The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off of consecutive losses over the past two weeks after first the Denver Broncos out west and then the Los Angeles Chargers at home were able to get the better of them. They face a third AFC West team in a row tomorrow, again traveling, this time all the way to the coast to play the Oakland Raiders.
As I’ve previously noted, the Steelers have not made it a habit at all of losing games back to back. The last time they had done so was in the middle of the 2016 season when they faced four-game losing skid that coincided with a Ben Roethlisberger injury. They won seven consecutive games after that—nine if you include the first two games of the 2017 season.
The Steelers were able to respond very well to their last losing streak. How will they handle this one? Antonio Brown, at least, is not worried, telling reporters in front of his locker room this week, “I feel like we’re gonna be alright”.
Why? Because, as he said, “we have the right people in this locker room with the right preparation, put in the right work, and we believe in ourselves”. It sounds somewhat like a canned response, but it’s also likely something he and the rest of the team believes.
For one thing, the offense alone has a smattering of Pro Bowlers, including three along the offensive line, himself at wide receiver (and perhaps another emerging), at quarterback, at fullback, and likely yet another one at running back in James Conner, whose 12 rushing touchdowns ranks second only behind Todd Gurley.
Statistically, the offense ranks in the top five in most major categories, particularly as it concerns scoring and the passing game, and they are set to face a defense that has surrendered more passing touchdowns and given up more yards per pass attempt than any other team in the NFL, despite facing the fewest pass attempts.
On paper, this game should be an easy win for an elite offense who has the best red zone touchdown efficiency in the league, a win that would get them back on track ahead of two huge games against the New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints.
But of course the games are not played on paper—otherwise they likely would have won the past two weeks, and in every game they failed to win this year beyond perhaps the Chiefs game.
“It’s the NFL”, Brown said. “Any team could get beat any moment, any weekend. That’s why it’s so exciting. We’ve got to go out there with [the right] preparation and perform our best and get the win”.