Debunking stupid storylines about the 9-0 Pittsburgh Steelers
Being in the position I am here with Steel City Underground, I read a lot of bad comments each and every day. I’ve read a ton of stupid comments that come anywhere from analysts to fans to critics.
Most fans have never witnessed the bad times – a claim I’ve made many times over the years as Pittsburgh hasn’t had a losing season since 2003 and you really have to go back to pre-1992 (when Bill Cowher was hired as head coach) to truly remember losing seasons in the Steel City.
Worse enough, if Steelers fans weren’t already an entitled bunch, they’re finding ways to ruin the enjoyment of an undefeated 9-0 start – the first and only time Pittsburgh as done so in franchise history.
Here are some of the many things I’m reading around the Internet and why they don’t matter – especially since style points don’t matter: only wins do!
The Steelers offense isn’t good
I can understand thinking the team is sluggish, gets off to slow starts and doesn’t annihilate opponents like we all think they should. Then again, this is pro football and not the college variety where Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State put up big leads every week.
The NFL is full of parity – except, the Steelers offense has still done something it never has.
All of this in spite of Offensive Coordinator Randy Fichtner and Ben Roethlisberger… (more on that below!)
Pittsburgh has scored 24 or more points in each of its first nine games in 2020. Prior to this year, the Steelers had never previously opened a season with eight straight games of 24 or more points in franchise history…#BertschyBits#HereWeGo#CINvsPIT
— Michael Bertsch (@SteelersPRMike) November 15, 2020
The Steelers can’t run the football
This one is annoying because the Steelers simply aren’t running the football enough. Through their first give games the Steelers had run for at least 109 yards on every single opponent.
Then came the juggernaut of playoff contenders, with the Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens limiting the Steelers to fewer than 100 yards on the ground: 94 and 49 respectively.
But it’s the averages: a total of 56 carries in three games or an average of 18.6 per game versus the previous pairs of three games, that paints a different story.
Against New York, Denver, and Houston the Steelers ran the ball 90 times for 419 yards (30 carries per game) and against Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Tennessee they ran it 94 times for 359 yards (over 30 carries per game).
Even so, you may be surprised to learn that James Conner currently has more rushing yards than all but 11 other players in the entire league. Only eight players have topped 600 or more yards rushing, with Conner currently sitting at 556 yards: which is still more than the Saints’ Alvin Kamara, and the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson (their leading rusher), among others.
Also consider that both the Ravens and Bengals faced the Steelers following a bye week, giving them a well-rested defense to stuff Pittsburgh’s running game.
It’s not that the Steelers can’t run the football – they simply aren’t, as proven by the nearly dozen carries per-game fewer.
However, that hasn’t affected their record one bit and is turning some of those who prefer the days of Jerome Bettis ramming the ball down opponents’ throats into passing game truthers.
3 Takes That Resonate from Steelers 36, Bengals 10: Empty-set stuff devastating the last three games (11-14-18-19 w/85 in particular). Actually starting to re-consider the thou-must-run commandment to which I’ve always subscribed. Can 7 stay healthy? If so, possibilities abound.
— Mike Prisuta (@DVEMike) November 16, 2020
The Steelers have a soft schedule
When the talking heads on TV talk about the Steelers and their 9-0 record, it’s usually followed by them playing a “weak schedule”. I may have broken a TV or two while trying to rationalize their downplaying of Pittsburgh’s success versus the lack of success of other teams with similar weak schedules.
Guess what? Namely everyone else in the AFC North who also plays a nearly identical slate which includes the four lowly teams in the NFC East.
Yes, that’s right, those struggling Baltimore Ravens also get to play that bad division too, but by winning the AFC North last season they also get to face the teams who won their divisions, the Kansas City Chiefs and the New England Patriots. Those should naturally be competitive games, but the Patriots had been on a downslide – too bad Baltimore lost both of those matchups!
Don’t forget the media was quick to crown the Cleveland Browns preseason Super Bowl contenders in each of the last two years too – they actually play a weaker schedule than the Steelers (who get the Bills and Broncos instead of the Jets and Raiders!)
Oh and those power rankings that always say Kansas City is better because of whatever reason probably need to be reevaluated too…
Steelers combined opponent record: 33-47-2
Chiefs combined opponent record: 33-50
Nobody wants to talk about the Chiefs like that though. Just the Steelers.
— Rick Fish (@rickfish412) November 16, 2020
Ben Roethlisberger is holding this team back or old/washed up/has a gimpy elbow
Must I say more?
How many critics said Ben Roethlisberger was washed up, finished, etc. after sitting out almost all of the 2019 season while rehabbing an elbow injury?
And how many of those naysayers blamed him for what had happened during the 2019 offseason with the trade of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell sitting out 2018 to sign elsewhere in free agency in 2019?
Brown is on his third team already, while the Jets canned Bell, who can’t scratch playing time in KC, while in Pittsburgh a Benjamin Todd Roethlisberger Sr. is making a case for potential league MVP.
Ben Roethlisberger is on pace for 4,007 yards, 39 TD, 7 INT this season. #Steelers
— Josh Rowntree (@JRown32) November 16, 2020
Steelers defense can’t defend on 3rd downs
They’ll never make it deep if they don’t stop teams on third down.
Look, it’s a philosophy. From game-to-game we’ve always heard that Bill Belichick takes away an opponent’s biggest weapon.
The Steelers have done that all season long, sometimes giving up too much on third down in the process, by making sure the Lamar Jacksons, Derrick Henrys, Zach Ertzs, or Odell Beckhams don’t beat them.
Last Sunday? They didn’t let the Bengals breathe.
Before Sunday, the last time the Steelers held an opponent without a third-down conversion was Nov. 7, 2004 in a 27-3 victory against the unbeaten Philadelphia Eagles (0-for-8), per Elias Sports Bureau.
— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) November 16, 2020
Anyone NOT named Chase Claypool in the running for Offensive Rookie of the Year
This is almost always going to go to a quarterback unfortunately, but the 11th wide receiver taken in his draft class, at 49th overall, is absolutely smoking the opposition and should definitely be a finalist for the award when all things are said and done.
It’s just a shame that players on losing teams, who aren’t making those franchises better at this moment, will likely get better consideration. (I’m looking at you Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert.)
Give the honor to a winner, please and thank you.
Highest passer rating when targeted: Chase Claypool – 134.7 pic.twitter.com/fCu6oKpEC2
— PFF (@PFF) November 16, 2020
WR Chase Claypool's nine total TDs are tied with four other players, including Pro Football Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk (1994), for the eighth most TDs by a rookie in his first nine career games since 1970…#BertschyBits#HereWeGo#CINvsPIT https://t.co/Z75DZNva4J
— Michael Bertsch (@SteelersPRMike) November 16, 2020