While winning isn’t the only thing the Pittsburgh Steelers need to go their way on Sunday, it is a huge and fundamental piece of the puzzle that is the 2019 AFC playoff picture for the six-time Super Bowl champions. And in order to do that, they only have to beat the hottest team in the league, the Baltimore Ravens, whose 11-game winning streak started with an overtime win over the Steelers.
Even though Baltimore will be resting several key starters, the 13-2 juggernauts will still be a tough out. But if it’s any solace, Pittsburgh has done exceedingly well in the final week of the season under Mike Tomlin. In fact, as Aditi Kinkabwala points out, they haven’t lost since his first season here, when they were the ones resting starters after locking up the AFC North.
If you’re the sort that believes in #jinxes, don’t read the following.
The #Steelers have 11 straight wins in their 16th game of the season. They have 43 sacks in those games, 28 takeaways and last lost in Week 17 in 2007, when Ben Roethlisberger was rested.
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) December 26, 2019
They have won 11 consecutive games in Week 17 since then, and have recorded 43 sacks in those 11 games with 28 takeaways. Granted, the majority of those games have come against the Cleveland Browns, it has to be pointed out, and the Browns have typically been bottomfeeders not just in the division, but in the league, during that span. But the streak is the streak, all the same.
While it doesn’t necessarily mean much in terms of carry-over from one year to another, that it stretches over the length of Tomlin’s coaching career does speak to his character and demeanor. His teams typically finish the season strong, even if the past couple of years have shown a lag late in the season.
Whether they have everything to play for, like the last two seasons, or nothing to play for—good, as in 2016, or bad, as in 2013—these rosters have continued to fight to the last second of the season, consistently, for Tomlin, and it goes without saying that that will remain the case during tomorrow evening’s game.
It may not be enough. Perhaps he’s handed his first Week 17 loss in over a decade, and it costs them an opportunity to compete in the postseason. But you know if that happens, it’s going to be simply because the other team was better, and not because they lacked in effort in any way.