No matter how people broke things down or what record they may have predicted heading into the 2018 regular season, there’s no question the 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers were considered Super Bowl contenders.
Even after an 0-1-1 start that includes a tie with the Browns and loss to the Chiefs in-which the Steelers defense was totally embarrassed by Patrick Mahomes, it would be foolish to give up on a true Super Bowl contender this early in the year.
- But that would only be if we’re talking about a true contender, something recent trends suggest the Steelers are not.
Why do I say that? Because the Steelers have lost three straight games–all at home–to teams that are among the best the AFC has to offer.
The first loss came last December 17, when the Patriots stunned Pittsburgh with a 27-24 victory that many thought was a miscarriage of justice, thanks to the controversial reversal of a Jesse James‘ touchdown with just seconds remaining.
Had Jesse James touchdown stood, it would have likely given the Steelers a 31-27 victory and the inside track to capture the AFC’s top seed. OK, if the reversal of the Jesse James’ touchdown indeed was a miscarriage of justice, how can I hold that against Mike Tomlin and Co.?
Because Mike Tomlin, former offensive coordinator Todd Haley and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger appeared to panic (or at least failed to communicate properly) during the sequence of plays that followed the reversal, and Roethlisberger wound up throwing an ill-advised pass that was deflected and intercepted in the end zone.
- There’s no way that game should have ended in regulation.
To make things brief, I will just combine the last two games that saw the Steelers defense yield a grand total of 827 yards and 80 points in back-to-back losses to the Jaguars and Chiefs.
The loss to Jacksonville last January 14 came in a playoff game at Heinz Field and put an end to a 2017 campaign in-which the Steelers, who finished 13-3 during the regular season, appeared to be destined for a rematch with New England in the AFC Championship game.
As for Week 2’s defeat to Kansas City, the performance of the defense was so alarming, it made one absolutely dread the regular season rematch with the Patriots this December at Heinz Field.
- As I said, it is really early, and the Steelers wouldn’t be the first team to start a season slowly before showing its true championship colors.
However, 2017, one in-which they struggled to defeat some of the more mediocre teams in the NFL on a weekly basis, often needing kicker Chris Boswell to bail them out with game-winning field goals in the final seconds, may have been the true colors of the Pittsburgh Steelers–maybe it just took the top contenders in the AFC to flesh them out.