For the past two seasons, the Pittsburgh Steelers seem to have struggled getting things going early in the season, only to begin turning things around near the halfway point. In 2013, it was too little, too late, as they finished 8-8 after beginning 0-4, and then 2-6, just barely missing the playoffs on a missed field goal in another game.
This year, however, they righted the ship in time and improved their record by three wins, finishing 11-5, and doing so in impressive fashion if you go back 10 games and recall that the Steelers were just 3-3 at the time and unable to break the cycle of following wins with losses.
It was from that point on that Pittsburgh really began to take off, riding a superb three game homestand during which they threw 15 touchdown passes to vault themselves up to a record of 6-3, where they were in 2012 before Ben Roethlisberger went down and the season collapsed underneath them.
After dropping a couple of winnable games, the Steelers entered the final quarter of the season 7-5 and looking to get back on track with a pivotal divisional game against the Cincinnati Bengals. After giving up a long touchdown at the end of the third quarter, they used the fourth quarter to score 25 unanswered points and give themselves control over their own playoff destiny.
That turned out to be just the first of a string of four victories, a run that they had not had since 2012 when they ran up to that 6-3 record. They did so by holding each of their last four opponents to three touchdowns or less, keeping both of their final two opponents under 20 points.
In all, the Steelers ended up winning eight of their last 10 games, riding winning streaks of three and four games in the process, and they did so by avoiding stacking losses for the entire season. A year ago, they had a streak of four losses and two streaks of two losses, which is a recipe for mediocrity.
But the Steelers can’t afford to lose another game, because their next loss will also be their last game. They’d best refamiliarize themselves with that reality, considering it’s been a while since they’ve faced such a one-and-done game, excluding late regular season games that required the results of other games to break their way.
The Steelers have been among the hottest teams in the league over the last 10 games, despite accusations of inconsistency dogging them throughout the year.
Only the Seattle Seahawks boast a better record over that span, going 9-1. The New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, and Green Bay Packers are the only other teams in the league to go 8-2 over their final 10 games of the regular season, and all of those teams are division winners. The Steelers are on a bit of a roll at the right time. Now it’s time to see if they can sustain it.