The Steelers at 2-6 are at the bottom of their division, causing a lot of feelings Pittsburgh fans aren’t accustomed to.
I know after the 35-13 drubbing the Steelers just took at the hands of the Eagles, the last thing you’d expect anyone to say is that the Steelers have a shot at stringing some wins together after the bye week. It’s easy to get emotional after a big win or big loss. However, if we stay objective there is a very realistic path the Steelers have in front of them to finish the season over .500.
2022 is tied for the worst start to a season any of Mike Tomlin’s teams have had and we have to go back to 2013 to find the other time this has happened. The Steelers would finish that season 8-8 winning 6 of their last 8 games. It seems as though Tomlin has been in this situation before and he may be able to right the ship. Here are 3 reasons why I believe they will.
The bye week is going to help this defense which has been struggling with injuries
You can’t talk about injuries to the Steelers without mentioning the reigning defensive player of the year TJ Watt. However, arguably equally as important, the Steelers haven’t played a game with all 3 of their starting cornerbacks since Week 3 this season. We can’t make a habit of using the injury bug as an excuse however, the Steelers have played 5 of the top 10 passing offenses in the NFL this season and in all but one of these matchups, the Steelers were missing at least 1 starting cornerback.
The only top 10 team, in passing, Pittsburgh played with a healthy secondary was Cincinnati in Week 1, which was a game the Steelers won. Coming into the bye week the Steelers made a trade for former first round CB William Jackson III. The added depth that comes with Jackson who could find himself auditioning for a starting role mixed with the bye week for the secondary to become healthier can only bode well. This is doubly true considering how hard it has been to keep the secondary healthy and on the field.
The Steelers’ schedule appears to be a lot weaker after the bye
It’s a positive that the 3 toughest opponents on the rest of their schedule are likely their divisional opponents. Aside from the Bengals, Ravens, and Browns. The other 5 teams left on the schedule are the 2-5 Raiders, 4-4 Falcons, 3-4 Colts, 3-5 Saints, and 2-6 Panthers. In fact, as of Week 8 which is where we are at today, the only team on the Steelers’ schedule with a winning record is the Baltimore Ravens sitting at 5-3.
For a young, struggling team being able to play against 5 teams with a losing record in their last 8 games is a huge advantage. This could be the shot in the arm that is needed to help get Pittsburgh in the right direction.
This offense is bad, but it’s also very young
The Steelers’ offense is filled with a lot of young and inexperienced players, which isn’t really an excuse for how poorly they’ve been playing. However, because this team is so young, we can likely count on a lot of these players improving as the season rolls on.
The Steeler’s quarterback, left tackle, #2 wide receiver, tight end, and both running backs that see consistent playing time are all playing in either their 1st or 2nd seasons. That is a lot of starters and key players who don’t have much experience but will likely improve at least to some degree by the end of the season.
I’m not saying that you should expect Kenny Pickett to turn into Dan Marino by Week 15, but I do expect him to be able to adjust and become accustomed to some of the things NFL defenses are throwing at him.