If you’re a fan of Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin—or, better yet, if you’re one of his detractors—you’re likely not surprised that his team has picked itself off the mat and has survived another eight-count.
That’s right, the Steelers, a team that was 2-6 at the bye and teetering on the brink of total destruction, now sit at 5-7 as they get set to take on their long-time AFC North rivals on Sunday afternoon at Acrisure Stadium: The Baltimore Ravens.
Baltimore goes into the game with an 8-4 record and a legit shot at the division title but will also be missing quarterback Lamar Jackson. Thanks to backup Tyler Huntley starting in Jackson’s place, the Steelers are two-point favorites, meaning the oddsmakers expect the home team to pull out a narrow victory.
Steelers fans might actually be expecting the same thing, and if that happens, look out!
Put a pin in the 2023 NFL Draft talk (for now) and ramp up the 2022/2023 NFL postseason talk (for now).
A win would improve the Steelers’ record to 6-7; that’s not normally a great mark to have with a month to go in the regular season, but assuming the Jets lose on the road to the juggernaut Buffalo Bills on Sunday (New York is a 10-point underdog), Pittsburgh would pull to within a game of the team that currently sits in the seventh and final playoff seed in the AFC.
Yes, I realize that the Jets defeated Pittsburgh in Week 4 (at home). I also realize that New England (6-6) defeated the Steelers in Week 2 (at home), but who cares about tiebreakers at this point? That’s a bridge the Steelers and their fans will have to cross when and if they get to it.
Right now, it’s about getting to a place where Pittsburgh is realistically in the hunt. After that, you can truly begin to worry about what the teams in front of the Steelers are doing on a weekly basis (can’t forget about the 6-6 Chargers).
Sure, I mentioned the Jets, but that’s only because I fully expect them to lose on Sunday, but even if they don’t, they still have dates with the Seahawks and Dolphins to close out the year.
As for the Patriots...they finish off with...
I’m not going to do that just yet, but I will start to look at schedules and scoreboards if Pittsburgh knocks off the Ravens on Sunday.
If I know my Steelers fans like I think I do, a win over Baltimore will not only cause the faithful to expect Pittsburgh to take care of business against a bad Carolina team the following week (forget about the fact that both teams will have losing records) but they’ll be concerned that the matchup vs. the Panthers could be one of those yearly Tomlin “trap” games.
I’m ready for all of it.
Draft talk in December is depressing, but you can never have too much playoff hope this time of year.