The Pittsburgh Steelers will open the NFL regular season on the road for the 8th straight season when they face the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1. Now the headline of this article may seem like extreme dramatization of a match up between divisional foes, but even if it wasn’t the Bengals or Baltimore Ravens or Cleveland Browns, the Steelers AFC North title hopes have a a trend of being decided in the first game of the regular season.
Mike Tomlin became head coach of the Steelers in 2007 and since then, the Steelers haven’t registered a losing record once. A truly incredible feat given just how hard it is to win in the NFL and how much harder it is to win consistently year over year. While there is no question Tomlin is one of the best coaches in the NFL and a future Hall of Fame inductee, he does have an ugly blemish on his resume he has been unable to get rid of.
|Year||Week 1 Result||Season Record||Division Finish||Season Result|
|2021||W 23-16 @ BUF||9-7-1||2nd of 4th||Lost in Wildcard Round|
|2020||W 26-16 @ NYG||12-4||1st of 4th||Lost in Wildcard Round|
|2019||L 3-33 @ NWE||8-8||2nd of 4th||Missed playoffs|
|2018||T (OT) 21-21 @ CLE||9-6-1||2nd of 4th||Missed playoffs|
|2017||W 21-18 @ CLE||13-3||1st of 4th||Lost in Divisional Round|
|2016||W 38-16 @ WAS||11-5||1st of 4th||Lost in AFC Championship Game|
|2015||L 21-28 @ NWE||10-6||2nd of 4th||Lost in Divisional Round|
|2014||W 30-27 v CLE||11-5||1st of 4th||Lost in Wildcard Round|
|2013||L 9-16 v TEN||8-8||2nd of 4th||Missed playoffs|
|2012||L 19-31 @ DEN||8-8||3rd of 4th||Missed playoffs|
|2011||L 7-35 @ BAL||12-4||2nd of 4th||Lost in Wildcard Round|
|2010||W (OT) 15-9 v ATL||12-4||1st of 4th||Lost in the Super Bowl|
|2009||W (OT) 13-10 vs TEN||9-7||3rd of 4th||Missed playoffs|
|2008||W 38-17 v HOU||12-4||1st of 4th||Won the Super Bowl|
|2007||W 34-7 @ CLE||10-6||1st of 4th||Lost in Wildcard Round|
Now if the trend isn’t clear when looking at the table, in 15 seasons under Tomlin, the Steelers have not won a single division title when not winning the opener. It pains me to have to phrase it as not winning, but unfortunately, the Steelers decided to tie the Browns in 2018, joining 26 other games that resulted in a tie since overtime was introduced in 1974. This isn’t a trend that can be specifically pinpointed on losing to division opponents because the Browns and Ravens have accounted for only 2 of the 6 times Tomlin and company haven’t won, the others being the New England Patriots (twice), Tennessee Titans, and Denver Broncos. While losing the opener doesn’t mean the Steelers are ultimately doomed, they had successful runs in 2011 (12-4) and 2015 (10-6) where they ultimately were defeated by the Broncos in the playoffs. Losing the opener does have a good trend of resulting in the Steelers missing the playoffs (4 out of 6 times) and finishing with a now improbable (stupid ties) .500 record.
The Steelers’ season opener trends
The trend of losing the season opener has 100% of the time resulted in not winning the division, and winning it has netted the Steelers the division title 7 out of 9 times. The season following the Super Bowl in 2009 where they missed the playoffs and 2021 where they lost in the Wild Card round, being the only seasons they didn’t win the AFC North. While winning the division isn’t the biggest dream for this team, it is definitely a good start given the Steelers have only reached the Super Bowl when winning the division under Tomlin. It also doesn’t hurt to give SteelerNation bragging rights for the year to hold over some of the intolerable fanbases we all have to deal with.
Now remember, trends aren’t set in stone, there are exceptions to the rule, however you would like to phrase it. With the Steelers in unfamiliar territory entering the season, they would be best off trying to replicate the winning ways or I fear if they lose, they could ultimately add to the losing trend.
What do you think? Drop a comment below on what you think!