Every fan of a good football team loves to look at the schedule, and see a sub par team on the docket. It’s great to wake up on a Sunday morning, confident that your team will march out with the victory. Sadly, Pittsburgh Steelers fans don’t have this luxury.
Time and time again, the Steelers have “played down” to their opponent, and have lost to teams they should have easily disposed of. Just when you think the Steelers have hit their groove, they play an inferior team, and destroy every little piece of confidence you had attained the weeks before; it’s really fun.
Let’s take a look at last year’s wins and losses, this may shed some light.
Wins: Browns, Panthers, Jaguars, Texans, Colts, Ravens, Titans, Bengals, Falcons, Chiefs, Bengals
Losses: Ravens, Buccaneers, Browns, Jets, Saints
Now, it’s obvious that the Steelers did well. The Steelers finished the season with an 11-5 record, and won the heated AFC North. Though, if you look at the teams the Steelers lost to, you have to think that they could have done better. The Ravens loss is understandable, they usually split the series with them, and they did, but look at the rest of the teams they lost to.
In Week 4, they handed the Tampa Bay Bucs their first win of the season in the last seconds of the game. At first glance, earning a first win in Week 4 doesn’t sound too bad. The 2013 Steelers didn’t get a win until Week 6, and still almost made the playoffs.
Just to put it in perspective, the Bucs finished the season with a 2-14 record, and accumulated enough losses to earn themselves the first pick in the 2015 NFL draft. Now that’s just shameful.
Sep 28, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Sean Spence (51) reacts as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take the lead in the game with seven seconds remaining in the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The Buccaneers won 27-24. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Though discarding of the Browns in Week 1, the later matchup ended in a dismal performance by Pittsburgh that led to a Cleveland blow-out, something Steelers are not very accustomed to.
Sure, it’s not too shameful to split a series with a team in your division, but this was the Cleveland Browns. Watching Pittsburgh lose to Cleveland is almost sinful. Ben Roethlisberger was 17-1 against this team before going into this game, and it wasn’t even close.
Later on, they lost to the Jets and Saints. Though both were close games, it’s no excuse for a playoff-bound team to lose to teams that didn’t come close to playing in the postseason.
The Jets finished last place in the AFC East, finishing with a 3-13 record, and a top 5 draft pick. The Saints didn’t make the playoffs either, despite being a part of the worst division in football.
On the other side of things, it’s interesting to look at some of the Steelers’ wins. It’s definitely true that the Steelers were able to defeat some second-rate teams like the Jaguars, Titans, Falcons, but the games were far too close.
Though, the Steelers not only had a knack for playing down to their inadequate opponents, but also accomplished great feats against playoff teams. The Steelers played extraordinarily well against teams that were projected to beat them.
Who can forget Ben Roethlisberger dismantling the Colts and Ravens defenses, throwing for 12 touchdowns in just two weeks, an NFL record. Then, the next week they go ahead and lose to the Jets? That just doesn’t make sense, but it happened.
The Steelers also managed to put a number on the 10-5-1 Bengals, twice. Almost any team that was considered good at the time the Steelers played them, they were able to handle, but they couldn’t handle the teams they should have.
This season, the Steelers have the toughest schedule in the NFL.
Looking ahead, one might be frightened at the sight of the Patriots, Seahawks, Colts, Bengals, Ravens, Cardinals, Broncos, etc. Having to play 8 playoff teams is no easy task, especially when two of them were featured in the Super Bowl, and another one found its way in the AFC Championship game.
It might be hard to picture the Steelers making their way through this schedule, and it definitely won’t be easy, but do not fret, Steelers Nation, there is hope.
With almost no teams considered too lousy on their schedule, excluding the Oakland Raiders, the Steelers could be set up perfectly to have a strong season. Don’t be shocked if the Steelers come out of the regular season with a playoff birth, and just a few losses, one of which will surely be to the Raiders.