Try As They Might, Steelers Unable To Bury Themselves

By Matthew Marczi

Sometimes it seems as though the Pittsburgh Steelers are simply powerless to dig their own grave. The rest of the AFC North is digging too, and they are all throwing their dirt into Pittsburgh’s plot.

That theme continued last night when the Cincinnati Bengals found yet another new and spectacular way to lose a game after the Miami Dolphins won a walk-off in bizarre fashion: an overtime safety by Cameron Wake.

The loss gives the Bengals three losses on the season, just two less than the Steelers now possess following their own loss to the Oakland Raiders this past week. Of course, the Bengals still have a 4-game edge on the Steelers in the wins column, which will have to be overcome at some point.

In other AFC North news, the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns still find themselves stuck on just three victories on the year. The Ravens have four losses, while the Browns already match the five losses of the Steelers.

Rest assured, the Bengals are still the team in the lead in the race for the division crown, and it is still a longshot that the 2-5 Steelers team can actually muster up a string of wins, let alone catch up to Cincinnati. There are serious questions as to whether or not the Steelers are even capable of reaching six victories.

With the news that Bengals All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins suffered an ACL injury, however, it makes the lead dog more vulnerable to a worthy challenger to unseat the champion. It is just a matter of the Steelers being able to step up and offer such a challenge over the course of the second half of the season.

The Steelers play their eighth game against the New England Patriots, a team that, despite its flaws and injuries, also enters the midway point of the year at 6-2, as the Bengals did. They have already lost a trio of key players in Vincent WIlfork, Jerod Mayo, and most recently Sebastian Vollmer, but that has not prevented them from winning yet.

Neither team is armed as they were the last time these two opponents met, with Pittsburgh coming out on top in the end. A big part of the game plan for the Steelers, however, will likely be the ground game, especially if David DeCastro is able to suit up, as the Patriots rank 31st in the league in rushing yards allowed. Likewise, the Patriots should also feature a good deal of ground assault, with the Steelers ranking 27th.

Should the Steelers be able to clear this first hurdle, they will follow it up with back-to-back home games against the Buffalo Bills and the Detroit Lions. After that is a double-dip division derby with Cleveland and Baltimore, both on the road.

Try as they might, the AFC North keeps providing slack for the noose about Pittsburgh’s neck. We shall see just how much rope there is to spare as the calendar turns to November.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Luke Shabro

    It is amazing how bad the AFC North is this year. Outside of the NFC East this year we have to be the worst division in football. NFC South is stinking it up a lot but Carolina is decent and the Saints are fairly dominant.

  • SG

    They’re still 4 wins behind the Bungles with 9 games to play and are 0-1 against them. So even if they beat the Bungles in the next matchup, that means they have to rely on their division record or, worse, their AFC record to break the tie. That probably won’t be in the Steelers favor. That Raider loss was a big one. Besides, even with their current injuries, the Bungles are a more talented team.

  • Luke Shabro

    I agree. It’s nice to be optimistic but in reality we’re a mediocre to below mediocre team that will finish with a record indicative of that. 8-8 would be a minor miracle to me.

  • Mike.H

    Agree on your article, well done: Dave often does a TOX chart. What does TOX stand for?

  • Chad H

    Better coached teams find ways to win with personnel losses. See the Patriots and the Raiders. The Bengals will find ways to win the division this year. Some how we will win a tough game or two but drop games to teams that are worse than us.
    I have tickets to Packers/Steelers game I just hope they can pull that one off.

  • three wins

  • SG

    4 wins behind, Bengals at 6, Steelers at 2. The 1-1 division record goes in the Bengals favor because they are 1-0 against the Steelers. That’s why I say, if the Steelers miracously manage to end the year tied with the Bengals at the top, odds are great they will lose on key tiebreakers. In any event, this teams has already lost 5 games in 7….just getting to 9 wins is going to be next to impossible.

  • Oh my fault, I never expected more than 8-9 wins this season.

