The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the most consistent franchises in professional sports because of their success every year. The Steelers’ last losing season was 20 years ago, in 2003, when they finished 6-10. Head coach Mike Tomlin has not had a losing record in any of his 16 seasons and entered the 2023 NFL season with a 163-93 record.
The two head coaches before Tomlin were Bill Cowher, who only had three losing seasons in 15 seasons, and Chuck Noll, who had four losing seasons in his last 20 years as Pittsburgh’s head coach. That adds up to an incredible seven losing seasons in the last 51 years for the Steelers.
What Happened to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2003?
In 2003, Tommy Maddox was the Steelers’ starting quarterback for all 16 games after winning Comeback Player of the Year the previous season. He was not as consistent in 2003, with two fewer touchdown passes and one more interception, though he had 142 fewer pass attempts.
Running back Jerome Bettis, who had had offseason knee surgery, lost his starting job in the preseason to Amos Zereoue. Bettis was able to regain his starting job after six games and rushed for 811 yards and seven touchdowns.
Meanwhile, rookie safety Troy Polamalu had zero starts in 16 games, the only time in his career that he did not start a game. He went on to start the next 142 games in his career on the way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Steelers started the 2003 season 2-1 with wins against the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals. Pittsburgh’s offense then stalled, only scoring over 16 points once during a five-game losing streak. The Steelers alternated wins and losses the rest of the way to finish 6-10.
Pittsburgh’s offense finished 19th in points scored and 22nd in offensive yards for the season. The defense ranked 15th in the league in points allowed.
The 6-10 record left the Steelers third in the AFC North and set them up with the No. 11 pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. With that pick, Pittsburgh selected Miami (OH) Ben Roethlisberger, who was 165-85-1 as a starter during his 18 seasons.
Where Does Pittsburgh’s Streak Rank?
The Steelers’ 19th straight non-losing season is tied with the New England Patriots (2001–2021) for the second-longest in NFL history. Pittsburgh has had five 8–8 seasons during the streak, while the Patriots had 19 straight winning seasons during their run, including 18 years with at least 10 wins.
Likewise, the Dallas Cowboys had 21 straight non-losing seasons from 1965 to 1985. Dallas was 7-7 in 1965 before having 20 straight winning seasons under head coach Tom Landry.