Just how good is this Steelers team? Buried among the eggs the Steelers have laid this season, especially on the road, is the question of perspective.
Three players, Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell, are making very strong cases for Pro Bowl bids. The Steelers have gotten outstanding play from their offensive line at times this year. Their defense has shown greater ability to get to the passer than they have since 2010. When these elements appear to be functioning well, the team plays at a high level.
It seems like those players and units feed off of each other and, when one of them is off, all of them fall down. A few turnovers doomed the Steelers early in one of their toughest losses in years to the Jets last week. The Steelers were underdogs against both Indianapolis and Baltimore, but laid waste to both teams.
Playing well on the road is the mark of a "good" team. The Steelers do not typically play well on the road, so the question must be asked, how good are they?
Player for player, they're good enough to beat the Tennessee Titans. But the Titans will be getting Road Steelers, a different variation of the Home Steelers. In and of itself, that's a reason for concern. Making bad decisions when fielding punts is symbolic of Road Steelers football. Errant passes and throws that couldn't have been completed to Dwight Howard standing in the middle of the field are characteristic of Road Steelers.
If the team is packing Home Steelers along with them on this trip, they should be able to win this game tonight and advance to their bye week at 7-4, within a half game of division-leading Cincinnati. But a loss would throw them back into the basement with the Browns, a team that will, as a whole, be listed as probable next week with whiplash injuries stemming from their abrupt fall from atop the AFC North.
The Steelers had the chance to take a strong hold on the division, but they blew it. So the concern here is more that the Road Steelers might once again sneak into their carry-on luggage. The Titans are worse than the Jets, based on the games I've reviewed of both teams. That's simply my opinion. Also, it's my opinion the Steelers have played better and worse than either of those teams at different points this year.
There's no excuse for "overlooking" their opponent (a rhetoric-based theory generally supported through immaterial evidence rooted in frustration from fans). The only issue here is, as Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin would say, avoiding a "Steelers beating Steelers" kind of game.
It's time to put the Road Steelers to bed and to show this team is capable of playing anywhere. If they can't do that, it's gong to be a long final five games of the 2014 season.
Remember to tune into BTSC's postgame show, Steelers Final Score, about 10 minutes after the game ends. You can listen in by clicking on this link, and call in at (347) 850-8581.