Earlier this week, we noted the Pittsburgh Steelers lack of consistency Kevin Colbert cited, a turbulent 2021 season where the team rarely gained traction and felt comfortable. In the article, we noted how rare it was for the team to win comfortably, two-possession victories. Only one such win this year which still came in a tight Week 17 victory over the Cleveland Browns.
In response, someone asked me to look at it from the opposite perspective. How many two-possession losses did the Steelers stuff in 2021 and how does that compare to past years? The data is just as concerning.
I went through the number of losses by 9+ points since 2006, one year prior to Mike Tomlin’s arrival. Short answer, 2021 tops the list.
Season Losses By 9+ Points (Two Possessions)
In 2021, the Steelers lost five games by 9+ points: Raiders (9 points), Bengals (14 points), Packers (10 points), Bengals (31 points), and Chiefs (26 points). As that study shows, it’s their most such losses in the Mike Tomlin era and most since 2006, Bill Cowher’s final year as the Steelers finished 8-8.
Pittsburgh did lose seven games this year so on paper, they simply had more chances to “lose big” as compared to say, 2020 when they dropped five the entire season. But even comparing to other similar seasons or years where they lost more, 2012, 2013, 2018, 2019, they never had more than three losses by two or more possessions.
Given the Steelers’ issues, it’s no surprise to see them struggle this way in 2021. Their offense was in the tank for nearly the entire year, horrible in the first half and only average in the second half as they often played catch-up ball. Defensively, the Steelers were much worse than say that 2019 season, allowing potent offenses like the Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs to run up the score. It’s a recipe for crooked losses like Pittsburgh experienced this year.
If it’s any consolation, the Steelers five defeats were far from an NFL high. The Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Giants led the league with ten of them. The Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings, and Green Bay Packers had the fewest with one apiece.
Of course, losing by one or thirty-one is still a defeat at the end of the day. But 2021 was a high-mark for more non-competitive type of losses and keeping games closes is one key to the Steelers finding more success in 2022.