  • The AFC South is pretty bad too, just a down year for football.

  • Eric

    We played 3 games without Ben last year, winning only one and he didn’t play well when he returned and we lost 3 more. My point is, Cincy could have another key injury in their next game (Dalton, Green, etc) and they could totally collapse, so we are still in it until we are mathematically eliminated. By my estimate, two more losses and it is really over. Now lets go get a win in Foxborough.

  • Luke Shabro

    I forgot all about them. The Colts look like the only solid team there.

  • Shea Fahr

    Beat the Pats, do not get distracted by a simple coin flip against the Lions many years ago and treat the Bills the way they should be treated and we are 5-5 with many Division games ahead. I simply am the Eternal Optimist…

  • Eric

    We lost 5 of 7 to end last season. That is 14 of the last 18 regular season games and 18 of 22 counting the post season. I am getting damn tired of losing.

  • Luke Shabro

    Just announced that the Ravens are losing KO for the year. This whole division has been schwacked with injuries. Or is that just the NFL in general I guess?

  • The Steelers, Giants, and Falcons have the most injured players in the NFL. You can coach up all you want when you have Cody Wallace playing significant snaps point made.

  • Get used to it “R E B U I L D”

  • patrick Mayfield

    turnovers and explosive plays

    TOX = [# of plays by Steelers gaining 20+yards] – [# of plays 20+ by opponent] + [turnover differential (+ in favor of steelers)]

    It’s a backwards looking stat as far as I can see. That is to say a positive number in a given game strongly correlates to a win but whether year to date TOX numbers mean anything in predicting a matchup is yet to be shown so far as I know. Basically the stat indicates that if you make more really impactful plays than your opponent, you’ll likely win the game.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Now how big is the Raiders loss.

  • tkylv

    Every team has key injuries, but the better coached ones tend to rise above them. We didn’t have the most injuries in the NFL last year, so what was the excuse then? Tomlin should hire you as his publicist.

  • Eric


  • They finished 8-8 not a good season. Unlike “spoiled” fans I remember when we had Kordell, I remember Troy Edwards pitifully trying to beat coverage. I remember when things were way worse than the are now. I am not a fair weather fan I consider the total body of work, stats, as well as what happens during a game. Does Tomlin have his faults of course he does, but there are a lot of factors at play: Guys getting hurt-Key guys, Guys who the end of their career caught up to them in a season. Young guys who would normally be watching being forced into significant snaps. And a team that needs a roster turnover in the worst way. Then I evaluate how I feel about the head coach. I don’t just point my finger “fire everyone”

  • RedCarpetDefense

    May Christmas come early and often for you. I like your optimism.

  • SG

    Yes, all that needs to happen is the Bengals have to have all their stars injured, prossibly lose 6 of their last 7 games AND hope the Ravens don’t finish anywhere near 9 wins. That, and a team that is 2-5 needs to go at least 7-2 down the stretch. I admire the faith, I really do. But put some of that into the powerball, cause the odds are better.

  • Eric

    3 weeks ago, I said Jarvis Jones was not performing like a first round rookie pick and I got my azz kicked for being negative. Today, I kept the black and yellow faith and got slapped upside the head. I will give up on the season at the same time the players and coaches do, which I hope is never because winners keep on fighting until the bitter end, even when they are losing and the odds of winning are very remote. There are 16 games this season, and the season is not over until all the games are played.

  • Josh Knepshield

    Beat the Pats, 2 wins over the Browns, beat the Dolphins, beat the Ravens by a fg, beat the Bills, get a tough win over the lions, and beat the Bengals who have lost too many defensive stars to injury, oh and lose to the Packers. 10-6. That’s not too optimistic… it? Lol

  • sean mcmartin

    Since last year the team has lost their edge. Gone are the days of some recent great Steelers players. It was a fun ride.
    Now they need to reload before Ben is done..This season is toast and its a sad exit for some great players. would have been great to win one more ring before troy and clark were done..

