In the NFL, it is extremely important for teams to take their season one game at a time. The Steelers took care of game one and started the 2020 season on the winning path. Their next task is to push their record to 2-0. Unfortunately, standing in their way is a team who is notorious for tripping up the Steelers even when they aren’t picked to do so.
In this installment of Crunching the Numbers, we’ll take a look at the importance of getting to that 2-0 record, the Steelers current Week 2 home streak, and how the Steelers do early in the season when they are heavily favored.
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Since the NFL established there 12 team postseason format in 1990, the Steelers have started 2-0 10 times in those 30 seasons. Out of those 10 seasons, the Steelers reached the postseason in eighth of them. The only seasons they did not qualify for the playoffs were back-to-back in 1998 and 1999. Interestingly enough, all four seasons in which the Steelers reached the Super Bowl since this format was adopted, they all came in seasons where the team started 2-0.
Does starting 2-0 mean the Steelers are destined for Tampa? Not in the least. But would it go along way in qualifying for the postseason in order to have a chance to get there? Absolutely.
Since adopting the 12 team playoff format in 1990, teams who start to season 2-0 go on to qualify for the postseason 61.9% of the time. Of the 244 teams who have started the first two weeks of their season winning both games, eams finished with an average record of 10-6 and 151 qualified for the postseason. Of the last 30 Super Bowl champions, 19 of them begin the season 2-0.
The other alternative for the Steelers would be finishing 1-1 after the first two weeks of the season. Since 1990, 41.4% of teams that started the first two weeks of the season at .500 have gone on to make the playoffs. Of those 179 teams out of 432, eight of them went on to win the Super Bowl.
With the Steelers having a streak of six straight years opening the season on the road, they consequently have returned home in Week 2 in all six of those seasons. The five games in which the Steelers have played, they are a combined record of 3-2 but are currently on a two game losing streak. Of those 5 previous team, all of them finished the previous season with a record of at least 8-8. For 2020, the Denver Broncos come to Heinz Field with record of 7-9 in 2019.
The Steelers and Broncos have faced off 32 times in their history between the regular season and playoffs. Of those 32 matchups, they have met in the first two weeks of the season five times. Unfortunately, the Steelers have never defeated the Broncos while playing them this early in the season. The closest the Steelers came to a victory was in Week 3 of 1974 where they finished in a 35–35 tie. So if the Steelers were to defeat the Broncos on Sunday, it would be their first time doing so this early in an NFL season.
Going back to 1978, the Steelers have been favored to win a game by a touchdown or more in the first two weeks of the season 14 times. Although the Steelers have only covered the point spread seven times while not covering the other seven, the more important issue of winning the game has gone in the Steelers favor a majority of the time. With a record of 12-2 in these games, the Steelers currently have an eight game winning streak against teams where they are favored by a touchdown or more in the first two weeks of the season. Ironically, the last time the Steelers lost one of these games was in 1983 when they were seven-point home favorites against the Denver Broncos and were defeated 14-10.
Once again, the Steelers will be playing a game with zero fans in the stands. Although this is something they did Monday night against the New York Giants, it will be the first time the Steelers have played without fans at Heinz Field. With the Steelers normally holding a nice home-field advantage at their stadium, Sunday will be the first test as to how the team responds without the sea of twirling terrible towels.
So there are some numbers in regards to the Steelers when it comes to securing a victory in Week 2 over the Denver Broncos. Although past history means nothing when the teams kick off at 1 PM on Sunday, every game is critical in the NFL when there are only 16 which determine who goes to the postseason. For the Steelers, getting every victory they can when they can is all that matters.