Slow start. Fast finish. That has been the Pittsburgh Steelers’ way of doing things for some time now, especially recently. They have had extended winning streaks for several years in a row now, and for the 2018 team, that streak came in the middle of the year, lasting six games. Times were good then, they even got up to a 7-2-1 record, which was at the time the second-best in the AFC, putting themselves in control for possession of at least a bye week, and in position to fight for homefield advantage.
It all sunk quite spectacularly thereafter to the point of which they ended up missing the postseason altogether, but this isn’t that story. This is the story of the good times of the 2018 season, when the handwringing of the first four weeks briefly stopped and we started to convince ourselves that this time was going somewhere.
Looking back, it’s worth considering the fact that of the six teams they faced during their six-game winning streak, only one of them, the Baltimore Ravens, ended up making it to the postseason. The others—the Cleveland Browns, the Cincinnati Bengals, the Atlanta Falcons, the Carolina Panthers, and the Jacksonville Jaguars—were at home watching their division rivals like most of the league.
The streak started with a win over the Falcons, which started as a tight game thanks in part to a Ben Roethlisberger interception at the goal line at the end of the first half, but ended up as a route. They had to squeak by the Bengals a week later with a game-winning drive, Ben Roethlisberger connecting with Antonio Brown after being down 21-20 in the final minutes.
That two-game streak bled into their bye week and they came out humming, taking care of the Browns and the Ravens before blowing out the Panthers. Carolina was 6-2 at the time and their season was completely torpedoed following that loss by 31 points. And the game wasn’t even that close.
But you could already sense the trouble a week later as they nearly let the Jaguars go. Jacksonville was in scoring position several times in the first half, but the defense limited them to three field goals. One dominating rushing drive that led to a touchdown and a 16-0 lead, however, wasn’t enough, as the Steelers were able to respond with a 78-yard touchdown from Roethlisberger to Brown.
They scored three touchdowns in the final 17 minutes to save the game and preserve the winning streak, but that’s where the good times ended. They would go on to lose four of their final six games. Even though they still finished with a winning record, they lost the division in Week 17 and watched the postseason from their couches.