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Is 2022 The Year The Steelers Luck Runs Out?

Last week, I ponied up a Terrible Take highlighting the Steelers’ massive success in one-score games the past two years, 2020 and 2021. Today, I wanted to take things one step further and see how Pittsburgh stacked up to the rest of the league. Here was my takeaway in that Take. Pittsburgh has done exceedingly well in close-games, going 15-4-1 over the past two seasons in games decided by no more than eight points. By far, that was the AFC North’s best mark but it got me thinking and is the reason for today’s post – how does that compare to the rest of the NFL?

My hunch was Pittsburgh’s mark was the best in football. But there was only one way to find out. Via Stathead, I went through and tallied the records of every team in one-possession games in 2020 and 2021. The table below lists each team in order of winning percentage. We’ll see who comes out on top.

Team (2020-2021) 1-Score Record Win %
Pittsburgh Steelers 15-4-1 0.775
Tennessee Titans 13-4 0.765
Kansas City Chiefs 13-4 0.765
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9-3 0.750
Las Vegas Raiders 12-6 0.667
Green Bay Packers 10-5 0.667
Los Angeles Rams 8-5 0.615
Cleveland Browns 12-8 0.600
Seattle Seahawks 11-8 0.579
Dallas Cowboys 9-7 0.563
New Orleans Saints 7-6 0.539
Chicago Bears 9-8 0.529
Minnesota Vikings 12-12 0.500
New York Giants 8-8 0.500
Indianapolis Colts 7-7 0.500
Miami Dolphins 7-7 0.500
Los Angeles Chargers 10-11 0.476
Atlanta Falcons 9-10 0.474
Washington Commanders 8-9 0.471
New England Patriots 6-7 0.462
Buffalo Bills 5-6 0.455
Baltimore Ravens 8-10 0.444
San Francisco 49ers 8-10 0.444
Arizona Cardinals 7-9 0.438
New York Jets 6-9 0.400
Detroit Lions 6-10-1 0.382
Cincinnati Bengals 6-10-1 0.382
Denver Broncos 5-11 0.313
Carolina Panthers 5-14 0.263
Jacksonville Jaguars 3-10 0.231
Philadelphia Eagles 2-9-1 0.208
Houston Texans 2-12 0.143

 

As I suspected, the Pittsburgh does have the best such record. It was a narrow victory, just edging out the Titans, Bucs, and Chiefs, but all great company to be in. I’m guessing most people wouldn’t have lumped the Steelers in that group. Astute readers will also notice the Steelers have played in 20 one-score games over the last two seasons. That isn’t the top mark, the Vikings and Chargers have played more, but it’s among the most in the league. So if you wonder why your heart rate is always up at the end of every game, this is why. The Buffalo Bills have played in the fewest number of close games, just eleven of them.

Of course, calling this success “luck” is a bit of a stretch. Those games were won, no luck involved. Let’s just say the team is due to regress to the mean, especially with Ben Roethlisberger sitting on his couch this fall. Even in his final two years, Roethlisberger was as good as anyone at willing his team to victory in close games. He set career-highs in game-winning drives and fourth quarter comebacks in 2021. In 2019, the year without him, the team went 5-5 in one-possession games.

Though Pittsburgh’s quarterback play should be better than what 2019 offered, a .500 record in those games is about what I’m expecting this year. If that’s the case, it wouldn’t bode well for the Steelers chances to compete in 2022. Expecting regression in these close games might be the most compelling reason to expect Pittsburgh to have a bumpy upcoming year.

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