Turnarounds from one season to the next can happen fast in the NFL, where postseason turnover is much more an absolute than an aberration.
Over the last 30 seasons (from 1990 through 2019) at least four teams that failed to make the playoffs in the previous season qualified for postseason play in the following season. And in 27 of those 30 campaigns at least five teams qualified the season after missing out.
The number was eight (two-thirds of playoff participants) as recently as 2017 (Buffalo, Carolina, Jacksonville, the Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Tennessee).
More than half of the playoff field (seven teams) turned over in 2018 (Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, the Los Angeles Chargers and Seattle).
Five teams bounced back in such a fashion last season (Buffalo, Green Bay, Minnesota, San Francisco and Tennessee).
The Bills (6-10), Packers (6-9-1) and 49ers (4-12) did so coming off losing records.
And San Francisco morphed from a four-win team (only Arizona, at 3-13, won fewer games in 2018) into one that was leading Super Bowl LIV in the fourth quarter.
That should provide plenty of inspiration to the teams that watched last season's postseason on TV.
And to teams such as the Steelers, who have finished out of the playoff money for two consecutive seasons.
You can get there from here.
Especially when one of the changes from one year to the next is the return of a franchise quarterback, as the Steelers are anticipating with Ben Roethlisberger.
But perceived strength of schedule isn't necessarily an indicator of what's about to happen.
Prior to the NFL's announcement of specific dates and kickoff times for 2020 on May 7, sportingnews.com ranked every NFL team's upcoming schedule based on its opponents' combined winning percentage from 2019. On that criteria alone New England has the toughest path to navigate (Patriots' opponents went a combined 137-118-1 for an aggregate winning percentage of .537). Baltimore, conversely, checked in at No. 32 in that department (112-144, .438).
The Steelers were No. 31 (117-139, .457).
The Steelers' schedule includes six games against five teams that made the playoffs last season, Houston, Tennessee, Philadelphia, Buffalo and Baltimore (the Steelers play the Ravens, an AFC North Division rival, twice).
But the NFL's three-decade trend maintains all of those teams aren't necessary a lock to return to the postseason in 2020.
The Steelers aren't, either, but their track record under Mike Tomlin suggests they have at least a 50-50 shot at it.
The Steelers have missed the playoffs five times in Tomlin's first 13 seasons, including last season.
They've returned to the postseason the following season twice after their first four out-of-the-money finishes under Tomlin.
The Steelers rebounded from 9-7 in 2009 to 12-4 in 2010, a season that didn't end until an appearance in Super Bowl XLV against Green Bay.
And an 8-8 showing in 2013 was followed up by an 11-5 record and an AFC North Division championship in 2014.
The Ravens and Bengals also made the playoffs in 2014 (the Bengals had the previous season, the Ravens hadn't), which made the AFC North the only division to send three teams to the postseason.
That season's schedule turned out to be more than representative, no matter the initial impressions.
Take a look at photos from our last meeting with each of our 2020 opponents