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The history of the Steelers 3-0 starts

The Pittsburgh Steelers are off to a 3-0 start for the first time since 2010.  This got us to thinking.  How many times has this happened over the years in Pittsburgh?  We researched it, and here’s everything you need to know about the Steelers 3-0 starts over the years.

1973:  Steelers start 4-0

FINAL RECORD: 12-4

PLAYOFFS: Lost to Oakland Raiders 33-14, Division Round

HEAD COACH: Chuck Noll 

We are early on in what would become the Steelers dynasty of the 70s.  It was only the team’s second playoff appearance under Chuck Noll.  Pittsburgh started off hot at 4-0, and continued that trend to 8-1.  The team settled at 12-4, and would eventually lose to thier arch rival Oakland Raiders in the divisional round.  This was a defense first team, in a different era of football.  Terry Bradshaw threw for 1,800 yards, with 12 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.  Franco Harris led the team in rushing with 1,055 yards, while the immortal Ron Shanklin led the team in receiving with 669.  Pittsburgh would go on to win the first of it’s six Super Bowls the very next season.

1978: Steelers start 7-0:

 

FINAL RECORD: 14-2

PLAYOFFS: Won Super Bowl XII 35-31 over the Dallas Cowboys

HEAD COACH: Chuck Noll

Probably the best Steelers team in the entire decade of the 70s.  Pittsburgh steamrolled the league to the tune of 14-2 that year.  They blew through the AFC playoffs with a 33-10 win over the Broncos, and a  34-5 stomping of the Oilers in the AFC Championship game.  The Super Bowl was a much tighter affair, but Pittsburgh would go on to win Lombardi Trophy number three.

This time Terry Bradshaw would through for nearly 3,000 yards, with 28 touchdown passes.  Franco Harris once again led the team in rushing with 1,082.  The dynamic duo of Lynn Swann, and John Stallworth would lead the way receiving with 880 and 798 yards respectively.  On defense, they were equally good leading the entire NFL in 1978. This was a team for the ages.

1979: Steelers start 4-0:

FINAL RECORD: 12-4

PLAYOFFS: Won Super Bowl XVI 31-19 over the Los Angeles Rams

HEAD COACH: Chuck Noll

The last hurrah for the great Steelers teams of the 70s.  Head coach Chuck Noll would never again reach the big game after winning his fourth title.  They once again cruised though the AFC playoffs before meeting the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl.  The Rams made it interesting early, but the Steelers eventually pulled away with a 31-19 win.

1979 was by far the best offensive team the Chuck Noll led Steelers ever put out there.  Pittsburgh led the league in both points and yards that season.  Bradshaw threw for a career high 3,724 yards, and 28 touchdowns.  John Stallworth led the team in receiving yards (1183) and touchdowns (8), while old reliable Franco Harris had his usual 1,000 yard rushing season.  Defensively, they were their usual great self finishing fifth in points allowed that year.  This team was slightly inferior to the 1978 team, but still among the all time best Steelers squads.

1982: Steelers start 3-0:

FINAL RECORD: 6-3

PLAYOFFS: Lost in Wild Card Game 31-28 to the San Diego Chargers 

HEAD COACH: Chuck Noll

When it comes to Steelers 3-0 starts, it doesn’t get much weirder.  1982  was the regrettable strike shortened season.  https://www.espn.com/nfl/columns/story?columnist=pasquarelli_len&id=3030311

One has to wonder what might have been had the strike not occurred.  It seemed early on like this cast of characters had a little magic left in them.   Unfortunately the team stumbled to 3-3 after the strike, and bowed out in the wild card round.  Chuck Noll would lead the team to three more playoff appearances in the 80s, but by then the star players were too far past their prime to make another Super Bowl run.

1992: Steelers start 3-0:

FINAL RECORD: 11-5

PLAYOFFS: Lost in divisional round 24-3 to the Buffalo Bills

HEAD COACH: Bill Cowher

1992 kicked off a new era in Pittsburgh Steelers football.  For the first time since 1969, the team would have someone not named Noll as their head coach.  Bill Cowher started off with a bang, guiding the team to their first division title since 1984.  They would eventually flame out in Cowher’s first ever playoff game, losing 24-3 to the juggernaut Buffalo Bills.

The 1992 Steelers relied on defense and the run game for their success.  The offense was dominated by running back Barry Foster.  Pittsburgh ran Foster into the ground with a whopping 390 carries to lead the league.  He responded with 1,690 yards and 11 touchdowns, but Foster paid the price as he was never the same again.  The Steelers defense ranked second in the league in 1992.  This team had it’s shortcomings, but it was just the start of a very successful Bill Cowher reign.

2007: Steelers start 3-0

FINAL RECORD: 10-6

PLAYOFFS: Lost in Wild Card round 31-29 to the Jacksonville Jaguars 

HEAD COACH: Mike Tomlin

The Mike Tomlin era also started off with a bang.  The team won the division in his first season as head coach.  Tomlin would go on to win a Super Bowl in his second season.

The new Steelers coach inherited a very good football team when he took over.  The defense was outstanding, ranking second in points allowed in 2007.  The offense was led by Ben Roethlisberger and his 3,154 yards with 32 touchdowns.  “Fast” Willie Parker was the rushing leader 1,316 yards.  Roethlisberger spread the ball around to multiple receivers, but Santonio Holmes was the clear leader of that group.

2010: Steelers start 3-0:

FINAL RECORD: 12-4

PLAYOFFS: Lost Super Bowl 31-25 to the Green Bay Packers

HEAD COACH: Mike Tomlin

This season will forever be remembered for the Rashard Mendenhall fumble by Steelers fans.  Pittsburgh was down 21-17 entering the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLV.  Dominating the Packers with the run game, the Steelers were driving for the go ahead score.  But then it happened.  Mendenhall fumbled on the Packers 30.  Aaron Rogers capitalized, and led his team to a touchdown.  The game was essentially over for the Steelers after that.

It’s a season most of us would like to forget.  This would be the last time the Steelers defense would be a dominant force until this current season.   They were third overall in points allowed in 2010.  The offense was good, but not great.  Ben Roehtlisberger would have his lowest totals in yards (3200), and touchdowns (17) than any of his next eight seasons.  Mendenhall was the team’s rushing leader with 1,273, while Mike Wallace was the receiving leader with 1,257.

2020: Steelers start 3-0:

 

So here we are 3-0 for the eighth time since 1970 for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Tomlin has his defense back at an elite level in 2020. 2020 Steelers defense is the best of the Mike Tomlin era

The offense is rejuvenated by the return of Ben Roethlisberger as well.  Simply put, this is the best roster the Steelers have fielded in ten years.

So how will this team fair versus the other 3-0 teams of the past?  It has been a mixed bag of first round exits, and Super Bowls for the other teams.  Time will tell, but this could be another 3-0 start that ends with a Super Bowl trophy.

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