  • Riverstko

    Yep and its still up for grabs

  • r4kolb

    Funny. After Pryor’s 93 yard TD run I know I was (and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one) saying “Game over.”

  • r4kolb

    Oh Boy tkylv… now you’ve done it. It’s a battle you won’t win w him. Tomlin’s a horrible coach. You know it I know it and 90% of Steeler nation knows it.

  • r4kolb

    Josh….yes you are too optimistic my friend. After watching them this year, or last year for that matter, what on Gods green earth makes you think that?

    Here’s my prediction:
    Nov 03 PIT @ NE Loss 2 – 6
    Nov 10 BUF @ PIT Win 3 – 6
    Nov 17 DET @ PIT Win 4 – 6
    Nov 24 PIT @ CLE Loss 4 – 7
    Nov 28 PIT @ BAL Loss 4 – 8
    Dec 08 MIA @ PIT Win 5 – 8
    Dec 15 CIN @ PIT Loss 5 – 9 (The wheels fall off)
    Dec 22 PIT @ GB Loss 5 – 10
    Dec 29 CLE @ PIT Loss 5 – 11 (Guessing Ben will be out this game)

  • Riverstko

    The afc north teams are weak always been weak. Teams win in this division by getting lucky turnovers etc.The steelers have dominated the division for years. Since our sb lost we are the team that all teams hate. They just want to beat us.They play their best game vs the steelers. I dont know who the raiders are playing sun. but they will lose.

  • Riverstko

    The first ten minutes of the game have been destroying us.

  • Brendon Glad

    Well, the crushing injuries certainly are evening out in the AFC, that’s for sure. Aside from Denver and KC, a huge group of teams are significantly worse off than they were to start the season. So who knows? We could see a lot of teams fall apart. But it’s a pretty empty feeling, because the Steelers certainly are not a good team. If they make it, it will mean they were “less-bad” than the others.

  • HopalongCassidy

    And you were correct in your assessment as were many others.

  • Josh Knepshield

    The Steelers have been in every game, so theyve had a shot at every game. Excuse me for thinking the ball will roll our way a couple of times.

  • Johnny Loose

    I had nothing but faith after every loss this season all the up until losing in Oakland. I recognize that they aren’t out of it “mathematically”. However, i feel like out of these last 8 games, we can only afford to lose 1 more if we have a shot at playoffs. I say that because if even by some chance we only lose two of the last 8, that will put us at 9-7. 9-7 means we’ll be tied with 2-3 other AFC teams who more than likely have a better conference record if they haven’t beaten us already. The only shot we have is to go 10-6. I’d say 11-5 is still out there somewhere, but come on. I’m as optimistic a Steeler fan as you will find, but it’s only healthy for everyone to stay guarded and be realistic about this. I have always given Pittsburgh the benefit of any doubt, at every turn. But we have like, zero margin for error here in the second half of the season. Something I’m not sure we’ll be able to pull off. At the same time, even with all the losing going back to the second half of last year, if we go 6-2 or even 5-3 to finish the season, I still like what this team is capable of and will already be looking forward to next season. The hole this team has dug will not be impossible to get out of, but pretty much right next to it. If we can finish strong this season, then there is no reason to hit the panic button on the franchise as a whole like so many fans will want to do. Like Manning said the other week after a tough game against Jacksonville, it isn’t easy to win in the NFL. We as fans have to realize how fortunate we’ve been to be a part of the success the Steelers have experienced. Gotta take the bad with the good and not be fair weather about this. The Steelers still have a good core of players both old and young that can help us win games in the not too distant future. Keep the faith dudes. #GoSteelers

  • Johnny Loose

    lol scratch that, if we lose 1 game we’ll be at 9-7. We’ll either witness the greatest comeback in a season ever or be ready to stomp the league next season. Lol sorry guys

  • HopalongCassidy

    If they lose to the Pats, I think they will have succeeded in digging a hole deep enough.