Steelers are in the process of finishing better than they started

Jason Miller

The remarkable defensive improvement in terms of points per game the Steelers have shown in each of the quarter-seasons so far in 2013 leads to optimism behind Ike Taylor's "it's not how you start, it's how you finish" mantra.

Much of the opinion written on this site in 2012 was how the Steelers' slow start would culminate in a strong push over the final half of the season.

I was willing to bet on it. Dividends on that statement were beginning to pay off in Weeks 7-9. Three straight wins, and the Steelers looked like contenders. The Chiefs came to town, hit Ben Roethlisberger and we remember the rest.

Those same statements were not made on this site after the team's 0-4 start - the worst the team has had since the Beatles produced Yellow Submarine.

Judging by larger picture statistics, that prediction may have been a year early.

The Steelers gave up 110 points combined in their first four games. After the Week 5 bye, a massacre at the hands of the New England Patriots shot their total points allowed in that quarter stretch to 89 - a 21-point improvement, despite the single worst defensive game in team history (55 points and 610 yards allowed are the highest ever for this franchise).

Thursday will mark the end of the third quarter of the season, and the Steelers have allowed 48 points - 16 a game.

Not to dismiss Baltimore's chances of going on a massive offensive tear, but just look at how sharp the dropoff has been.

First Quarter: 27.5 points a game; 0-4 record
Second Quarter: 22.3 points a game; 2-2 record
Third Quarter: 16 points a game; 3-0 record (through three games)

The classic cliche is "the Super Bowl isn't won in September." There's no need to douse your coach in Gatorade after a Week 1 win, just as there's no reason to fire your front office, coaching staff, trainers, personal managers and ticket takers after an early slump.

Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor has said countless times over his career "It's not how you start, it's how you finish." The Steelers have a huge challenge ahead of them against a team that has flat-out underachieved offensively this year. It does not mean at all they are incapable of putting a big number on the Steelers' defense.

But a unit that's played very well (with a few gaffes here and there) over the ever-important third quarter of the season now should be able to say it's won back the public's trust - whatever that's worth.

Certainly, making the playoffs after an 0-4 start is the ultimate example for those in Ike's "How You Finish" camp. It's a bit steep for comfort, considering the 1992 San Diego Chargers are the only team in league history to start 0-4 and qualify for the postseason.

Like last season, though, the start eventually paled in comparison to the finish.

A win over Baltimore in Week 13, though, would set up a finish as unlikely as this franchise has seen, oddly, since Yellow Submarine was released.

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