While the Pittsburgh Steelers are not the only team who takes the same approach, they regularly talk about breaking down the season into quarters. In a 16-game season, each quarter consists of four games, and the Steelers are about to enter the critical fourth quarter this weekend.
The Steelers have been among the best teams in the league in recent years during the final quarter of the season. They went 3-1 last year and 4-0 the year before. Rinse and repeat, as they went 3-1 in 2015 and 4-0 in 2014. Even in the 8-8 season of 2013, they posted a 3-1 record.
The Steelers are going to have to do at least that well this season to have any chance of improving their seeding—and perhaps even to preserve their spot in the postseason. At 7-4-1, they have the first record of division leaders, and have just a half-game lead over the 7-5 Baltimore Ravens.
The Steelers posted just a 1-2-1 record in the first quarter of the season before going 4-0 in the second. They looked poised to go on another run, but have lost their past two games to post a 2-2 record through the third quarter of the season.
“It’s the fourth quarter of the season”, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “We know how important that is that you need to be playing your best football in December, going into January. This is a big stretch for us. We are playing some really good football teams, going on the road, playing some good ones at home, on the road. This is an awesome test for us. If we want to be a playoff caliber team and make the playoffs, we need to have this kind of stretch”.
While the Steelers are about to face arguably the worst team in the NFL this season in the Oakland Raiders, they do have to travel to the west coast for the game, and frankly, Roethlisberger has lost to three arguably worse Raiders teams in Oakland over the course of his career.
Following the Raiders game, they will play host to the New England Patriots, whom they, quite frankly, have had trouble beating over the course of the past couple of decades. Even when they seemed poised to have a comeback victory last year, they had it snatched away from them at the last minute.
Assuming that they manage to get past the Patriots, they would then have to travel down south to play the New Orleans Saints, who are assured to have something to play for, meaning that they will still be doing everything in their power to win the game.
The season concludes with a home game against the Cincinnati Bengals, who frankly are a shadow of their former selves on offense with the injuries to Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, and Tyler Kroft. Still, division games are never guaranteed.