Mike Tomlin has been the head coach of the Steelers since 2007 and has never had a losing record in his 15 years at the helm, the longest such streak in NFL history. In that span, he’s also only finished 8-8 three times, but with the added 17th game, that is no longer an option.
On Oct. 30, many marked the Pittsburgh Steelers season over after a 35-13 blowout loss at Lincoln Financial Field to the Philadelphia Eagles that would become the team’s third double-digit loss of the season and place them at a 2-6 record.
That record to most teams would be a death sentence to their season, a right of passage to tank or get looks at young players. For the Steelers, the latter part of that statement is true, as they possess one of the youngest offenses in football centered around rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett, but things changed coming out of the bye week.
The Steelers are not a franchise to lie down and continue to lose and they’ve proved that since that loss to the Eagles, posing a 3-1 record with wins over the New Orleans Saints, Indianapolis Colts, and Atlanta Falcons and their lone loss coming to one of the hottest teams in football in the Cincinnati Bengals.
So now the Steelers sit at 5-7 and “in the hunt” for the postseason. There is some work to be done if they want to play postseason football, but Tomlin has another streak he’s trying to keep intact with five games to do so.
In what some would call a “normal” Steelers season, the final five games would be where the Steelers play down to an opponent lower than their expectations. Now? These final five games are to keep both their postseason and Tomlin’s winning seasons hopes alive, and the opponents should not scare the Steelers or their fans.
The Steelers face off with a likely Lamar Jackson-less Baltimore Ravens, a deep rebuilding Carolina Panthers, an up-and-coming Las Vegas Raiders, a possible Jackson-led Ravens and a Deshaun Watson-led Browns to round out the season.
Of the quarterbacks listed, only two rank highly in QBR, those being Jackson(who the Steelers likely avoid playing twice) and Carr. The Ravens also happen to be the only team with a winning record left on the Steelers’ schedule, something that could play in Pittsburgh’s favor as per ESPN FPI, they have favored in all but one game down the stretch.
So, the slate is set for a Steelers team that has turned a corner in multiple facets including the improved play of Pickett, a steady run game that has led to better time of possession numbers and a defense that has only allowed 14.3 PPG outside of the Bengals game out of the bye week.
Just a few weeks ago, it appeared things would be dim for the first time in a while for the Steelers, but with Tomlin leading the way for the final five games of the season, not only could he keep his winning-record streak intact, but the playoffs don’t seem as out of reach as once thought.