If you feel like the Pittsburgh Steelers faced a harder than average kind of uphill battle during the 2015 NFL season, it’s not just your imagination.
At the moment Pittsburgh’s season is hanging by a thread as they prepare to face the Broncos in Denver for the divisional round of the playoffs.
Thanks to the unfathomable evil of Vontaze Burfict, Ben Roethlisberger’s throwing shoulder is all kinds of torn up and he cannot throw the ball down the field. Also, Antonio Brown suffered a serious concussion last weekend and his status is doubtful. To make matters worse, DeAngelo Williams is also unlikely to be able to play.
It might seem like the odds are insurmountable and that bad luck is hitting the Steelers at the worst possible time, but the truth is that Pittsburgh has been dealing with misfortune and long odds all year.
Look no further than strength of schedule and you’ll see how rough things were for Pittsburgh in 2015.
The Carolina Panthers finished the regular season with the league’s best record at 15-1. They did so because they fielded an extraordinary defense, forced a lot of turnovers, and Cam Newton made a big leap forward in his development. They also got a lot of help from the schedule makers, as they had the fourth easiest road in the NFL, per TeamRankings.com.
As for the Steelers? They managed a 11-6 record despite having the toughest schedule in all of football this year.
Coming into the season the AFC North was expected to be one of the more difficult divisions in the NFL, and it lived up to that reputation. However, when Pittsburgh went out of the division things got even worse. According to the same rankings, the Steelers’ non-division schedule was significantly harder than any other team’s.
When you consider the variety of injuries at running back, quarterback and along the offensive line that Mike Tomlin and company have had to deal with, the fact that they’ve made it this far is pretty remarkable.