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MIRZA ZUKIC: Preseason wins aren't 'meaningless'

by on August 10, 2014 1:59 AM

Say what you will about the NFL preseason and the significance of a team’s record in four exhibition games, but the Pittsburgh Steelers cannot endure another winless preseason again this August.

Not if they are to be playoff contenders this season, anyway.

The Steelers lost their preseason opener Saturday night, a 20-16 defeat to the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium that brought back memories of the 2013 preseason, when the Steelers found ways to lose four close games while going 0-4. They then started the regular season 0-4.

Though often considered meaningless by fans, the preseason left an impression with many Steelers fans last season for all the wrong reasons. But the fact is many of you remember it.

It didn’t make you feel good heading into the regular season. The Steelers are human, too. It probably didn’t make them feel very confident, either.

But of course, it’s more than that.

Since 2006, 76 teams in the preseason have gone 1-3 or 0-4, and only 18 had winning records during the regular season and made the playoffs. That’s a mere 23 percent.

In the same period, 19 teams have had 0-4 preseasons, and only five have made the playoffs.

There are exceptions. There always will be. In 2010, for example, the Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears went 0-4 in the preseason and went on to meet in the Super Bowl. But that’s the exception, not the rule.

More often than not, it doesn’t signal good things are ahead. There is a correlation.

So the Steelers need to start by winning next week at home versus the Buffalo Bills and then stacking a couple wins to end the preseason on a high note.

Don’t underestimate the importance of preseason wins, regardless of how “meaningless” they may be. The Steelers have loads of young players, among the projected regulars included, and every win is a shot of confidence for a young group that’s still learning to play together, especially on the defensive side.

Veteran cornerback William Gay said earlier this week the Steelers were going to “fight to win,” and they did, but they couldn’t get up after they got punched in the gut.

Pittsburgh trailed for much of the game, and the Steelers were on the ropes entering the fourth quarter. In the opening five minutes of the quarter, they got a field goal off the foot of Shaun Suisham and Howard Jones’ 28-yard fumble return for a touchdown that gave them a 16-13 lead with 10:16 to play.

But when they needed a defensive stop the most, the Steelers couldn’t get one. Pittsburgh’s defense allowed the Giants to march 80 yards in 12 plays on their first drive after the Steelers took the lead. Not to mention the Giants took more than seven minutes off the clock and regained the lead with 2:58 to play.

The biggest thing most of the youngsters on the Steelers’ roster can learn this preseason is what it takes to win an NFL game. They need a taste of it.

Mirza Zukic is a sports writer that primarily covers the Pittsburgh Steelers and is the Gazette's track and field beat writer.
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