In his annual Bold Predictions column for the upcoming season, Sports Illustrated's Don Banks doesn't mince words in his analysis of the Steelers' chances in 2013:
"Injuries, age and underachievement will combine to produce Pittsburgh's worst season since the Steelers plummeted to 6-10 in 2003. A last-place finish in the AFC North is my forecast for Mike Tomlin's team, and it'll mark the first consecutive non-playoff seasons in Pittsburgh since Bill Cowher's guys missed three years running from 1998-2000."
Meanwhile over at NFL.com the general consensus is that the 2013 Pittsburgh squad is again not postseason bound. Of their slate of 11 experts, only Michael Silver picks the Steelers to make the playoffs, and as a Wild Card at that.
Said Silver: "Traditionally, these guys tend to bounce back from down years in a big way. This time, Big Ben buys in -- and puts the team on his back."
Earlier this week, ESPN employed the stats gurus at Pro Football Focus to crunch the numbers and make predictions for the magazine's preview issue and arrived at a 9-7 finish for the boys in black and gold with no playoff appearance.
But fear not, Pittsburgh partisans. At least one pundit -- NFL Networks Gregg Rosenthal -- picks a "successful" season for the Steelers.
"Choosing my AFC team was much tougher. It came down to the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers in my AFC Championship Game, with Tom Brady ultimately getting tormented in New York instead of tormented by New York in another Super Bowl letdown."
Then again around here, no season is truly successful unless it ends with a Rooney hoisting a Lombardi.