NFL Week 17 finds Steelers Nation not focusing on Cleveland Stadium, where the Black and Gold will conclude their season, but 250 miles or so down I-71 at Paul Brown Stadium.
The reason of course is that the Cincinnati Bengals need to win to qualify for the playoffs, and to do so they conveniently need to vanquish the Baltimore Ravens, who if they lose can cede the AFC North Division championship to the Steelers.
…If the Steelers win at Cleveland, of course.
Steel Curtain Rising is certainly not looking past the Browns, a team who just two years ago gave Pittsburgh the most bitter upset of the Mike Tomlin era on the shores of Lake Eire.
But the Steelers should beat the Browns and probably will. (And if they don’t, they richly deserve whatever early playoff exit awaits them.) Given that, how the Steelers win might be just as important.
Time to Count Style Points…?
“We don’t add style points.” Mike Tomlin’s right. All of the Steelers wins and losses hold equal value. For tie breaking purposes the Debacle in Baltimore might as well have been an overtime loss decided by a safety scored with one second remaining.
True as that is, the 2011 Pittsburgh Steelers have a Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde quality to them. At home they’re legitimate Super Bowl contenders. On the road they’re more like a team lucky to be at .500.
The 2011 Pittsburgh Steelers at Home
Avg. Points Scored: 25
Avg. Points Allowed: 10
The 2011 Pittsburgh Steelers on the Road
Avg. Points Scored: 15
Avg. Points Allowed: 20
Certainly, those road numbers are a little skewed by the opener vs. Baltimore which alone counts for 40% of the turnovers. But the Steelers wins vs. the Colts and Chiefs were far like escapes than “victories.” Even the win vs. Arizona got to be a lot closer than it should have been. The Steelers pass rush on the road is a mere shadow of its Heinz Field presence.
And even in the best-case scenario, at shot at Lombardi Number Seven is going to require the Steelers to win once on the road, and quite probably 3 games. And the quarterbacks in question won’t have last names like Painter and Plako, but rather names like Palmer, Flacco and Brady.
The Steelers are sixteen games into the 2011 NFL season and they still find themselves unable to play their best ball while on the road.
Coaches are fond of saying that a team starts a new season when the playoffs begin. For the 2011 Pittsburgh Steelers to make good on that old coaching proverb, they must they must excel in the final road contest of their old one.