The Pittsburgh Steelers looked lifeless not too long ago. At 0-3, they were in bad shape especially considering the loss of their future Hall of Fame quarterback. The question was not so much if this team was going to fade out of the picture but when. Some suspected it would happen Monday night but this was not the case. Instead, a pulse burst through the team’s heart monitor as the Steelers were given new life with a 27-3 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
While the team was afforded new life, that does not mean this team is back to its old self. It will still be an uphill climb to get back to old form, if they ever do reach that. Just 12-percent (35/295) of teams that started 1-3 have managed to recover and make the playoffs but just as every medical case presents different variables, the variables surrounding this Steelers’ team gives them as good a chance as ever at recovering.
In fact, not only do the playoffs remain a realistic but tough goal as 13 of the 16 teams in the AFC sit at 2-2 or worse, the division is also within reach. That reach is not a very far reach either as by this time next week, there is a chance that the Steelers could share the AFC North lead.
The Baltimore Ravens sit atop the division along with the Cleveland Browns at 2-2. The once thought dead Steelers remain just a game behind despite their 0-3 start and best of all, they will not have to rely much on opposing teams to narrow the gap in the AFC North.
The Ravens will come to Heinz Field next Sunday to take on the Steelers but their paths towards this crucial date could not have been more different. Once full of life and optimism, the Ravens have lost two in a row, losing on the road to the Kansas City Chiefs and then getting steamrolled by the visiting Browns last week. All memories of the Ravens’ 2-0 start have started to fade and the Steelers could erase any remaining hint of the Ravens’ terrific start with a victory next Sunday.
Of course, any potential for sharing a spot atop the AFC North also relies on the Browns’ losing next week as well. While the Browns can easily take control of their own destiny, their opponent will be anything but easy. A tough west coast trip awaits a young Browns’ team as they prepare to take on the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night. The Browns have struggled with pass protection this season and the last time the 49ers’ defensive line was in action, they tormented a veteran Steelers’ offensive line. A victory for the 49ers is not guaranteed but the Browns are going to have their hands full.
Now while it may seem premature to jump the gun after this Steelers team beat a bad Bengals squad, there is a lot to be hopeful about. Mason Rudolph looked calm, relaxed and composed as he threw for two touchdowns and just four incompletions on Monday. The running game also got back in order as James Conner and Jaylen Samuels ran wild on the Bengals and the Ravens have struggled against the run this season.
All the Steelers can do is take care of business and take it week by week. Their rehabilitation goal for this week is to take care of business against a Ravens team that has allowed 73 points and over 1000 yards of offense over the last two weeks.