Sep 23, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers safety Will Clark (25) prays during the game against the Oakland Raiders at the O.co Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Steelers 34-31. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE
Much like in baseball, I hate using the term “must win” to describe any game that is: A) In the first half of the season. B) Not carrying immediate playoff or divisional ramifications that are nonrecoverable. C) More a product of hype than substance. Already, I have seen in the media that this Sunday’s contest against the Eagles is labeled as a “must win” for the Steelers. But is it really?
Consider the facts: The Steelers are still sixth in overall defense (YPG) but a measly 21st in points per game. The offense can’t run the ball, but the passing offense is sixth best in the league while scoring is 12th. By those numbers alone, the Steelers are a slightly above average team that can make the playoffs with some bounces into a 9-7 or 10-6 record, so a 1-2 start isn’t season altering.
Everyone then points to a 1-3 start as something terrible that can’t be overcome when looking at the remaining schedule. When you factor in that the Steelers haven’t started worse than 2-2 since 2006, people continue to fret and worry that maybe this team has some rust on the armor. I then counter with the argument that the Eagles, Titans, Bengals, Giants, Chiefs, Browns, Chargers, and Cowboys play just as consistently as anyone else in this league. Aside from Houston and San Fran (and Atlanta), everyone else in the NFL after just four weeks, looks beatable on any given Sunday. When you add in Ben Roethlisberger’s ability to win late with the return of Troy Polamalu and James Harrison, the Steelers could be favorites in all but three games. (Both Baltimore contests and @NYG.)
I don’t see this team as a perennial favorite to win the whole thing but it’s all about how you finish the season, not how you start it. Going 1-3 would not be good by any stretch of the imagination, but asking the Steelers to then finish 9-3 or 8-4 doesn’t sound out of the question either. This is not going to be your normal NFL season. The Steelers won’t dominate unless they get hot (which they certainly can) or their opponents lay an egg like during the Jets win. And there are no must wins for this team until week 8 unless things really start to unravel with defense and running game.