After two weeks of explosive, record-breaking offense, and defense that reminded football fans of the younger days of James Harrison and Brett Keisel, it appeared that the Pittsburgh Steelers were ready to reclaim their dynastic rule of the AFC North. Little did they know, an ambush awaited them.
In week 10, the Steelers entered MetLife Stadium as one of the hottest teams in football. Four turnovers and a measly 13 points later, however, things had become decidedly chilly for Pittsburgh’s postseason aspirations, as they fell to the 1-8 New York Jets by a misleadingly competitive score of 20-13. Thankfully, Pittsburgh bounced back with a victory against the Tennessee Titans, 27-24.
No descriptor more accurately applies to the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers as the term “inconsistent.” There is no better word to describe a team that accounts for two of the three wins in the Jets’ and Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ combined 3-16 record, yet simultaneously has recorded dominant wins against Baltimore and Indianapolis—two playoff-caliber teams.
The loss to New York, in particular, is devastating for the Steelers. Pittsburgh had a prime opportunity to claim the division lead in a division that consists of four teams, each with winning records. Instead of improving to 7-3, though, Pittsburgh dropped to 6-4, putting them behind both Cleveland and Cincinnati in the AFC North race. Needless to say, the division is a dogfight, and winning it will be a hard-earned achievement for whichever team does. Even after their victory against the Titans the Steelers are still lying at the second spot of the Conference, now 7-4.
Going forward, it is extremely difficult to predict how Pittsburgh is going to play. One would expect them to beat teams like Atlanta and struggle against Kansas City and New Orleans, but with Pittsburgh’s inconsistency, who can say what the results will actually be?
There are only a few certain things regarding the Steelers. One, Pittsburgh has one of the best wide receivers in the NFL in Antonio Brown. He has been a juggernaut in the passing game all season, but cost the Steelers dearly in their most recent loss by fumbling twice. Two, Ben Roethlisberger is capable of catching fire in any given game. He may light it up against the Colts one week, only to throw multiple picks against sorry secondaries like Jacksonville and the New York Jets the next week, but as long as he is around, the Steelers are never really out of a game.
As for the defense, longtime leader Troy Polamalu is beginning to show his wear. He is a 12-season veteran in the midst of a stretch of absenteeism resulting from injury. Between Polamalu, and other key contributors Brett Keisel, James Harrison, Ike Taylor, and Will Allen, there are 59 years of NFL experience, making Pittsburgh’s defense one of the oldest in the league. Youngsters Ryan Shazier and Jarvis Jones can combine with Jason Worilds to be the Steelers’ linebacker corps of the future, but at other defensive positions, the Steelers are thin.
The Steelers still have a great shot at winning the AFC North. They trail just the Bengalsfor the division lead, and, arguably, have a more talented roster than any of their division rivals. It is not a matter of if Pittsburgh can win games, but rather, will they?
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