It's been a gradual process, but the Pittsburgh Steelers are slowly starting to earn the respect of the national football media. Following their early-season skid that included a pair of blowout losses in their first four games of 2023, Mike Tomlin's team is on the mend... at least when it comes to the latest NFL power rankings.
This could have more to do with other teams faltering than anything else. Many fans expected teams like the Chargers and Jets to be among the strongest in the AFC at this point in the season, but New York is falling apart with Zach Wilson at quarterback, and Justin Herbert by himself hasn't been enough to get the job done in LA.
Meanwhile, the Steelers are finding ways to win football games, but it seldom comes in a convincing fashion. Even with their 5-3 record, the stats show that Pittsburgh has been a below-average team this year.
Still, the NFL media circle is buying into the operation that head coach Mike Tomlin has in place in Pittsburgh, and they are creeping up inside the top 15 in the NFL power rankings. Entering Week 10, Eric Edholm of NFL.com has the Steelers inching up to the 14th spot this week (from 15th in Week 9). Here's what he had to say.
"The Steelers are 12-5 over the past calendar year but have only outscored opponents by nine points in that span. The point differential this season along is minus-30. Pittsburgh's 5-3 record paints a picture of a very good coach (Mike Tomlin) massaging enough games to keep the team close and win some late. But in order to make any postseason noise, this offense must awaken prior to the fourth quarter. The Steelers are being out-rushed by more than 40 yards per game and out-passed by more than 50, and the offense's early-game sputtering is a big reason why. There's hope, with the emergence of Jaylen Warren, Broderick Jones and Diontae Johnson, plus the expected return of Pat Freiermuth, but everything ultimately rests on Kenny Pickett and Matt Canada improving down the stretch."- Eric Edholm via NFL.com
Edholm hits it on the head here. While the game plan is working well enough to win games during the regular season, this offense needs to come alive prior to the fourth quarter if they want to find any success in the postseason.
The Steelers are approaching six calendar years without so much as a single playoff win, and 'the standard' in Pittsburgh has been muddied over the years. Another dud in the playoffs would be disastrous for this team.
With the way Mike Tomlin's squad has been playing in 2023, it's hard to imagine that the Steelers will find much playoff success this year, and we know that things need to turn around in a hurry. Pittsburgh is currently 29th in points per game, 29th in yards per game, 31st in opponent yards per, 28th in yards per play, and 24th in point differential, per ESPN stats.
These numbers clearly aren't good enough to warrant consideration as a top-10 team this year. However, the mediocrity on the stat sheet hasn't stopped NFL writers from buying into Tomlin's winning formula.
Will it be enough? That remains to be seen, the Steelers are slowly tip-toeing up the NFL power rankings heading into the second half of the 2023 season.