If you would have asked me before the season where the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers, the team with the NFL’s toughest schedule on paper, the team with the 39-year old quarterback along, the team with a bunch of rookies and a new offensive coordinator, would be after six games and heading into their bye, I would have probably said around .500.
- As it turns out, that’s where the Steelers sit as they sit around and watch most of the other teams play in Week 7.
So, I guess the Steelers are right where I thought they’d be, right? Yes and no. Don’t get me wrong, 3-3 seems right, but how the Steelers got to this point was a bit surprising.
For example, I did not expect the Steelers to go into Buffalo and knock off the Bills in Week 1; if you’ve seen how Buffalo has played since that 23-16 loss at the hands of the black and gold–the Bills may be the best team in the NFL right now–you can certainly understand my doubt.
Conversely, if you would have asked me after the first game where I thought the Steelers would be through three weeks, I would have said they’d still be undefeated; in fact, I remember exchanging text messages with friends and fellow writers and podcasters that reflected that belief. Why? The Raiders, a seemingly mediocre team from out west, and the Bengals, a team that is normally known as the Bungals, were coming to Heinz Field for match-ups in Weeks 2 and 3, respectively.
If the Steelers could knock off the Bills on the road, surely, Las Vegas and Cincinnati would be mere tune-ups along the way to proving all of the offseason doubters wrong, right?
Nope, instead of taking care of both the Raiders and Bengals, Pittsburgh was taken care of in back-to-back home losses. The offense was just as putrid in the two losses as it was in the victory over the Bills. The only difference was a less-potent and effective defense due to a series of injuries that saw both T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith sit out the same game.
After dropping a third-straight to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers at Lambeau Field, the Steelers closed out their pre-bye portion of the schedule with two-straight home victories. The win over the Broncos in Week 5 wasn’t much of a shocker — I think most folks felt good about Pittsburgh’s chances in that game. But what about the win over Russell Wilson and the Seahawks one week later on Sunday Night Football? That game was only considered a sure-thing after Wilson was lost for several weeks with a major finger injury. With Geno Smith starting that game at quarterback for Seattle, that would surely be a time for the Steelers to feast, right?
- The Steelers did prevail, even if it was by the skin of their teeth in overtime.
So, what’s the moral of the story? I guess it’s that you never quite know what terrain and obstacles a team will have to navigate around when playing out its annual regular-season schedule; some terrain is smoother than you originally anticipated, while some obstacles are damn-near impossible to get around.
Where will the Steelers’ regular-season road take them following their bye? I could predict a record, but don’t ask me to predict how they’ll achieve such a mark.
Your guess is as good as mine.