It’s been one of the obvious and disappointing hallmarks of the 2016 Pittsburgh Steelers. Fierce like a lion at home, tame like a housecat on the road. But recent road outings have produced wins and for Mike Tomlin, that’s a step in the necessary direction.
At today’s usual press conference, Tomlin was asked about the importance to prove the ability to win on the road.
“World championship caliber teams are competitive regardless of venue, regardless of environment, regardless of a lot of different circumstances,” he told reporters. “We’re working to be that type of group and over the course of this journey, we’ve made game location a less significant variable in terms of the outcome. And it’s a good thing because it’s required.”
After starting the season 1-3 on the road with gut-wrenching losses to the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh has won their last four, knocking off the Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, Buffalo Bills, and Cincinnati Bengals. Not exactly the 27 Yankees but it’s something and a positive note for a team who looked positively terrible away from Heinz Field in the first half of the season.
Though past history isn’t a predictor for the future, Tomlin’s statement is on the money. When the Steelers won the Super Bowl in 2008, they went 6-2 on the road in the regular season. Ditto in 2005 and of course, as the #6 seed that year, all three of their playoff victories leading up to Super Bowl XL were on the road.
The Steelers won’t have another road test for the rest of the regular season, hosting the Baltimore Ravens and Browns to finish things out. But if they are unable to capture the #2 seed, and that is likely at this point, they’ll have to pack their bags at some point in order to win the AFC. Maybe that’s in Oakland. Maybe New England. Both difficult places to play. And a much stiffer challenge than any they’ve overcome outside of Pittsburgh in 2016.
But there are no excuses, no complaints, and I’m sure Tomlin would be the first to tell you that. It’s just what champions have to do.