The Steelers 4-2 record defies all logic
Despite their struggles and often ugly play, the Steelers sit at 4-2 through six games of the 2023 regular season, and that’s really all that matters.
It’s a good thing, too, because the Steelers would be screwed if anything else actually mattered.
Anyway, since I am kind of excited about the Steelers record, I wanted to see where they stood in the latest (if the playoffs started today) standings. That’s when I decided to visit NFL.com, where I clicked on standings and then conference. Pittsburgh is currently fifth in the AFC and would play the fourth-seeded Jaguars on Wild Card Weekend if the playoffs started today. The playoffs don’t start today, of course, but it could possibly be a postseason preview when 5-2 Jacksonville visits Acrisure Stadium this Sunday afternoon.
How will the Steelers fare going up against the first-place team in the AFC South and a bona fide postseason contender?
Pittsburgh might get trucked.
You see, in addition to checking out the latest (if the playoffs started today) standings, I also reviewed the point differentials of the seven teams who would be in the playoffs if they–say it with me–started today, and Pittsburgh is the only squad who is underwater (as they say at car dealerships when you try to trade in a 2018 Chevy Cruze while still owing $11,000 on it). That’s right, the Steelers, who have scored 103 points and allowed 127 through six games, are minus-24. The Jaguars, who have scored 173 points and allowed 146 through seven games, are plus-27. The only team even close to breaking even is sixth-seeded Cleveland, who has scored 134 and allowed 115 through six games.
You talk about an outlier. If these 2023 Pittsburgh Steelers were on Sesame Street, they’d be that thing that was not like the others.
I then made it my mission to do a little digging (as the cool kids say) and do a deep dive (as the cool kids on Twitter say) by going right to the 2023 Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Football Reference page.
The Steelers have been outgained by 660 yards in six weeks; that’s 110 yards per game to you and me. The Steelers are 31st in offense–including 28th in rushing and 25th in passing. Over on the defensive side, Pittsburgh is 30th in the NFL (thank goodness the Steelers defense is finally ranked ahead of the offense because I don’t know how T.J. Watt could bring himself to go shopping for a few weeks there)–including 28th against the run and 25th against the pass.
No way should the Steelers be 4-2, but they are.
I decided to dig even deeper by gazing in the direction of the takeaway portion of the 2023 Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Football Reference page. That’s when I realized that Pittsburgh’s defense is currently tied for fifth in takeaways with 12. Also, the Steelers offense has only turned the football over six times in six games–you can’t turn the football over if you never have it. (Cue the meme with the guy pointing to his head in a thinking fashion.)
That has to be what it is, an opportunistic defense combined with an offense that protects the football (as opposed to scoring with it, of course).
The Steelers also have 19 sacks through six games and are on pace for 53. Watt has eight of those sacks, along with three fumble recoveries–including one that he took to the house–two forced fumbles and one interception.
Speaking of Watt’s defensive touchdown, it occurred in the same game against the Browns in which Alex Highsmith returned an interception for a score. Oh yeah, Highsmith was the one who stripped quarterback Deshaun Watson of the football before Watt gathered in the fumble and rumbled to paydirt.
By rights, the Steelers had no business beating Cleveland at Acrisure Stadium in Week 2, but thanks to those defensive heroics, along with some premium stupidity by the $230 million quarterback, the home team prevailed.
Pittsburgh was also on the ropes for most of its Week 5 game vs. the Ravens at Acrisure Stadium. But thanks to many drops by the Ravens receivers, a blocked punt by Miles Killebrew that went for a safety, an end zone interception by rookie Joey Porter Jr., and some stupidity by head coach John “He Does More With Less” Harbaugh, the home team was able to eke out a 17-10 victory.
“Eke out” aptly describes how these Steelers are winning in 2023.
Actually, you can say it accurately describes how Pittsburgh has been winning games since its bye week in 2022. The Steelers are 11-4 over their last 15 games, and they haven’t looked pretty one single time.
But you know what they say, “Your record is your record.” Yes, but how can this be?
I don’t know how to explain it, other than Mike Tomlin has discovered a formula where his team is able to drag other teams down into the mud, slug it out in the slop for 60 minutes and win it in the fourth quarter.
Is it sustainable, though? I mean, 15 games is a pretty large sample size, so, I guess.
Second thought, maybe the Steelers won’t get trucked by Jacksonville this Sunday afternoon at Acrisure Stadium.
In fact, I expect the game to include a lot of three-and-outs, an illogical throw by quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who was 30 for 33 up to that point, a takeaway or two by Watt and/or Highsmith, lots of penalties, and most likely a game-winning touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter by quarterback Kenny Pickett, who was 13 for 33 up to that point.
Would you bet against that hypothetical outcome? I wouldn’t.
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