The Pittsburgh Steelers approach their regular season as a series of four-game mini-seasons, with the goal being to win each one of them. if you do that, you (most likely) come out of the season with a 12-4 record or better, going at least 3-1 in each four-game span.
Even though they currently have a winning record that is slowly evaporating, however, they have only ‘won’ one quarter of the season, and just got off to an ugly start to arguably their most challenging quarter on the calendar, in the month of December, when they have been as good as any team over the past several seasons.
Pittsburgh started the season just 1-2-1 through the first four games of the year, but seemed to turn things completely around, following that period up with a six-game winning streak. That means that they went 4-0 through the second quarter of the season.
But after winning the first two games of quarter three, they hit the skids and lost two straight. Now they’ve made it three losses in a row with a bad start to the fourth and final quarter with tonight’s ugly loss to the Oakland Raiders.
The Oakland game, at least on paper, should have been their surest best for a late-season victory, barring perhaps a Cincinnati Bengals team that has already lost Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, and Tyler Eifert, among others.
The meat of the fourth quarter is up next with consecutive games against the New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints. The Patriots lost today, and you know how infrequently they lose two games in a row. The fact that it already happened once this season makes it all the more unlikely to see it happen again. The last time it happened was at the end of the 2015 season when they didn’t have much to play for.
Heading into this game, Ben Roethlisberger talked about entering postseason mode during the final month of the season. That makes it all the more difficult to explain the decision to hold him out of the game until Joshua Dobbs lost a precarious lead in the middle of the fourth quarter following about 20-plus minutes of near-inept play.
This is a Steelers team that has squandered opportunity after opportunity over the past three weeks. They had leads or at least a tie with a good drive in the fourth quarter in each of these three losses. All of them are more than winnable.
Roethlisberger even led comeback drives in the past two weeks and they still lost. That’s how baffling this stretch has been. Think about that. two fourth-quarter comebacks, and two losses, two weeks in a row.