When the 2014 regular season schedule for the Pittsburgh Steelers was released, most fans were elated. This seemed like a fairly cupcake schedule with a late bye week the Steelers have been coveting. Not to mention there was a fair amount of turmoil in Baltimore over the whole Ray Rice incident, Cincinnati had two new coordinators, and the Cleveland Browns, well…. the Browns usually find their way to the basement of the AFC North. However, as per usual in the NFL, things did not go quite as expected.
The Steelers came out of the gate with a victory against the Browns but were one field goal away from losing to them. The Baltimore Ravens absolutely crushed the Steelers 26-6 in Baltimore. The Steelers then turned around and beat the Carolina Panthers 37-19 in Carolina. This became the story of the team. They were consistently inconsistent. They had stunning victories against Baltimore (the 2nd time), the Indianapolis Colts, and the Cincinnati Bengals but also suffered perplexing losses against the New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and New Orleans Saints.
Who was this team? Was it a bad team with spurts of greatness or a good team that couldn’t find its groove? The last time the Steelers looked like a strong AFC contender was after three straight wins against the Texans, Colts, and Ravens and they let Michael Vick effectively attack them with a mediocre offense.
The Steelers aren’t dead on arrival in the playoffs if they lose to the Bengals but it would go a long way to determining if this team is a true threat to make a run at the Lombardi. If they can beat the Bengals, whether by a score or three, they can be safely seen as a contender on a hot streak. They would be winners of four straight with a playoff game at home. A team that nobody, least of all the sixth seed would want to face.
This could be the season Steelers fans remember as one where Pittsburgh got hot at the right time or one that ended the same way it developed, as a total roller coaster. The Steelers game against the Bengals has been flexed to prime time, so the lights couldn’t be brighter. The timing couldn’t be better for Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown to top off their offensive domination this season with a big performance against the Bengals, who just laid a hurting on Peyton Manning and the highly touted Denver Broncos. Sunday night means more to this team than just the division title.