So far this year, in the NFL one team has been more confusing week-to-week than any other and that team has been the Pittsburgh Steelers. Their season, up to this point, has been filled with big wins, odd loses and impossible to predict results. Currently they sit in second place in the AFC North and if the playoffs started today would get the sixth seed in the playoffs.
In their very first game of the season the Steelers inconsistency, that would be the theme of the season up until their week 12 bye at least, showed itself in their performance. They hosted the Browns and got out to a 24-3 lead in the first half, only to let the Browns tie the game at 27 in the fourth quarter, but eventually won 30-27 on a last second field goal. That win started a chain reaction of alternating wins and losses in the first six games, including some very bad losses, such as a home loss to the Buccaneers and a loss against the Ravens when they were in the midst of the Ray Rice debacle.
It seemed as though Pittsburgh had put their problems behind them, during a three-week home stand in which they went 3-0 and beat the Texans, Colts and Ravens. During this time, Ben Roethlisberger and the entire offense really hit their stride and put up huge points against the Colts and Ravens, especially. The win over the Texans on a Monday night was really the turning point. Going into halftime the Texans led 13-3, until a crazy two-minute stretch to end the half saw the Steelers score 24 unanswered points. That two minutes changed the way they were playing and propelled them toward the next two big victories.
Something had to have inspired the Steelers into that Texans game win, because the next week against the Colts the offense went crazy and put up six passing touchdowns and beat Indianapolis 51-34. The offense scored at will, and it seemed like every pass was completed with Big Ben going 40-49 for 522 yards and six touchdowns in a historic performance, making him the only quarterback in NFL history to have two 500 yard passing games. The very next week against the Ravens, Ben again went for six touchdowns with no interceptions leading Pittsburgh to a big 43-23 division win.
After that home stand it looked as if Pittsburgh were one of the best teams in the league and were moving up various power rankings. The next week when they had to go to New York to face the 1-8 Jets, that high-powered offense and the team as a whole, took a major step back with a 20-13 loss. The struggling Jets played spectacular defense and did not give up a touchdown until late in the game when the Steelers scored on a hail Mary to only cut the lead.
The week before their bye, the Steelers were able to get back on track with a win over the previous 2-7 Titans, in which they struggled and were behind until the fourth quarter. Now Pittsburgh is 7-4 going into their bye week, with some big match-ups coming up, including two divisional match-ups with the Bengals and home games against the Saints and Chiefs.
Many questions surround the rest of the Steelers season as they make their playoff push. Coming out of the bye week, their struggling defense will be helped greatly by a lot of their players returning from injury, including Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu, Jarvis Jones and Ryan Shazier. Even though the defense has had moments of good play, they are definitely the weakness of this Pittsburgh team and the players returning should only help with some great offenses coming up on their schedule. Over the last few games the real problem, though, has been their offense not being able to find the rhythm they once had. Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley will need to get more creative with his game plans as the mediocre at best Jets and Titans defenses really gave his offense trouble.
For the Steelers the next five games after their bye week are critical and they have some very tough match-ups including two games with the current division leaders, the Cincinnati Bengals. They will need to find some sort of rhythm if they want to make the playoffs or win the AFC North.
Commentary By Max Petkevicius
Photo Courtesy of Andy McLemore – Creativecommons License
Pro Football Talk