The 2019 version of the Pittsburgh Steelers is vastly different from the version that underachieved the season prior.
During the offseason, they parted ways with prime time players who became malcontents. Antonio Brown was shipped to Oakland for basically nothing. Le’Veon Bell sat out last season and received the NFL equivalent of Siberian exile, sent to the New York Jets.
Early in the 2019 – 2020 NFL Championship campaign, they lost future NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to a season-ending injury.
How did the Steelers’ respond?
They lost their first three games, but if the opener, a 33 – 3 loss to New England in New England, their next two losses, to top competitors Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers, the losing margin was just two points and four points.
Pittsburgh beat Cincinnati Bengals, which puts them in a non-exclusive club that includes, well, everybody.
A loss to AFC North Division rivals Baltimore Ravens was by just three points, in a game that went into extra time.
Since that time, they have won four consecutive, but true to form, those games were narrow affairs, just as were the three losses. The Steelers beat Los Angeles Chargers by seven, the hapless Miami Dolphins by 13, the Indianapolis Colts by two and the other LA franchise, the Rams, but five points to improve to 5 – 4 on the season.
Their next three games are within their division, with Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland again.
The Steelers are unpredictable, but it requires just a modicum of faith to envision them as an 8 – 4 team at the end of week 12.
They do not face a side with anything positive going on until Buffalo Bills in mid-December in their 14th game of the season. They close the season with Baltimore and that game could prove the division decider.
They are pasting a season together with baling wire and duct tape.
If you can enjoy the opportunity of watching them, you will never witness a boring game and while they are not locks for the post-season, they have moved beyond the challenging part of their season and have a smooth run home.
NFC North Division leaders Baltimore also have a soft remaining schedule, so the division could come down to which of the two clubs can avoid the stumbles.