Pittsburgh Steelers have claimed an NFL play-off spot for the first time since 2017, but they did not manage it in quite the way they would have wanted. The team won its first 11 games of the season, but lost its second successive game on the weekend to the Buffalo Bills.
Their place in the play-offs had already been confirmed by the time that game kicked off, thanks to the Miami Dolphins were defeated by the Kansas City Chiefs. The Steelers lost their place as the number one seed in the AFC, though, thanks to the 26-15 defeat at Buffalo.
The manner of the defeat will trouble the Steelers, as they now look to generate some momentum going into the play-offs. The Bills went 7-0 down early in the game, but then fired 23 unanswered points past the Steelers.
Is Pittsburgh panic justified?
While panicking at this stage would be a massive overreaction, there are some signs that the Steelers’ coaching hierarchy has a few issues to which it needs to find answers. The Steelers’ offense is one issue – the team have no failed to score 20 points or more in three consecutive games. In the first 11 weeks of the season, Pittsburgh average 29.8 points per game – the fourth best in the NFL.
Since Week 12, that figure has dropped to 17.0 points per game – a tie for fifth fewest in the league during that period. That indicates that something has gone wrong when the Steelers have the ball, and it could be their rushing game.
They currently average only 89.1 rushing yards per game, a tally that is the second-worst in the NFL after the Houston Texans. It is worth pointing out that no Super Bowl winner has ever averaged as little as that or less.
But there are also issues with the passing game. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 21 of 37 passes on Sunday for just 187 yards. The two touchdowns he passed for seem almost incidental now.
Steelers offense needs improvement
He has also developed a troubling habit of throwing interceptions, with two to his name on Sunday. He has now thrown interceptions in four consecutive games, his longest such run since 2015. He only threw four in total in his first nine games of the current season. The Steelers receiver corps also now leads the NFL with 35 drops too.
The Steelers now have the opportunity to get things back on track, though. Over the next three weeks, Pittsburgh takes on the Cincinnati Bengals, the Indianapolis Colts and the Cleveland Browns. The Steelers have scored 30 or more points this season three times, with two of those occasions being against the Bengals and the Browns.
They should now be looking to re-inject a bit of momentum into their season and win those games convincingly. If they can head into the post-season with a fair wind behind them then they can still be challengers for the Super Bowl crown. They’ll need to sharpen up that running game, though.