The Pittsburgh Steelers have now for the second time this season stacked a win on top of a win, today beating their divisional rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals, after knocking down the Chiefs the week before. They won their first two games before alternating losses and wins in between those two minor streaks.
And where does that leave them? Not just first in the division. First in the conference. Should the season end right now—and yes, I know, the season is not even halfway over—the Steelers would have not just a bye week, but homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. You know, the thing fans have been clamoring for.
The last time the Steelers have had a bye week in the playoffs was in 2010, the last time they made a trip to the Super Bowl, though they ultimately lost. They were the second seed that year, but were able to host the AFC Championship game after the top seed was knocked off.
They are now 5-2 on the season. At this point last year, they were 4-3, and ultimately went 4-5 before rattling off seven consecutive wins. While their games have not been pretty, they have, quite simply, been enough to get those check marks in the win column five out of seven times.
But they can’t take their foot off the gas, they is for certain. While there is no team in the AFC with a better record, the Chiefs and the Patriots both currently only have two losses, with the latter taking on the Falcons in just a few short moments later on tonight, looking to match Pittsburgh’s 5-2 record that they share with the Chiefs.
It is worth noting, as well, that both the Bills and the Dolphins, in the Patriots’ division, are 4-2 right now, following wins today, and they have already had their bye week. So while they may be a game behind in the loss column, they are even in the loss column.
Even if the Patriots won tonight, they would not have the advantage over the Steelers, because Pittsburgh would have the better conference record at the moment at 4-1, while New England is only 2-1 in the AFC, and facing an NFC opponent on Sunday Night Football. They, naturally, have the head-to-head tiebreaker with Kansas City.
Of course the tiebreakers don’t mean anything right now, but it’s still fun to think about the fact that the Steelers are in this position during the first half of the season. The only team in football with a better record overall is the Eagles at 5-1, who play tomorrow night.
This is still quite a flawed team, make no mistake. They are running the ball well, and the defense is playing well intermittently, but both sides are prone to mistakes. But the point is…so is everybody else. The league is pretty wide open this year at the top, and Pittsburgh is right in there with everybody else.