The 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers enter their Week 7 bye with a record of 3-2-1, giving them a .583 winning percentage. Currently in third place in the AFC North, the Steelers are on a two game winning streak. While they’re home record is a mere 1-2, the Steelers have made up for their early woes at Heinz Field as they are yet to lose on the road with a mark of 2-0-1.
Looking at how the Steelers have performed going into their bye week in years past, and how they finished each season, gives both reason for hope and concern. To be consistent, we will look at Steelers’ games before the bye going back to the 2002 season. The reason this season was chosen was because it is the first year the AFC North was established, as well as there being difficult data from 2001 (the Steelers only played one game before their Week 3 bye because the games from Week 2 were moved to the end of the season due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks).
Although Steelers Nation is spoiled to where a successful season is measured in terms of winning a Super Bowl, the Steelers cannot get to the Super Bowl without first making the playoffs. Therefore, we will use the standard of a playoff appearance as the baseline for the team reaching the desired goal for the regular season.
Winning Percentage (.583)
Since 2002, the Steelers have entered the bye with a record of .500 or greater 12 times. In those seasons, the Steelers have made the playoffs 11 out of the 12 occasions. The lone exception was in 2009 when the Steelers entered their Week 8 bye with a record of 5-2 and on a four-game winning streak. The Steelers finished 9–7 for the season and finished third in the AFC North while missing the playoffs.
Winning Streak (2)
One reason Steelers fans feel the team is heading in the right direction as they enter the bye is due to winning the last two contests. The Steelers have had a win streak of two games or more going into the bye week five times since 2002. If those five times, Steelers have made the playoffs four of them. Once again, the only exception was in 2009. Additionally, with the exception of 2009, the Steelers have made the playoffs every year since 2002 where they won even just a single game as their final contest before the bye.
Home (1-2) and Away (2-0-1)
Before heading in a bad direction, the numbers show one last peak before crashing down. The peak in this case is the Steelers record away from Heinz Field. Even though there was the tie in Cleveland, the Steelers have not lost on the road in 2018. Other than this year, the Steelers have achieved this only twice since the creation of the AFC North. The Steelers were 2-0 on the road before the bye in 2010 and 1-0 on the road in 2005. Do those two years in Steeler history sound familiar? In both seasons, the Steelers reached the Super Bowl.
Before booking a hotel for Atlanta in February, it is now time to look at the gloomy side of the numbers for 2018. With a home record below .500 before the bye, the Steelers have only managed this three other times, with two occasions where the team did not make the playoffs. The only case where the Steelers had a sub-.500 home record and still made the playoffs was in 2002. In this particular season, the Steelers’ bye week was during Week 3. The Steelers had only hosted one game at Heinz Field where they were defeated by the eventual AFC-champion Oakland Raiders. With only a two-game sample before the bye, it is very difficult to draw conclusions from this particular season.
AFC North Standings (Third)
The Steelers enter the bye in 2018 with their worst standing in the AFC North since there 0-4 start in 2013. The good news is the Steelers have never finished worse for the season in the AFC North standings than what they were entering the bye, with the lone exception being the aforementioned 2009 season. The bad news is the Steelers have never made the playoffs if they entered the bye in either third or fourth place in the division. But there is something to remember: since the Steelers are only a half came out of the division lead, they could move as high as first place in the without even playing this weekend.
Hope in Numbers
If you are our numbers geek like me, you can be either encouraged or discouraged by where the Steelers currently stand. The winning percentage, win streak, and road record are all reasons to believe that the Steelers will make the postseason in 2018. But home record and current division standings are items of concern. Much like the Steelers play in the early part of the season, the numbers give quite an inconsistent result. Personally, I think it’s a good thing because I will have to intently watch the games since the numbers aren’t telling me if the Steelers are definitely going to win or lose.
In other words, these particular numbers can give a sense of comfort or grief, but not future results.