The regular season is now over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now upon us, there is plenty left to be done.
And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the playoffs as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to playoff success, in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.
Question: How valuable was it for the Steelers heading into the playoffs to win their final regular-season game, even if it was with backups?
If you want to find the last time that the Pittsburgh Steelers lost a game, you would have to go all the way back to November 13 in the game against Dallas at Heinz Field. The offense actually secured a lead with under a minute remaining before the defense spilled the beans, but since then, the team has won seven consecutive games heading into the playoffs. No team has had a longer winning streak this year that is active.
Each of those past three victories were hard-fought over divisional opponents, and required some late-game magic in the fourth quarter, and even overtime, commanding comebacks against the Bengals, Ravens, and, finally, the Browns, with the final game-winning drive coming courtesy of Landry Jones.
With Ben Roethlisberger and several other starters resting in advance of the start of the playoffs on Sunday, the Steelers hosted the lowly 1-15 Browns with many backups taking their place, and Ryan Shazier even said that several of his teammates were not taking this regular-season finale, which held no playoff implications, very seriously.
And yet they played for the win in overtime, and forced a turnover in the red zone with about a minute to play to help bring the game to overtime in the first place, so it would certainly not be accurate to say that they were not fighting hard to win the game.
In achieving the victory, they extended their winning streak to seven games, and more importantly, they ensured that their winning ways would not be broken up prior to the start of the playoffs. This is a battle-tested team that has not tasted defeat in over a month and a half.
But what does that mean on Sunday at Heinz Field at 1:05 PM, when they kick off against the Dolphins, who were the first team to beat them during the four-game losing streak that preceded the winning one? How do you quantify the value of a comeback victory over a lowly team in the meaningless game in which many star players were on the sidelines? Does it mean anything? Does it mean a lot?