The Pittsburgh Steelers are, right now, on a bit of a remarkable winning streak, especially considering where they have come from. After starting the season 4-1, breaking up two sets of wins with a loss in between, the team hit a four-game skid to fall below .500, only to come storming back in the second half of the season, currently riding a five-game winning streak.
That is tied for the longest active winning streak in the NFL, and is also the first streak of such length that the Steelers have experienced since they closed out the 2009 season with five consecutive wins. The only problem is that they followed that up with a five-game losing streak, and narrowly missed the playoffs because of it, despite winning their final three games.
In order to lock up the AFC North tomorrow, however, Pittsburgh will have to do something that they have not done in over a decade, which is extend a winning streak to at least six games. A win over the Ravens would not only mark their sixth consecutive victory, it would also ensure that they will win the AFC North and host a playoff game, and set them up to lock up the third seed in the playoffs at worst.
But six-game winning streaks do not come about all that often, and, in fact, the last time the Steelers managed to pull that off was during quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie season, when the team won its last 14 games to finish the season 15-1.
Luckily, we don’t have to go back too much further to find the last time prior to the 2004 season that the Steelers were able to put up a similar winning streak. Back in 2001, the team actually won seven games in a row during a 13-3 season, a year that ended disappointingly in the AFC Conference Championship, losing 24-17 to the Patriots.
Nevertheless, the point is that long winning streaks are a hard thing to come by in the NFL, during 16-game seasons in which six games make up more than a third of the entire playing calendar. That is the bad news. But the good news is that they are right on the doorstep of authoring their latest winning streak of at least six games. All they have to do to achieve that is to win their game tomorrow.
It’s certainly not as though they will be lacking any motivation, and, in fact, they have had a bit of a recent history of hitting their stride late in the year and ending the season on a comfortable winning streak.
The Steelers won their final four games of the 2014 season en route to locking up the division. They won the final three games of the 2013 season as well. They won six of their last seven in 2011 and four of their last five in 2015—although the one loss last year, against the Ravens, but did not cost them the division.