Earlier this week, we polled fans on several questions about their confidence in the team, whether their Week 16 offensive performance was the real deal, and their expectations for how the Steelers will go on to finish out the season. Here’s what they had to say.
Steelers fans gain some confidence following Week 16’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
HC Mike Tomlin finally gave backup-to-the-backup quarterback Mason Rudolph his first career start since 2021, and the results did not disappoint. Rudolph completed 17 of 27 pass attempts for 290 passing yards, 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions for a 124.0 passer rating — the best statistical performance from a quarterback since the Big Ben Roethlisberger era. Granted, it was against the Cincinnati Bengals, which calls into question how meaningful that offensive performance was...
But still — the Steelers looked competent, and after the kind of season the Steelers have had, it’s something tangible for fans to project moving forward; this is what things could look like. This is what it's like to move the ball in a way where every yard isn’t a battle. That’s good football... and it sure feels like it’s been awhile since Pittsburgh fans have seen it.
Last week, the confidence of Steelers fans was at 8%. So — baby steps.
Steelers fans still don’t think Pittsburgh’s offensive showcase in Week 16 was for real.
Despite the vote indicating an overall boost in the level of confidence for Steelers fans heading into Week 16, it seems like most of that confidence stems from this unit’s surprising performance on defense rather than the offense. 60% of voters indicated that they thought the big day was just a “mirage” against a struggling Bengals defense.
It is a fair assumption, after all, considering the only two outings of the year where the Steelers have managed 340+ yards on offense have both come against the Bengals defense — both instances having played Cincinnati while they were down their top cornerback, Cam Taylor-Britt, who has missed each of the past five games with an ankle injury. The Bengals were also missing defensive tackle D.J. Reader in Week 16, set to miss the remainder of the 2023 season with a quad injury — one of the league’s best at the position.
So, all of that considered, of course the most surprising story for the Steelers in Week 16 was their defense. They were down their top three options at safety, including Minkah Fitzpatrick (knee), Trenton Thompson (neck) and Damontae Kazee (suspended) — all of them set to miss again in Week 17 — and still managed critical interceptions from their two spot starters Patrick Peterson and Eric Rowe. Their usage of their outside linebackers proved fruitful as well, compensating for the loss of their inside linebackers by dropping OLBs into coverage, yielding Alex Highsmith’s second interception of the season.
33% of fans think the Steelers will notch their first losing season under Mike Tomlin in 2023.
We asked Steelers fans to make their prediction on how the team will finish out the remainder of the 2023 season. Will they win out? Go 0-2? Somewhere in between?
The vote was fairly evenly split, but the highest percentage of those votes among the four options (33%) fell in favor of the Steelers to go 0-2 through the final two games of the season. A two-game road trip is never easy, but in challenging environments like the Seahawks and Ravens’ stadiums, things could be all the more difficult for a defense that has had its struggles on both sides of the ball to this point in the season. With that said, the fact that fans are expecting an 0-2 finish to the regular season also means that they’re expecting this to be Mike Tomlin’s first-ever losing season as a head coach.
Hey — at least 28% of those polled expect to win out. I’d do just about anything to feel that level of optimism coursing through my veins.