It seems as if the Steelers have come a long way since head coach Mike Tomlin famously promised to “unleash hell” in December during the 2009 season.
Pittsburgh is now 1-3 in the final month of 2020, with their single win being an ugly one against a depleted Ravens roster. Their offense has been terrible and their defense looks exhausted. It doesn’t get any easier for them, as they face the red-hot Indianapolis Colts in the final week of December, and then a hungry Cleveland Browns team to end the regular season on January 3rd.
At the moment, it looks as if the Steelers will finish their season on a 5-game losing streak.
Sadly, this isn’t a massive surprise. Falling apart near the end of the year has unfortunately become all to common for the Steelers over the past few seasons. In 2018, the team was 2-3 in December and ended up missing the playoffs. They did pull of a memorable victory against the New England Patriots, but still lost the majority of their games that month. Their only other victory was over a terrible Bengals team, a game that ended with an ugly score of 16-13 that marked the beginning of the end for Antonio Brown in Pittsburgh.
2019 wasn’t much better. Despite losing Ben Roethlisberger for the season, the Steelers had a playoff spot in their sights at 8-5 going into the final stretch of the season. Unfortunately, they lost all three of their final games to drop to 8-8 and out of the playoffs.
And with an inexcusable loss to the 2-win Bengals last Monday, it looks like the Steelers have fallen into a December slump for the third year in a row. While AFC playoff teams such as the Chiefs, Bills, Titans, and even Ravens are beginning to play their best football of the year as the postseason draws nearer, the Steelers are playing their worst.
Call it a coincidence, but a pattern is definitely forming with the Steelers failing to win down the stretch. As evidenced by their year-ending losing streaks that cost them playoff spots in 2018 and 2019, or even their collapse against Jacksonville in the 2017 playoffs, the Steelers are losing when it counts the most.
A team led by veterans such as Ben Roethlisberger, Maurkice Pouncey, Joe Haden, and Cameron Heyward should know how to keep their team focused throughout an entire season, and an experienced head coach like Mike Tomlin should have no problem keeping his team’s level of play consistent.
But that level of consistency and focus simply hasn’t been there. And while injuries and scheduling gaffes have certainly hurt the Steelers’ level of play, losing to a 2-10-1 Bengals team without both their franchise quarterback and running back is unacceptable.
With the AFC North title on the line and the playoffs just around the corner, Mike Tomlin desperately needs to get his team back into 11-0 form. The Steelers will get a chance at the Super Bowl regardless of how their regular season ends, and a January resurgence will be all it takes to make up for another ugly December slump.