The regular season marks the culmination of an extensive investigation into who your team will be that year. By this point, you’ve gone through free agency, the draft, training camp, and the preseason. You feel good in your decisions insofar as you can create clarity without having played meaningful games. But there are still plenty of uncertainties that remain, whether at the start of the regular season or the end, and new ones continually develop over time.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The Steelers are a better team than thought if you look back on how the teams they lost to are doing.
Explanation: Nobody thought too much of the Las Vegas Raiders when the Steelers lost to them in Week 2. Likewise with the Cincinnati Bengals, a perennial bottom feeder, a week later. But both are 5-2 and leading their divisions, and the other team is, well, the Green Bay Packers. The collective record of the teams they’ve lost to is 16-5, a .762 winning percentage.
There is no doubt that the Steelers have lost to some quality opponents who, it’s key to point out, were quality teams at the time they played the Steelers. These were teams who were at or near full strength and full capacity. And they already proved that they can beat a good team by doing it on the road in Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills, who have gone on to be the team we thought they would be.
We knew that the early stretch of the Steelers’ schedule was going to be rough, with the Packers game being one difficult one that was circled. And you can really look at those games and wonder how close they could’ve come, like with the blocked field goal in Green Bay that was negated.
They are 3-3, but they’ve had a tough schedule. They’ve had the most difficult schedule in the AFC so far this year, with their opponents’ collective winning percentage being .610. That’s also the third-highest in the NFL; the other two teams have losing records.
It’s not just about who you lose to but how you lose, and they’ve lost ugly. All three of their losses were by two possessions, so changing one play wasn’t going to change any of the results. And they’ve barely beaten the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks, without Russell Wilson, in their past two games, having to go to overtime after blowing a 14-point lead.
This is a team that is on the upswing and getting better, but that doesn’t say anything about where they’ve already been, and their 3-3 record was certainly earned based on the product on the field, irrespective of opponent. That was no better than .500 ball that they have been putting out there thus far, and that has to change.