The Pittsburgh Steelers are in their 12th season under Mike Tomlin as their head coach. They are thus coming out of their bye week for the 12th time under Tomlin. And that has been a mixed bag, especially recently.
Tomlin was actually fantastic coming off of bye weeks to begin his tenure as head coach, going 6-1 in such games over the course of his first seven seasons. And he lost his first game, 31-28, to the Denver Broncos. They marched back late to tie the game before losing on a last-second field goal.
Then the Steelers won coming out of the bye for six consecutive years. Things were good. Tomlin was a coach who had his team prepared, right? Yet when he had some of his best teams, from 2014 through 2016, reaching the postseason every year in that span, they dropped their first game coming off their break.
They were blown out by Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in enemy territory in 2014, though the scoreboard wouldn’t suggest as much. Ben Roethlisberger and company were able to make it look more presentable in the end, officially just a three-point loss, but it was never that close actually watching the game.
2015 saw a wider margin of defeat, but a closer game, in a 39-30 loss to the Seattle Seahawks out in Washington, that being the big 200-yard game from Markus Wheaton. Roethlisberger was injured late in the game, Seattle scoring a late touchdown. Landry Jones threw an interception on a fake field goal trying to get the ball to Alejandro Villanueva. Yeah.
As if it wasn’t made obvious by the fact that the Steelers never use a quarterback as their holder. Ugh. Sorry.
Anyway, the losing continued into 2016, dropping an ugly game to the Baltimore Ravens that featured a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown. Suddenly it seemed as though Tomlin’s teams couldn’t handle the time off.
And that thread looked to continue into last season after they got off to a slow start against the Indianapolis Colts in Indiana, but the offense turned things around in the second half of that game. After trailing 10-3 at halftime, they scored 17 in the second half to win 20-17.
Now back on the winning side, the Steelers will look to get back to their early successes coming off the bye under Tomlin, winning six games in a row before hitting a recent losing streak that they have only just ended.
Their next opponent is the Cleveland Browns, to whom they have not lost since 2014—though they did tie in the season opener out in Ohio. The Browns themselves are coming off of a couple of ugly losses, and are dealing with some internal turmoil. There is no good excuse to lose this game, especially not after the momentum they picked up during the bye week with divisional defeats.