So, how many points will the Steelers have to score over the next 13 games in-order to reach their goal average of 30? I ask this because after only posting a Chris Boswell field goal in a 34-3 beat-down at the hands of the Eagles on Sunday, Pittsburgh is now averaging 21.6 after three weeks.
This article really isn’t about how many points per game Pittsburgh will average in 2016, but in late September, that topic is about as relevant as anything else with regards to how Sunday’s loss will shape the rest of the season.
I’m not here to tell you you shouldn’t overreact to Sunday’s loss. After all—and not to be too analytical here—the Steelers absolutely sucked in all three phases, every facet of the game—whatever cliche you want to throw out there.
It was so bad, I’m surprised the Philadelphia police didn’t raid Lincoln Financial Field and arrest the Steelers for impersonating a Super Bowl contender (a federal offense on the Internet).
There’s nothing really good you can say about Sunday’s performance.
The quarterback was bad. His offensive line was bad. The receivers were bad (yes, Antonio Brown caught 12 passes for 140 yards, but in a 31-point loss, that’s about as damaging as a funnel cloud in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean). The poor running back was bad. The defense was bad (I don’t think there’s any real need—or patience—to list specific units on that side of the ball).
I know what you’re probably worried about, because I saw it on Twitter and heard it on the post-game shows: Sunday’s loss exposed the Steelers, and now teams are going to know how to beat them.
Really? If that’s the case, why didn’t the 38-16 victory over the Redskins in Week 1 expose Pittsburgh as a juggernaut never to be trifled with again?
Let’s face it, some teams just plain have other teams’ numbers. And when it comes to Philadelphia, that team has a way of making the Steelers look like bumbling idiots.
Remember the time Pittsburgh whipped up on the Eagles, 27-3, back in 2004? In the three meetings between the two franchises since then, the Steelers have scored a grand-total of 23 points—including just nine over the past two trips to Lincoln Financial Field.
Heck, even in the preseason, the Eagles have a way of “exposing” Pittsburgh. Two years ago, Troy Polamalu, of all people, ripped into his defensive teammates during a 31-21 loss in Philadelphia. Just last month, the Eagles forever turned Steelers fans against Landry Jones, after he threw four interceptions in a 17-0 exhibition loss at Heinz Field.
Sunday’s Week 3 trip to the home of a non-conference team just screamed “loss.” In-fact, in the weekly BTSC Picks and Predictions feature spear-headed by Bryan Anthony Davis, I was the only one on the panel to predict a Steelers defeat. Was I doing this to be a contrarian? No. I just had that “feeling” based on years and years of football watching “experience.”
Did I think Pittsburgh would suffer the largest margin of defeat since back when I was in 11th grade and actually chose watching the Steelers over talking to girls (who were much scarier to me in those days than the Eagles pass-rush must have been to David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert on Sunday)? No. But I’m clearly not surprised that the Steelers are 2-1 today, instead of 3-0.
You’re probably thinking the Steelers overlooked Philadelphia, or that this will be some sort of humbling experience and a wake-up call. How about, this was just another example of life in the NFL.
Again, I consider myself a bit of a football historian; when it comes to that, I realize I’m not on par with those who can break down film, evaluate technique and rate draft prospects, but there’s something to be said for knowing football history.
One of the perks of being unemployed this summer (and now fall) has been watching every episode of the America’s Game series that chronicles all 50 Super Bowl champions (I have about five to go). With the exception of maybe eight or 10 very fortunate Lombardi winners—the ‘72 Dolphins, the ‘78 Steelers, the ‘85 Bears, etc.—every single champion faced adversity during its journey.
You obviously know about the 2005 Steelers and what they went through on the way to capturing Super Bowl XL.
The 2003 Patriots, not even two years removed from being considered fluky Super Bowl XXXVI winners and missing the playoffs the following season, lost 31-0 at Buffalo in Week 1. Not only did New England go on to win Super Bowl XXXVIII, Tom Brady and Co. repeated as champions the following year.
Late in the 2012 season, the Ravens lost at home to Denver, 34-17. Baltimore looked listless that day and down-the-stretch, as it stumbled into the playoffs. However, in the divisional round against the Broncos at Mile High, Baltimore pulled off the upset in overtime and went on to capture Super Bowl XLVII.
Need another Steelers example? What about the franchise’s very first Super Bowl team? Back in Week 3 of the 1974 season, Pittsburgh was humiliated at home by the Raiders, 17-0. Not only that, but the Steelers had no clear-cut starting quarterback at that point: was it Terry Bradshaw, Joe Gilliam or Terry Hanratty? (Chuck Noll tried all three that season.) Furthermore, Joe Greene nearly quit after a loss to the Oilers, and according to Franco Harris during his interview for that particular America’s Game episode, when Pittsburgh left Tulane Stadium with a 28-7 victory over the Saints on November 25, no way in heck did he think his team would be back there seven weeks later for Super Bowl IX. You know how things unfolded. Not only did the Steelers defeat Oakland on the road in the AFC Championship Game; they dominated the Vikings in New Orleans two weeks later to capture their first Lombardi Trophy.
I was on the phone with my mom after Sunday’s game, and she said, “Do we have to play the Eagles again this year?” (she doesn’t know about AFC/NFC stuff), and I said, “Not unless it’s in the Super Bowl.”
Would that be a tough match-up? Absolutely. But there’s a lot that can happen between now and then. For example, the 2015 Pittsburgh Pirates played the New York Mets six times during the regular season and not only swept them, but beat the living hell out of them (really no other way to describe it). Yet, when all was said and done, the Pirates (winners of 98 games) lost in the National League Wild Card Game, while the Mets (winners of 90 games and the Eastern Division) reached the World Series.
So, am I saying Sunday’s defeat means the Steelers will win Super Bowl LI? No. But it certainly doesn’t mean they won’t.
It just means they’ll have to work a little harder to average 30 points a game.