Steelers' great escapes – resilience or luck?


FOXBORO - The Steelers have done what they were "supposed to do." Barely.
That's how Mike Tomlin put it two weeks ago when he spoke about holding serve until his team's Week 15 matchup with the Patriots. Then as long as the winner of that game wins out, Tomlin explained in his interview with NBC's Tony Dungy for Football Night in America, the site of the AFC title game will be decided.


Since that interview, the Steelers have won three games by a combined seven points. Their latest triumph came on Sunday night, a skin-of-their-teeth, hold-onto-your-butts, 39-38 comeback win over the Ravens. In Week 13, they nipped the Bengals in a brutal affair, 23-20. In Week 12, they escaped a primetime matchup with the Brett Hundley-led Packers, 31-28. 
Eight Steelers games this season have been decided by a touchdown or less. Tomlin's team is 7-1 in those games, including close victories over the Colts, Lions, Chiefs and Browns. 
There are two ways of looking at those numbers. The first? The Steelers are clutch. The second? That kind of close-and-late success is not sustainable. 
In all likelihood, a regression is coming. 
The Steelers defense, now forced to go without top linebacker Ryan Shazier, will probably be the culprit whenever that regression hits. Pittsburgh allowed the Ravens to pick up 6.7 yards per play and 5.8 yards per carry, and it gave up four touchdowns on Joe Flacco's four red-zone trips Sunday night. Against an offense that ranked in the bottom third of the league, according to Football Outsiders DVOA going into the game, that's an out-and-out problem.
The Patriots (10-3), unlike the Steelers (11-2), didn’t do what they “supposed to do” in Miami on Monday, and enter the showdown a game behind the Steelers. Still, this game at Heinz Field is the one that matters. It would give the Patriots the tiebreaker over the Steelers, and all Bill Belichick's team would have to do after that is what it would be expected to do: Win out, beat the Bills and Jets, and earn home-field advantage through the AFC Championship Game. 
Of course, what you're supposed to do and actually doing it are two very different things -- just ask the Steelers. So maybe Monday night in Miami was more important than it seemed. 


Contact Us