Coming off back-to-back .500 seasons, the Pittsburgh Steelers found themselves at a crossroads six games into the 2014 season after getting off to a 3-3 record, trading wins and losses every week, and on a downward trend coming off a loss.
In 2012, the Steelers got off to a 6-3 start before losing five of their last seven. They lost six of their first eight in 2014, posting a 4-11 record over that 15-game span, before finishing the year 6-2 just to get to 8-8.
But last year, they were determined to avoid more of the same. They rattled off a three-game winning streak during an epic home stand, then won their last four games en route to securing their first AFC North title since 2010.
After seven games, they were 4-3 and trending upward with an encouraging win over the Texans. Seven games into the 2015 season, the Steelers were trending the opposite way, displaying offensive futility in a 23-13 loss to the Chiefs, a team they beat last year.
The Steelers are strongly trending in the wrong direction, the opposite of where they were this time last year, posting their first back-to-back losses since all the way back to 2013, during weeks 13 and 14, before they rattled off three straight wins to finish the year 8-8.
How do the Steelers reverse this trend? Can they?
Of course, it’s always possible with a franchise quarterback. It’s just a matter of getting that franchise quarterback to play like a franchise quarterback again, a form that Ben Roethlisberger is working toward finding after coming off a sloppy three-interception game in his first showing since missing four weeks with a knee injury.
Get Roethlisberger right and that certainly cures a lot of what ails this team, even with the loss of Le’Veon Bell and being short two-fifths of the starting offensive line. The fact that the defense has been playing notably above expectations certainly gives the offense some cushion to perform somewhat below the expectations put on them before the season started.
The Steelers used a three-game home stand to turn their season around last year, going 8-2 the rest of the year. They are unfortunately already one loss in on a three-game home stand this year after dropping one 16-10 to the Bengals, a loss that makes it virtually impossible to repeat as division champions.
The loss also knocked them out of the positioning for a wildcard spot halfway through the season, but there is plenty of time for this team to right the ship and make it back to the playoffs. It’s just a matter of reversing this trend and getting back in the win column.
That new journey begins against the Raiders, who’s two-game winning has brought them over .500 and put them in the driver’s seat for a wildcard spot. Take down an up and coming Oakland team at home, let Roethlisberger show Derek Carr how it’s done, get things trending in the right direction, and see where things go.