The Pittsburgh Steelers are 4-2 entering Week 8. If the season ended today, they would be the fifth seed in the AFC and would be playing the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. That's reason enough to celebrate, right? Perhaps not.
As the old saying goes, 'a win is a win'. It doesn't matter how the job gets done as long as it does, in fact, get done. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has expressed that he will take a win any way he can get it. But are all wins equal and is this really a recipe for success?
Despite their 4-2 record, statistics show that the Steelers have been one of the worst teams, collectively, in football this year. Through their first six games, Pittsburgh is 27th in points per game, 30th in yards per game, and 26th in yards per play, according to Team Rankings. Even their defense is 30th in yards allowed, and their rushing defense is the fifth-worst in the NFL entering Week 8.
The collection of their mediocrity this year has equated to an average scoring margin of -4.0 points per game. This suggests that the Pittsburgh Steelers should actually be losing by more than a field goal per game. Remarkably, however, this team is two games above .500 and they are 2-0 against AFC North opponents.
Sadly, the Steelers are luckier than they are good
While we would like to think that the Steelers are ready to go toe-to-toe with the top teams in the NFL, this might not be the case at all. So far, they have played one dominant opponent this season, and their spirits were crushed in a 30-7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers back in Week 1. With how things have gone since then, it's hard to imagine that the results would be much different if these two teams played each other again right now.
Anytime a team is 23rd in the NFL in point differential, it makes you question just how good they are. For many reasons, it's fairly easy to conclude that the Steelers have been luckier than they are good this season.
You could look at this on a game-by-game basis. Back in Week 2 against the Browns, it required two defensive touchdowns from Alex Highsmith and T.J. Watt, respectively, in order to secure a 26-22 victory. Fast forward two weeks and the Steelers were humiliated in a 30-6 loss to the Houston Texans.
Their next unlikely win came in an upset over the Ravens in Week 5. In this contest, Baltimore's receivers dropped routine deep balls that should have gone for big gains. They also botched an easy touchdown with a dropped pass in the endzone. The Steelers would hang on to win this one 17-10 despite a sloppy performance from the offense.
Now we assess their performance against the Rams in Week 7. While I do give credit to Kenny Pickett and company for a very strong fourth-quarter performance, the entire team was stagnant up to that point. Los Angeles had already shot themselves in the foot with two botched field goals and a missed extra point. The controversial spot call at the end of the game that secured the win for Pittsburgh wasn't a good look either.
I don't think that the Steelers are as bad as the stats and numbers would seem to suggest. However, it's also hard to argue that they are one of the better 4-2 teams in the NFL when they sit on a negative point differential and are near the bottom of the league in offense and quarterback EPA.
There's no doubt that this team is luckier than it is good right now, but I'm not sure that this is a recipe for success. If they happen to find themselves in the playoffs this year, the results on the field will need to be much better if they want to have any sort of postseason success.