Pittsburgh Steelers’ Turnaround Feeling Like 2002


On a crisp night in late October, the Pittsburgh Steelers turned their season around. After falling behind the Houston Texans 13-0 midway through the second quarter, the Steelers rallied for 21 points in a three-minute span before halftime.

The Steelers used the momentum to hold of the Texans in the second half 30-23.  A win versus the Texans kick started a three game win streak and look to make it four straight at the New York Jets Sunday.

But prior to the winning streak, the Steelers looked doomed to fall to the bottom of the AFC North. A blowout win at Carolina was overshadowed by blowout losses to the Ravens and Browns, an upset loss to the previously winless Buccaneers and a terrible showing in a win against the Jaguars.  At 3-3 and a tough home schedule in front of them, the Steeler faithful prepared for the worst.

Then, as if by some sort of magical force, the Black & Gold turned from doormats to dominators.  An offensive explosion in the last two games now gives the Steelers the third best offense in yards per game in the NFL.  This turnaround and subsequent offensive takeover is something all but familiar to Steelers fans.  The Steelers experienced a turnaround quite similar 12 years ago in 2002.  And yes, that was the year of Tommy Gun.

Though he is still not favorable amongst Steeler fans, Tommy Maddox turned the Steelers fortune in 2002. The Steelers began that season with Kordell Stewart at the helm after he led the team to the AFC Championship game in 2001.  Stewart put together his best season as a quarterback in 2001, earning his first and only Pro Bowl appearance.

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But in 2002, the man referred to as “Slash” by Myron Cope looked like a shell of his former self.  The dual threat quarterback was benched after two games, giving way to the former first round pick Maddox.

The Steelers experienced an offensive revolution under Maddox, who won named NFL Comeback Player of the Year that season.  The team ended the year with a 10-5-1 record and a division title. The new pass happy attack propelled the Steelers to the fifth ranked offense in the NFL.

Now this rendition of the Steelers has not gone through any sort of quarterback controversy with Ben Roethlisberger firmly at the helm, but this team does share a bond with that 2002 squad. A subpar offensive effort in the beginning of both seasons gave way to one of the top offenses statistically in the league.

Granted, this 2014 team does not have a defense that can rival the top 10 defense from 2002 at this point, but that may change.  The return of Ike Taylor imminent along with the reemergence of veterans Brett Kiesel and James Harrison could bring the Steelers D back into the discussion of being one of the top defenses in the AFC.  It has been a few years since a Dick LeBeau defense has garnered that praise.

Whether you compare this current group of Steelers to the team from 2002 or 1972, the only thing Steeler fans care about is winning. All of the bad the bad penalties and so-so secondary play get swept under the rug as long as Black & Gold win.  And with the Bengals loss to the Browns on Thursday Night Football, a window has opened for the Steelers to take control of the AFC North.

Hopefully, for the sake of many yinzers’ health, that opportunity is seized.