The New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers have ranked with the elite teams throughout the years. Perhaps not so much in the most recent seasons, but the Patriots and the Steelers rank at the top of the ladder with six Super Bowl titles each.
The departure of Tom Brady meant that the Patriots could no longer dominate, and the Steelers have also struggled to remain near the top without Ben Roethlisberger. Both situations are more complex and involved than missing one key superstar, but it's a fair way of identifying the point things dramatically changed for both franchises.
While there have been recent difficulties, both teams have managed to stay out of their respective divisional cellars for many years. The Patriots have not finished in last place in the AFC East since 2002, while the Steelers haven't finished in last place since the 1988 season. At that point, the Steelers were playing in the AFC Central Division.
Neither Bill Belichick nor Mike Tomlin are looking at their respective teams as potential last-place finishers in the upcoming 2023 season, but it is conceivable that both of these teams could sink in the AFC East and AFC North, respectively.
A look at the Patriots roster, and it's difficult to say they are better than the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins or the New York Jets. The Steelers will have a difficult time competing with the Cincinnati Bengals or Baltimore Ravens. Tomlin's team could find itself in a dogfight for third place with the Cleveland Browns.
The best coaches often find a way of leading their teams to surprising finishes when the least is expected. If Belichick and Tomlin can do that this season, the Patriots and Steelers streaks will continue.