Despite their win Sunday afternoon against the Buffalo Bills last Sunday, the 2013 season has been one of the most disappointing seasons in recent memory for the Pittsburgh Steelers. But for a team that prides themselves on wins, you have to wonder is this as low as it gets for the black-and-gold.
If the trend continues, the 2013 team will mark only the sixth Steelers team in the past 20 years not to finish above .500.
But while this current team is certainly one of the Steelers worst in recent memory, you have to ask the question of is it the worst?
With that being said, I have decided to take a look at the five worst Steelers teams of the past 20 years.
Are we currently looking at it?
Let’s take a look.
Honorable Mention- 2012 Steelers (8-8)
Last year’s team was disappointing, but really wasn’t void of talent. They did have issues such as finishing 22nd in total offense and 24th in the league in takeaway/giveaway ratio, plus ranking only 14th in point differential while having a strength of schedule ranking of only -2.0.
However this team competed in most games and was hit by the injury bug hard as it was never was the same after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was injured. This team lost games it should have won and lost an NFL record six games on the last play of the game. A few bounces go their way and this is likely a playoff team.
5. 2006 Steelers (8-8)
The 2006 season began with the team trying to improve on their 11–5 record from 2005 and trying to defend their Super Bowl XL championship. During the offseason, backup quarterback Tommy Maddox and cornerback Willie Williams were released for salary cap reasons. Later on, the team lost wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen, and free safety Chris Hope to free agency.
They did sign safety Ryan Clark, but the offseason was also marred by the motorcycle accident of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
They did win six of their final eight games to finish at .500, but a pair of three game losing streaks early on doomed what turned out to be Bill Cowher’s final team. This team suffered from a Super Bowl hangover that dug themselves a hole too deep to climb out of.
4. 1998 Steelers (7-9)
The 1998 team marked the first time since 1991 that the Steelers failed to reach the playoffs. Pittsburgh finished 7–9 after starting the season 5–2, losing their last five games to knock themselves out of the playoffs. That losing streak got started with a controversial loss on Thanksgiving to the Detroit Lions in the now famous Jerome Bettis coin flip game.
At the time the 98 squad proved to be the first losing team under Cowher.
This team was pretty much average across the board statistically but it marked the season that the fan base started to turn on quarterback Kordell Stewart. After finishing 11-5 the season prior, the Steelers lost both wide receiver Yancy Thigpen and offensive coordinator Chan Gailey and Stewart started to struggle.
3. 2013 Steelers (3-6)
If I were writing this piece two months from now, there’s a pretty good chance that this year’s team could finish No.1, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt for now.
The difference between this team and the others on the list is the fact that this Steelers team has major holes and lacks depth at almost every position on the field. Some of these other teams had better talent but underachieved in a major way.
There’s still a chance that this Steelers team could turn things around, but it is doubtful as when it is all said and done they will likely go down as one of the worst Steelers teams of the past two decades.
2. 2003 Steelers (6-10)
This Steelers team was the first one under Cowher to get away from the run and rely mostly on the pass. The one problem with that scenario is the fact that Tommy Maddox was under center and the results showed.
Since moving to Heinz Field, this is the only Steelers team to produce a losing record. This team suffered through injuries all season, but was never able to put back-to-back wins together all season. After starting the campaign 2-1, a five-game losing streak started the downward spiral.
It was ugly across the board as this team finished 19th in total offense, 15th in defense, 21st in takeaway/giveaway, 19th in point differential and 18th in yardage differential despite having a strength of schedule that graded out at only 0.6.
This 2003 team was the last time a Steelers team finished under .500.
1. 1999 Steelers (6-10)
This Steelers team gets the top spot mostly due to the way they finished. After winning five of their first eight games to get off to a respectable start, this team lost seven of their last eight, including six in a row to limp towards the finish line.
For the second consecutive season the Steelers failed to make the playoffs, thanks to an offense that finished 18th in the league and a defense that ranked only 12th.This Steelers team had no Pro Bowler’s and could do nothing right.
There was a stretch from 1999-2000 when this team went 1-10, which is reminiscent of the 2-9 stretch this team went from last year to this one.
Stewart played very poorly that he was benched in favor of Mike Tomczak midway through that stretch. In fact, Stewart was moved back to the wide receiver position, which at the time looked like it pretty much spelled the end of his tenure in Pittsburgh.
Things didn’t get any better as Tomczak and company ended up turning the ball over 16 times over the course of the final seven games.
This is likely the worst Steelers team over the past two decades, but some positives came from their 1-10 stretch, including the hiring of Kevin Colbert, who helped bring the franchise two Super Bowl championships.
Many of the Steelers youngsters like Alan Faneca, Hines Ward, Joey Porter, Aaron Smith, and Deshea Townsend all emerged as starters who would make an impact over the course of the next few years.
Even the likes of Stewart got the opportunity to turn things around as he earned his job back in 2000 and eventually led the Steelers to the 2001 AFC Championship Game.
This current Steelers team has the look of ending up as bad as that 1999 team. Hopefully they can find as many positives in defeat as that 1999 squad did.
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar