"When they put their white shirts on, the Steelers aren't the same team."
The following quote was from former Monday Night Football broadcaster Dan Dierdorf to summarize the Steelers success on the road in the late 90's. The '96 and '97 Steelers, the last two Pittsburgh teams to win divisional titles in the 90's, were a combined 7-10 on the road, as opposed to 16-3 at Three Rivers Stadium (including playoffs). It just goes to show how hard it is to compile wins on the road in the NFL, even for teams as talented as those Steelers squads.
After compiling three winning road records in his first five seasons as Steelers coach, Mike Tomlin's teams struggled to find similar success away from Heinz Field in 2012 and 2013, posting consecutive 3-5 records on the road in each of the Steelers' back-to-back, 8-8 seasons.
Pittsburgh split their first four road games this season before winning three straight at home to move to 6-3 on the year. They had done the job at home, and now needed to do the same on the road with four of their next five games being played away from Pittsburgh.
The first road test was in New York and, needless to say, the Steelers failed their first test miserably. Any collateral the Steelers built up in their road win in Tennessee the following week was lost in their sloppy loss to the visiting Saints in Week 13. With two road games looming that included the Week 14 duel in Cincinnati, there was no longer any margin for error.
The Steelers played accordingly, blowing out the Bengals in the fourth quarter in a 42-21 victory, then gutting out a solid win in Atlanta on Sunday - Pittsburgh's first win in Atlanta since 1996. Pittsburgh finished 5-3 on the road this season, their best road mark since winning the same amount of road games back in 2011. Most importantly, the road victories kept the Steelers alive in the AFC North title race, sitting just a half-game behind the Bengals, a team Pittsburgh will face at home in Week 17.
For the most part, Pittsburgh wore their white shirts well in 2014 and, hopefully, they'll have a chance to wear them again this season in January. But for now, it's time to put the black shirts on and finish the 2014 season on a strong note. If the Steelers play as well in their final two regular season games as they did during their last two road contests, the Steelers will be AFC North Champions.