What a difference a year makes for the Pittsburgh Steelers. This time a year ago, Pittsburgh was 0-3 after losing Ben Roethlisberger for the season with an elbow injury. On Sunday, following their 28-21 win over the Houston Texans, the Steelers, with Big Ben back under center, are 3-0 heading into their Week 4 matchup with the also-undefeated Titans.
Roethlisberger, who is the early frontrunner for Comeback Player of the Year, has thrown seven touchdowns against just one interception through three games. He's taken full advantage of a deep receiving corps that includes JuJu Smith-Schuster, rookie Chase Claypool and tight end Eric Ebron, who on Sunday caught his first touchdown pass as a member of the Black and Gold. Defensively, the Steelers have picked up where they left off last season. Pittsburgh's defense, led by outside linebackers Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt, boast the league's top-ranked run defense. They have recorded 15 sacks through three games and, following Mike Hilton's fourth quarter interception on Sunday, have increased their streak of forcing at least one turnover to nine games.
The Steelers' special teams continues to be led by Chris Boswell, a 2017 Pro Bowler who has made all five of his field goals entering Sunday's game against the Titans. Ray-Ray McCloud, who made the roster following an impressive training camp, has the league's longest kickoff return (49 yards) through three weeks.
This season marks the ninth time Pittsburgh has started with a 3-0 record. Here's what happened the previous eight times the Steelers started a season 3-0.
Despite not having Roethlisberger for the first four games, Pittsburgh, with Charlie Batch under center, won its first three games en route to a 12-4 regular season. Troy Polamalu, who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2021, won Defensive Player of the Year honors while anchoring the league's top-ranked scoring defense. The Steelers defeated the Ravens and Jets in the AFC playoffs before losing to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Super Bowl XLV, 31-25.
Mike Tomlin's first season in Pittsburgh included a 3-0 start. The Steelers enjoyed breakout seasons from Big Ben (who threw for a then-franchise-record 32 touchdown passes) and James Harrison, who earned his first Pro Bowl selection after replacing Joey Porter in the starting lineup. After a 9-3 start, the Steelers faded, losing three of their final four games that included a lopsided loss to the Patriots, who would finish the regular season with a 16-0 record. The loss of Willie Parker (the league's leading rusher through 15 weeks) in Week 16 didn't help matters, as the Steelers were upset by the Jaguars in the wild card round.
Bill Cowher's first season as the Steelers' coach also began with a 3-0 start. The '92 Steelers were led by Barry Foster, whose 1,690 rushing yards that season is still a franchise record. The Steelers' defense, led by Hall of Fame cornerback Rod Woodson and perennial Pro Bowl linebacker Greg Loyd, finished second in points allowed during the regular season. After an 11-5 regular season, Pittsburgh's lack of postseason experience showed itself in the playoffs, as the Steelers fell at home to a more seasoned Bills team that was on their way to their third consecutive AFC title.
After winning their fourth Super Bowl in six years, the Steelers endured two non-playoff seasons before posting a 6-3 record during the strike-shortened '82 season. Facing the Chargers in the wild card round, three touchdowns from Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw helped give the Steelers a 28-17 fourth quarter lead. The lead wouldn't last, however, as two touchdown passes from Dan Fouts to Kellen Winslow gave San Diego a 31-28 upset win. The loss would be the final playoff game for Bradshaw and Hall of Fame receiver Lynn Swann, as Pittsburgh continued to lose key members from its dynasty team.
The '79 Steelers won their first four games en route to a 12-4 regular season. While they were showing signs of age, Pittsburgh was still at the top of the NFL's food chain. A big reason why was the continued development of Bradshaw, who led a Steelers offense that led the league in scoring. Pittsburgh's offense also led the league in turnovers that season, with Bradshaw throwing five interceptions in a regular season blowout loss to the Chargers. More often than not, the Steelers were able to overcome their mistakes, which was the case agains the Rams in Super Bowl XIV. Despite throwing three interceptions, Bradshaw won Super Bowl MVP honors after he connected with Hall of Fame receiver John Stallworth for the game-winning score. The '79 Steelers are the last NFL team to win the Super Bowl with a roster comprised of homegrown talent.
Arguably the greatest team in franchise history, the Steelers took full advantage of the NFL's new rule changes that limited the amount of contact defensive backs could have with receivers. The rule, unofficially titled the "Mel Blount Rule" in honor of the Steelers' Hall of Fame cornerback, was supposed to hinder the Steelers, who won two Super Bowls earlier in the decade on the strength of their running game and defense. But in '78, the Steelers unleashed Bradshaw, who won the league's MVP award after leading the Steelers to a 14-2 record. In Super Bowl XIII, Bradshaw set then Super Bowl records with 318 yards and four touchdowns in Pittsburgh's 35-31 win over the Cowboys.
The '73 team was the subject of a book that offered an inside look at the '70s Steelers at the early stages of their dynasty. After breaking through in '72, the '73 Steelers started 4-0 before finishing the regular season with a 10-4 record. But in the playoffs, the Steelers ran into a Raiders team that was looking for payback after losing to the Steelers following Franco Harris' "Immaculate Reception" in the '72 playoffs. The Raiders, led by Hall of Fame coach John Madden, rushed for a whopping 232 yards and two touchdowns against Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain defense, while Willie Brown's 54-yard interception return for a score helped secure Oakland's 33-14 win. A deeper Steelers team (that included a rookie class with five future Hall of Famers) would defeat the Raiders in the '74 AFC title game en route to winning the franchise's first Super Bowl.
Known as the Pirates back then, Pittsburgh's '36 squad, led by halfback Warren Heller, was unable to parlay its early success into a playoff run, losing five of its last seven games to finish with a 6-6 record. That season, however, was the first time the franchise was able to post a .500 record. Pittsburgh would not post its first winning record until 1942, and would have just seven winning seasons before the '72 team won the franchise's first division title.