Scoreboards can do funny things to a team. They can make issues seem far larger than they really are. Or they can make them go away. Everybody has a better day when the bigger number is next to your team’s name when the clock reads 0:00 in the fourth quarter.
Right now, the Pittsburgh Steelers are under assault from many directions on the outside, fielding accusations that are all—or mostly—aimed at identifying the cause for the team’s struggles this year. Has Head Coach Mike Tomlin lost control of his team? Is Ben Roethlisberger even in it to win anymore? Which inanimate object is going to feel Antonio Brown’s wrath this week? And, for the love of all that is good, where is everybody going to stand, if they stand at all?
None of this stuff matters when they’re winning. At least, when they’re winning enough. Don’t get me wrong, Steelers fans absolutely love to nitpick wins to death. It might be their favorite thing to do short of celebrating Super Bowls and the firing of coaches that they knew were the problem all along. After all, if I could see it from my couch…
Locker room live videos. Retirement talk. No-shows. Contract disputes. Anthem debates. Tunnels. Apologies. Social media arguments.
These are the kinds of things that would mostly fall by the wayside during a nice little winning streak. The thing is, winning is far more important than most other issues, so as long as the main objective is getting accomplished on a fairly regular basis, the rest of it doesn’t seem as important.
The problem is that the Steelers, while still posting a winning record and holding a lead in the division through five games, have also lost two of their last three, and have done so to teams that most anticipated that they should beat—though the Jaguars are, I think, an underrated team.
On deck, in trying to right the ship, is a team that they beat not once, but twice last season. Not a division rival, but a conference rival, and a team that they have faced a fair bit in recent years in the Kansas City Chiefs.
The problem is, this is a new season, and the Chiefs are even better than they were a year ago. And they only narrowly escaped Arrowhead Stadium in the playoffs with a win after failing to score a touchdown, settling instead for a postseason record-tying six field goals.
The 5-0 Chiefs are the obstacle standing in the way of the Steelers being able to stamp out much of the doomsaying that has been decried over the course of the past few weeks. Another loss would only add fuel to the fire as they head off on the road for the fourth time in six games.