The 2016 season hasn’t been as hard on the Pittsburgh Steelers as the narrative suggests.
Although suspensions, injuries and losses to bad teams have become hallmarks of the Steelers in recent years, so, too, have winning seasons, as the Steelers are currently on pace to accomplish this feat yet again in 2016.
“On pace,” of course, being the operative term; the Steelers will likely need to get to at 10 wins to seal their third postseason berth in as many seasons.
To do this, Pittsburgh must win three of the following four games: at Buffalo, vs Baltimore, at Cincinnati and vs Cleveland. Based on these teams’ records so far this season, the Steelers are among the likeliest teams to conclude their season on a winning streak.
Pause, for a moment, to think back to several of those “bad” losses marring head coach Mike Tomlin’s otherwise sterling coaching record. The Steelers have a couple of “bad” losses this season, though one - a road loss to Miami - looks far better in retrospect given the Dolphins’ recent run of success.
Fortunately for Tomlin and Co., cold weather and victories pair quite nicely; Pittsburgh boasts a remarkable 31-13 December record under Tomlin.
Pittsburgh’s final four games certainly look like a cakewalk on paper. The Baltimore Ravens, arguably the best of the four remaining teams, defeated the Steelers earlier this season 21-14, though the final score doesn’t fully illustrate the wire-to-wire drumming that Baltimore put on the Steelers. Baltimore’s victory is no isolated incident, as John Harbaugh’s crew has beaten the Steelers in six of the past seven meetings between these teams, including four straight dating back to 2014. If Pittsburgh’s home meeting against Baltimore on Christmas Day doesn’t cause you some discomfort, then you haven’t been paying attention.
Even the Buffalo Bills, who play host to the Steelers this Sunday, are quietly a much better team than their overall record suggests. Offensively, the Bills are partying like its 1991, as their 25.4 points per game total ranks 9th in the NFL. Like Dallas, who defeated the Steelers 35-30 thanks in large part to Ezekiel Elliott’s 114 yards and three total touchdowns, Buffalo leans heavily on its top-ranked rushing attack, which features LeSean McCoy, who was a star halfback at the University of Pittsburgh. To defeat Buffalo, the Steelers and their Cameron Heyward-less front seven must contain McCoy and dual-threat quarterback Tyrod Taylor, the league’s top rusher at the quarterback position.
The Cincinnati Bengals, meanwhile, have certainly underachieved and will almost certainly miss the postseason for the first time since 2010. With their own postseason fate all but sealed, the Bengals will assuredly be looking to dash the hopes of their arch rival in what promises to be one of the most intriguing games of the 2016 season.
Laugh all you want at the 0-12 Browns, but the odds say that a victory will happen at some point.
The remaining schedule is far from daunting, but it isn’t without its hurdles. Precedent has proven that any game is losable, especially against division rivals.