Mike Tomlin’s Steelers have, often enough, gotten off to hot starts during the season. A 6-2 or 6-3 record was not uncommon. They have also been known to finish strong, as well. That has unfortunately been far from the case over the course of the past three seasons, and based on their schedule this year, they could be in for more of the same.
The Steelers’ final six games of the 2021 season consist of the Baltimore Ravens twice, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Tennessee Titans, the Cleveland Browns, and the Minnesota Vikings. That’s five games against 2020 playoff teams, all of whom appear likely to return in 2021. And that would be what keeps Pittsburgh from returning this year after going 12-4 a year ago.
In fact, that is ESPN Steelers reporter Brooke Pryor’s forecast for the team she covers, predicting that they will go on a losing skid at the end of the year against this gauntlet of difficult games, which will ultimately bounce them out of the running for the postseason. She writes as part of a 32-team prediction column:
The Steelers will go 0-4 to end the season and miss the playoffs in 2021. The team suffered a late-season slump a year ago, losing four of their final five games, including to a woeful Bengals squad. This time around, the Steelers could be facing four juggernauts in Tennessee, Cleveland, Kansas City and Baltimore — and two of those games are on the road.
Pittsburgh’s losing streaks late in recent seasons have been well-documented here, so there is no need to run down the list of failures yet again, but suffice it to say that it’s very unlikely they could afford to go 0-4 in the final four weeks of the season and still expect to make the playoffs.
And they also have another six games against 2020 playoff teams during the first 11 games of their schedule, so it’s not as though it’s a cakewalk up until the start of December. In fact, they play the Buffalo Bills and the Green Bay Packers, both on the road, within the first four weeks of the season.
At least on paper, this schedule will determine whether the Steelers are contenders or pretenders with some decisiveness. Of course, this in and of itself is not new information—we have known whom they would be playing for quite a while now—but this sort of gives us a timeline for where they realistically need to be and when over the course of the season.
Do you think the Steelers make the playoffs this year? Can they compete with teams like the Chiefs, the Packers, the Bills, and the Ravens? That is their expectation, but there’s a reason a good portion of the fan base is going into this season with due caution.