When you hear someone ask, “Is this going to be a Mike Tomlin game?” what do you think of?
Do you automatically assume this person is talking about the many times the Steelers have been underdogs with Tomlin as their head coach but still prevailed?
It is true that the Steelers' record as an underdog during Tomlin’s 16-year tenure as head coach is rather impressive. Unfortunately, he’s a little more famous, or infamous, for the many times his teams have lost games when they were expected to win rather handily.
This Sunday, when the underdog Jets come to town for a 1 p.m. matchup at Acrisure Stadium, may have the makings of such a game.
But are the Steelers (1-2) that much better than a New York team that was expected to struggle mightily coming into the season and is only a Browns’ Week 2 meltdown away from being 0-3?
The oddsmakers, who have established the Steelers as three-point home favorites, certainly don’t think so. Doesn’t the home team automatically get favored by three points before everything else is factored in?
If that’s the case, the oddsmakers must feel that being in Pittsburgh is the Steelers' only real advantage on Sunday.
This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to the Steelers and how much they’ve struggled through the first three weeks of the 2022 regular season.
Pittsburgh is near the bottom of every offensive category, averaging just 15.6 points per game minus Minkah Fitzpatrick’s pick-six in the season-opening upset of the Bengals.
Speaking of the defense’s prowess, it hasn’t shown much of it since T.J. Watt was lost for an indefinite period of time with a pectoral injury he suffered late in the Week 1 win in Cincinnati; in two games without Watt, the Steelers defense has tallied just two sacks and one takeaway. As for that run defense? It looks every bit as porous as it did in 2021.
Furthermore, the team is currently embroiled in a predictable (if you know the history of Steelers fans and media) quarterback controversy, with Mitch Trubisky now being subjected to the kind of treatment previously reserved for the likes of Mark Malone.
Obviously, Tomlin, along with offensive coordinator Matt Canada, have faced fierce criticisms from Steelers fans and the media, who are pretty darn sure that one or both must go yesterday.
I don’t know about you, but the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers don’t seem like a team that should consider any opponent to be “lesser competition.”
The Steelers don’t look or play like a team that should be expected to beat anyone. Their supporters don’t seem to feel that way. The media isn’t convinced.
As for those oddsmakers? Isn’t it amazing how often they set the line just right?
With all of that in mind, this Sunday might be the Steelers' one and only opportunity to prove that they’re not just another bum from the neighborhood, that, if they are hitting on all cylinders, they should be able to easily handle a team like New York.
Would it be fool’s gold, however, especially with such a daunting slate of games against much stiffer competition on the horizon?
That’s a question for another time, and can only be answered once the Steelers answer a more important one this Sunday at Acrisure Stadium:
Are they actually the “lesser competition” in the NFL in 2022?