 34 years, the longest active streak in the NFL. However, in 2023, that streak could be on the line and hanging at its most futile point with an improved AFC North overall.
Pittsburgh has not finished last since the 1988 season if you are counting backward, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN. They, along with the New England Patriots, have over 20-year streaks going where they have not finished last in their division. However, with that in mind, there would have to be another key streak ended in order for that to truly end.
It likely would mean the Steelers log a losing season, too, ending Mike Tomlin’s streak of non-losing seasons as a head coach. While the possibility must be acknowledged there are a few things that make me skeptical of that possibility. For one, Tomlin is just that guy. He does more with less consistency and has his teams playing above their talent benchmarks. Second, and more importantly, that talent benchmark is absolutely improved for the Steelers in 2023.
There are certainly questions about how the defense will mesh and just how big of a leap Kenny Pickett will make. That all seems like legitimate reasons to be concerned the Steelers will miss the playoffs. However, it still seems like they are likely to at least tread water at 9-8 in 2023. If they get a solid leap out of Pickett and quality defensive play, they could even end up in the dance itself.
Regardless, the team certainly will be in for an uphill battle to make some noise. The team is starting to build a quality core but could be a year away from truly making waves in the NFL at-large. Playing the AFC North is a gauntlet, but it’s likelier that Pittsburgh will find a way to defy the odds once again.