The Pittsburgh Steelers began their 80th season in auspicious fashion, losing three of their first five games before regaining their footing and responding with four consecutive victories. With a 6-3 record and the archrival Baltimore Ravens next on the team's docket, things suddenly seemed to be going swimmingly for the Black and Gold.
Not so fast.
A freak rib injury that literally threatened to pierce franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's aorta has many fans crossing their fingers, hoping that 2012 is not a season on the brink. However, as the four most recent and more lucrative decades in team history have taught legions of fans in Steelers Country, what's a great season without a little adversity?
From the tragic death of coach Jock Sutherland following a surprising near-championship season in 1947 to any of the dozens of far less serious injuries and distractions, the road to glory isn't always as glorious as its end destination.
Still, like the light at the end of the tunnel, realizing the end result isn't always the warmest prize. In fact, many players speak to the fact that the "journey" is the warmest of memories one takes with them after their playing days. It isn't the ease of the voyage that makes ultimate victory so satisfying; it's overcoming the challenges that any NFL season presents.
Across the last 40 years, Pittsburgh has been blessed to end six of its journeys with a shiny, silver Lombardi Trophy. Many fans dub these seasons from 1972-date (the season of the "Immaculate Reception") as the "Golden Years," 40 seasons of unparalleled success and a passage of time that includes:
...and 26 playoff-qualifying seasons! Nearly 75 percent of all postseasons in the last four decades have included the Men of Steel. And all the more impressively, the Black and Gold have had only seven losing seasons in all of that time, a stark contrast from 25 sub-.500 campaigns in their first forty years!
From the Steelers' first 40 years (let's call them the "feeble 40") to the fantastic 40, this series will take a look back at every season of Steelers football—from 1933 to 2012 (in no particular order), each of the 16 volumes showcasing five journeys from the rich tradition of pro football in the Steel City.
After honoring all 79 past seasons of Steelers football, the series will culminate with an inside look at the one chapter that has yet to reveal itself: the upcoming 2012 campaign.
If you missed the first four volumes, you can access them below:
Volume 1: 1933, 1955, 1969, 1992 and 2004
Volume 2: 1943, 1964, 1970, 1994 and 2010
Volume 3: 1940, 1957, 1974, 1988 and 2001
Volume 4: 1934, 1960, 1972, 1979 and 1998