The Pittsburgh Steelers were riding high halfway through the 2009 season, looking like a team ready to repeat for the Super Bowl after winning it all for a record-setting sixth time the year before. They were 6-2 midway before devastating injuries on defense completely derailed their plans.
They promptly hit the skids and lost repetitively in the process. Following a third consecutive loss heading into the final month of the season, then third-year head coach Mike Tomlin declared that his team would “unleash hell” in December—only to promptly lose to bad Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns teams. They would rebound to win their final three games and go 9-7, narrowly missing the postseason.
That is eerily reminiscent to what we are now seeing. The Steelers were 7-2-1 heading into this current three-game losing streak, defeats handed to them by the Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Chargers, and, naturally, another bad Raiders team.
Following Sunday’s loss to the Raiders, Tomlin declared that “Redemption Sunday is coming, and we better be prepared for it as it is every Sunday”.
From Hell to Redemption, the story is the same up to this point, but the Steelers still have a chance to write a different ending. It will be far tougher sledding than they had in 2009 when they faltered in embarrassing losses to the Raiders and Browns, but the fact remains that they are still in control of their playoff fate. They simply must win their final three games, and nobody could do anything about it.
That would require them defeating the New England Patriots at Heinz Field and then heading south to beat the New Orleans Saints in their home stadium over the course of the next two Sundays. They wrap things up at home against a beleaguered Cincinnati Bengals team, but by that point the game may not even matter.
Will the Steelers actually find redemption over the final three weeks of the season, or will the rest of the year end up being hell to sit through? There’s only one way to find out, but nobody could be blamed for lacking confidence.
It’s not as though the schedule favors them. It’s probably a safe bet to declare that they will not be favored to win in either of the next two games. That doesn’t mean they can’t win those games, but I’m not going to be putting any money down on it happening.
And that’s a damned shame considering where we were sitting just three games ago. While they only narrowly escaped Jacksonville for their sixth consecutive victory, this looked like a team that might actually be rounding into form. Now they’re just an amorphous wreck in need of saving.