For the first half of Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin’s tenure in Pittsburgh, it wasn’t at all uncommon for his team to reach six wins within the first eight games. It rarely took more than nine games to get there. Things have been less consistent more recently, but the notion that the team gets off to slow starts is not necessarily reflected in their longitudinal win-loss record.
That being said, they did get off to one of the worst starts the franchise has seen since they stopped being terrible in the 1970s, drawing to a tie against the Cleveland Browns in the season opener in 2018 and then dropping games to the Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Ravens, sandwiched in between a narrow escape victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That all culminated into a 1-2-1 record before they rattled off six straight wins.
The Steelers are looking to avoid a similarly dismal start this year, and their defensive leaders have been particularly vocal about it since the first phase of the offseason program opened up. Said cornerback Joe Haden, “we have to make sure when we go into camp that we are prepared for something serious when we get started. When the season starts we are right in it. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter who we are playing, we just have to be ready”.
Admittedly, the team, especially the defense, doesn’t necessarily always look as though it’s ready, though such issues go in and out over the course of the year. It wasn’t too long ago that 12 men penalties or having only 10 players on the field seemed to be happening with relative regularity, or late substitutions resulted in players running different plays.
“We have to be a team that no matter where we go and when we play, we are ready”, said Cameron Heyward, the Pro Bowl defensive end, defensive captain, and now the longest-tenured defensive player on the team. “Whether it’s night or day we have to be ready”.
The interesting thing is that the Steelers recently had a lot of success pulling out wins on the road, though they would drop a few last season. But the fact remains that they have shown in their recent history that they are capable of traveling well.
The concern here is, of course, that there is nothing fundamentally different about this offseason. There are no extra practices, nothing that they are going to be doing overtly different, that would lead one to expect that they will be better prepared for the start of the season than they would be at the start of any other given campaign.
But I suppose we’ll find out in September—in Foxboro, against the New England Patriots. And then hosting the Seattle Seahawks. A rough way to begin the year for sure.