On November 30, 2009, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin vowed that his flailing team would “unleash hell here in December because we have to”. They did not unleash hell. They blew a key game against the Raiders, and then dropped yet another to the Browns.
The Steelers began that season 6-2 attempting to defend its Super Bowl trophy in Tomlin’s third season as a head coach, but then limped meekly into an astounding and surprising five-game skid in which mounting injuries on the defensive side of the ball finally caught up with them.
By the time the team was done unleashing whatever it was that they sought to unleash, the Steelers were 6-7 and needing to win their final three games to even have a prayer to make it into the postseason. They did win those games, but the playoffs eluded them, losing a three-way tiebreaker to the Ravens and Jets.
But the month of December hasn’t been so bad for Tomlin and the Steelers since then. They did, after all, win their final two December games of the year after that. In fact, after those initial losses, Pittsburgh has won 19 out of 25 December games, or 76 percent.
If you include January regular season games, they have gone 22-6 in the regular season in games played beyond November since Tomlin’s hell-unleashing crew skidded into December of 2009 with a disastrous two-game effort that capped off a five-game losing streak overall. 22-6 is a winning percentage of 78.6.
Every December from 2010 to 2015 has been a successful one with the exception of the 2012 season, during which Ben Roethlisberger was a detriment to the team after returning from a rib injury that sidelined him for three games. He threw two key game-ending turnovers during that month as the Steelers went 2-3 in December.
But from 2010 on, other than that season, the Steelers have not lost more than one game. they went 3-1 in 2010 in December, and 4-1 after November overall. They repeated the same numbers during the 2011 season, and in each of those years they finished with a 12-4 overall record.
Pittsburgh hit the skids by going 2-5 in their last seven games after starting the season 6-3 with a healthy Roethlisberger, and the 2-3 December crushed their playoff hopes. But the 2013 season was the opposite. They went 3-1 in December and won their final three games just the give them a chance to finish 8-8 with the possibility of a playoff berth.
Last year, the Steelers found themselves at a crossroads with a 7-5 record, the same record that every team in their division had, but they really did unleash hell in December, going 4-0 and claiming a 11-5 record and the division title on the Bengals’ field in the season finale.
This year, the Steelers have continued their hot streak during the month, winning their first two December games, and have won their last nine games during the month overall dating back to the 2013 season. And frankly, I have a good feeling about their last two December games, and last three games overall, during this regular season.