The Pittsburgh Steelers spent the first six weeks of the 2014 juggling wins and losses, epitomizing inconsistency, but over this three-game homestand, they’ve managed to string together three victories in a row.
In doing so, they’ve brought their record on the season up to 6-3, trailing only the Cincinnati Bengals, who stand at 5-2-1, in win percentage for the division lead. These two teams will face off twice in the last four weeks of the season in a series that could very well decide the division.
The AFC North division, however, is not one that will be decided easily. It is the only division in either conference through the first nine weeks of this season in which every team boasts a winning record.
The Steelers’ victim last night, the Baltimore Ravens, are currently at the back of the line in the division, having dropped to 5-4 after two straight division losses. The Cleveland Browns, meanwhile, are now 5-3, including a victory over Pittsburgh.
That victory came four games back, as they dropped a dud in Cleveland, routed by a score of 31-10, with Ben Roethlisberger throwing a late, and largely meaningless, touchdown pass to Lance Moore.
That was Roethlisberger’s 10th touchdown pass of the season. He’s thrown 14 in the three games since, as the Steelers have gone on to average over 41 points per game. It was an extremely successful homestand, but they’ll now have to take the show on the road.
Four of the team’s next five games come on the road, where the Steelers have struggled to put up points. In three of four road games played, the team as a whole only score six, 10, and 17 points, with the latter the beneficiary of a defensive touchdown off an interception.
On paper, however, it doesn’t appear as though the slate of opponents on deck will be very challenging—even acknowledge a 24-27 home loss to the 1-17 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Three of their next five opponents currently have two or less victories. The worst of the bunch is the New York Jets, their next opponent. Meanwhile, the Bengals and Browns square off on Thursday night for their first of two games against each other, which will only be good for the Steelers.
The last of the upcoming road games comes against the Bengals, but they get Cincinnati at home in the final week of the season as well. The one home game in the next stretch of five games comes against the New Orleans Saints, a team that does not travel well and is 1-4 on the road, while 3-0 at home.
The truth of the matter is that the Steelers don’t have the most daunting of schedules remaining. Only one of the five remaining non-divisional games comes against a team that currently has a winning record.
Meanwhile, the offense is certainly humming along, while the defense certainly has questions, but also seems to be coming along in spurts. As long as they can withstand injuries, this could be a fruitful second half of the season.