History of Steelers Football – By the Numbers

The first half of the Steelers existence should be nicknamed “The Forgettable Forty.” From 1933 to 1972 the Steelers had a combined record of 184 wins – 287 losses – 18 ties (winning percentage of .376). They only had 9 winning seasons in their first forty years. In fact, they had more head coaches during this time (14) than they did winning seasons. During this span, the Steelers had just 2 playoff appearances (1947 and 1972…they also appeared in the 1962 Playoff Bowl against the Lions). Their best season during this span was 1972 when they went 11-3 and won their first playoff game in franchise history when they defeated the Raiders on Franco Harris’ infamous Immaculate Reception.

Compare that with the second half of their existence from 1973 to 2012, where the Steelers had a combined record of 382 wins – 238 losses – 2 ties (winning percentage of .614). During this time, they only had 7 losing seasons and 3 head coaches. They went to the playoffs 25 times, and advanced to the AFC Championship game 14 times in those 25 appearances. They appeared in 8 Super Bowls and won an NFL record 6 Lombardi Trophies during this span.

For Steelers fans born since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, the worst season they have had to live through is 5-11 in 1988. Other than that, a few 6-10 seasons (1986, 1999 and 2003), a few 7-9 seasons (1985, 1991 and 1998) and a few 8-8 seasons (1981, 2006, 2012 and 2013). Let’s compare this with other storied franchises during this same span. The Dallas Cowboys have had seasons of 3-13 (1988), 1-15 (1989), three consecutive 5-11 seasons (2000-2002) and went 4-12 in 2015. The Patriots were horrendous at times, going 2-14 twice (1981 and 1992), as well as 1-15 (1990). The Packers had four 4-12 seasons during this time (1986, 1988, 1991 and 2005). The 49ers finished the 1970s with back-to-back 2-14 seasons (1978 and 1979), and then had a couple of 4-12 seasons (1999 and 2005) and a couple more 2-14 seasons (2004 & 2016). The Miami Dolphins only had two losing seasons from 1970 through 2003, but then went on to have losing seasons in 8 of their next 12 seasons, including a 4-12 record (2004) and 1-15 record (2007). The team that is closest to the level of consistency as the Steelers are the Denver Broncos. Despite a 4-12 blemish (2010), the Broncos have posted one 5-11 season (1990) and one 6-10 season (1999).

From the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 through the 2016 season, 12 teams have overall winning records:

  1. Steelers are 444-282-2 (winning percentage .611) with 9 losing seasons
  2. Broncos are 426-296-6 (winning percentage .589) with 10 losing seasons
  3. Cowboys are 426-302 (winning percentage .585) with 12 losing seasons
  4. Dolphins are 424-302-2 (winning percentage .584) with 10 losing seasons
  5. Patriots are 413-315 (winning percentage .567) with 13 losing seasons
  6. Vikings are 405-320-3 (winning percentage .558) with 12 losing seasons
  7. 49ers are 402-322-4 (winning percentage .555) with 19 losing seasons
  8. Packers are 386-333-9 (winning percentage .536) with 16 losing seasons
  9. Redskins are 382-343-3 (winning percentage .527) with 16 losing seasons
  10. Raiders are 379-343-6 (winning percentage .525) with 17 losing seasons
  11. Eagles are 371-349-8 (winning percentage .515) with 21 losing seasons
  12. Colts are 369-357-2 (winning percentage .508) with 19 losing seasons

While the Steelers are the winningest and most consistent regular season team since the merger, in the end all that matters are Lombardi Trophies. While the Steelers, Broncos, Cowboys and Patriots each have 8 Super Bowl appearances, the Steelers have the most Super Bowl wins with 6 championships. The Cowboys and 49ers each have 5 rings, while the Patriots and Packers have 4. The Broncos, Redskins and Giants each have 3.

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