Steelers: Better than their record


Expectations change everything in the NFL, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are always held to the highest standard in the sport.

That goes with the territory of more Super Bowl victories than any other team and stringing together a series of winning seasons that is the envy of all but a handful of franchises. With all that success comes the pressure of living up to the team’s lofty history.

At the start of the new year, Pittsburgh stands at 9-6, with a punching chance of earning a wild card spot. (Currently at 35.6 percent chance.)

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Most NFL owners would take that record and those chances, given the opportunity. Not so for the Rooney family. Maybe that’s why being three games over .500 at this point in the year isn’t impressing anybody. Maybe it’s because most fans and observers know that the Steelers are better than 9-6.

If Week 17 got canceled and the season ended today Pittsburgh would be on the outside looking in at the playoff picture, even though their Super Bowl win odds (16-1) are better than three of the teams to earn a spot in the tournament.

Standing in their way are the New York Jets, who have won five games in a row. If the Jets win in Buffalo on Sunday Pittsburgh’s season is over regardless of what they do on the field themselves. That sounds crazy because the eyeball test indicates that the Steelers are the far superior team. The oddsmakers seem to agree, as they give the Jets just 33-1 to win it all.

How did it come to this?

That question requires a great deal of nuanced answers but what it all boils down to is Pittsburgh did not win the division home games they needed to.

Losing at home in overtime to the Ravens was devastating in retrospect. It could have been salvaged if only the Steelers had managed to beat the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field in November, which was a very winnable game. Pittsburgh’s offense laid a dud though and managed just ten points in the loss.

Expecting a division sweep is not realistic, but a Week 8 win and a Josh Scobee field goal might have given the Steelers prime position to make a deep playoff run. Now it’s all up in the air. The Steelers are better than a 10-6 team (or a 11-5 team for that matter) but that will be no consolation if things don’t go their way Sunday.

Next: Steelers vs. Browns: Coordinator comments

Margins for success in the NFL are measured in inches for a reason.