We have talked a whole lot about the Pittsburgh Steelers and their road woes thus far over the course of the offseason this year, and how that has proven to be an impediment to their reaching their ultimate destination, which is, of course, wherever the Super Bowl happens to be played in that particular season.
Naturally, there is one rather simple solution to this problem, albeit one significantly easier said that done, and that is to secure the number one seed in the playoffs. That is the goal toward which the Steelers are striving this year, with several players and coaches expressing a sentiment to the effect that the road to the Super Bowl must come through Pittsburgh.
It has been a while since that has actually happened. The Steelers have not held the number on seed in the AFC playoffs since Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie season in 2004, when the team went 15-1 and ultimately lost at home to the Patriots in the AFC Championship game. Of course, this past season they lost to the Patriots on the road in the AFC Championship game.
Now, the last time that the road actually went through Pittsburgh was in 2010, when the Jets knocked the Patriots as the number one seed out of the playoffs. The Steelers had the number two seed that year, and so were able to host the AFC Championship game, winning it, though losing in the Super Bowl.
They also had the benefit of having the number one seed taken out in 2008, the last time they actually won the Super Bowl, again when they were the number two seed, resulting in them having a first-round bye and still being able to host throughout their playoff run leading to the championship game.
Now, the road woes haven’t always been such an issue. Really, it’s a more recent phenomenon. They won three straight road games in the 2005 playoffs en route to their first Super Bowl title in about 35 years. But Roethlisberger home-road splits in the past few seasons cannot be ignored.
You can just look at their postseason run of 2016. While hosting the Dolphins in the Wildcard round, they flattened the visiting team, winning by a score of 30-12, including a pair of long touchdowns in the first quarter that provided the margin of victory.
But the next two games on the road were another matter. They scored just 18 points against the Chiefs despite winning, and that included six field goals. Though the defense held its own, the numerous failures in the red zone were a rude awakening.
Then the dam broke in New England and washed the Steelers’ hopes away in a 36-17 degrading that wasn’t really even as close as the score suggests, at least by the fourth quarter. It was 36-9 with four minutes to play.
Now, doing well enough in the regular season to lock up the number one seed is not going to be a cure-all elixir. And it is naturally going to be a very difficult task in its own right, one they haven’t accomplished in over a decade. But it sure would improve their odds of getting back over the Super Bowl hump.