The Pittsburgh Steelers had eight wins last year. They have eight wins this year. What’s the difference? This year, they have another eight games to add to their win total. But this team is not taking where they are for granted or making any assumptions about what is to come over the course of the second half of the season—especially without any rest.
“All it guarantees is we can go 8-8”, defensive captain Cameron Heyward said about what it means to be 8-0 at the halfway mark. “That’s not saying a lot, so we understand the job’s not done. But I’m glad we’re in a position where everybody’s looking at us. You don’t have to wait for other people to do their jobs, they gotta chase you”.
Of course, you might not be able to find a person in the world who actually thinks the Steelers could lose the final eight games in a row. I couldn’t even tell you offhand the last time that they had a losing streak of greater than five games (actually I could—it was more than 20 years ago, in 1999).
As the records currently sit, the Steelers only have three games remaining against teams who have a winning record, those being against the Baltimore Ravens (in Pittsburgh), the Buffalo Bills, and finally the Cleveland Browns. The Steelers have already beaten bot the Ravens and the Browns this year, the latter handily, the former…not so much.
The Kansas City Chiefs are finally heading into their bye week with an 8-1 record, so if Pittsburgh can beat the Cincinnati Bengals this week, it would finally be able to take sole possession of the most wins in the NFL with a 9-0 record and be a full game ahead of the defending Super Bowl champions, who still have road games against the Raiders (their only loss), the Buccaneers, and the Saints.
The Steelers have never had the number one seed under Mike Tomlin, and the number one seed has never been more important than it is this year, now that the playoffs has expanded to a 14-team tournament, with only the top seeds in either conference getting a bye week.
They have had to fight tooth and nail to get some of these wins, with the past three games—all on the road, mind you—being decided on the final play of the game, with the defense (or field goal blocking unit, if you want to get technical, on one occasion) on the field for that final play. They know they haven’t been winning pretty, so it has kept their edge, while also appreciating their resilience.
“I think it just shows mental toughness”, he told reporters of what it takes to win in adverse circumstances. “The last three games have been on the road, we played quality opponents and guys are hungry. It takes different guys to step up each game”.