It almost seems as though many might not realize this, but the Pittsburgh Steelers have actually done exceptionally well this season. They are 11-2 on the year, which is the second-best record in the entire league, let alone the conference. They have a two-game lead for the AFC North title with all the tiebreakers in their favor. The sky may be a bit dimmer than before, but it’s certainly not falling.
Next week is a big one, as well. They have a golden opportunity to clinch the division, giving them their first title since 2017. They have already been guaranteed a postseason berth, but locking up the north would also guarantee them a home game.
Their next opponent is the Cincinnati Bengals, who will be starting Brandon Allen at quarterback, a former sixth-round draft pick. He previously mad three starts for the Denver Broncos last year, and did not do particularly well. He is 1-5 as a starter overall, including losses in the past three games since Joe Burrow was put on the Reserve/Injured List.
But with the Steelers riding a two-game losing streak, and a lot on the table, head coach Mike Tomlin isn’t about to take one of their division rivals lightly, let alone in their own stadium, and under the bright lights of a primetime game.
“We are back in the AFC North in divisional play. If you want to dominate the NFL and be one of the teams in contention to dominate the NFL, it starts first and foremost with divisional play”, he said on Tuesday during his pre-game press conference. “We have an opportunity to play a divisional game and secure and AFC North title. Those are tangible things that have our attention and excitement as we work this week”.
“For us, it’s about assessing who we have available to us and sharpening our sword for the battle that lies ahead”, he added. “We expect to get the very best of Cincinnati. That’s a rivalry-type game, if you will. It’s an opportunity for them to have a feel good in the midst of a trying circumstance of a season for them. It’s a home game. It’s Monday Night Football. We understand and expect all of that”.
This will be the first game that they have played in a while in which neither the date of the game nor the number of days that they have between two games should be expected to vary. That sense of stability will hopefully provide some structure as they work to improve upon the faults that have been lain bare in recent weeks.