There has understandably been a lot of discussion over the course of the past couple of days about just what kind of team the Pittsburgh Steelers are after beating two underwhelming teams to reach a 6-5 record, after riding a four-game losing streak that sucked them to below the .500 mark.
There can be no argument that the Steelers’ last two victories—even if they have come on the road, where they have struggled a fair bit this season—should be seen as great signs of things to come. The first victory came against a team that entering this week is 0-11. The second victory came against a team that is now 5-6 and was playing without their quarterback, and lost several starters during the course of the game.
But if we’re going to spend all of this time qualifying the meaning of the past two games, then we should go further and put the rest of the season in context as well, including their losing streak, as well as their previous victorious. But I already recently wrote about the losing streak and its clear coincidence with Ben Roethlisberger’s knee injury and a rough stretch in the schedule, so let’s look at the wins first.
The Steelers won their first game of the season. They did it on the road, and they did it in commanding fashion. But they did it against the Redskins, so no big deal, right? But the Redskins are 6-4-1, and three of their losses include the game against the Steelers, and two games against the Cowboys, who are the best team in football. They’ve also beaten two teams that Pittsburgh lost to.
The Steelers also beat the Chiefs at a time at which they were just 2-1. Last season, they were laughed at for losing to a Chiefs team that was at the time 1-5 or 1-6, and who ended up winning every other game they played that year.
This time, the Steelers won, but the Chiefs are currently sitting at 7-3. A week after losing to Pittsburgh, they beat the Raiders 26-10. Although they have yet to play the Broncos, which they will do tonight, as a matter of fact, this is another team that is clearly better than initial appearances.
Now, I don’t know to this day how or why the Steelers got mauled by the Eagles in Week Three in what was clearly their worst game of the season, and one of the worst games perhaps of the Roethlisberger era, but the other losses, in context, were a lot more understandable, and it’s reasonable to hope that the team as a group has gotten over that hurdle.
Two of the losses came against the Patriots and Cowboys, the former with a backup quarterback. One loss came in the game in which Roethlisberger was injured, on the road. The other came in his first game back, during which he played terribly, as he usually does coming off an injury—on the road.
It seems to me that there is a segment going around that is actually using the Steelers’ previous two victories as reinforcement that they are not a good team. I think this is a team that has weathered the roughest stretch of the storm. The Giants game a week from today is the toughest game left on the schedule. Even with the win over Cleveland, Pittsburgh’s strength of victory is higher than New England’s and Dallas’ at the moment, so consider that.