The Pittsburgh Steelers finally won a game Sunday, defeating the New York Jets 19-6 at MetLife Stadium.
Next week, the Steelers host the Baltimore Ravens, who are 3-3 after a loss at home Sunday to the Green Bay Packers.
Seven of the last nine games played between the Ravens and Steelers have been decided by three points. If the ball bounces the Steelers way, they can win next week and improve to 2-4.
Then the Steelers are at Oakland in Week 8. Riding the momentum of a two-game winning streak, they can beat the 2-4 Raiders, Black Hole be damned.
That would put the Steelers at 3-4 as they head to Gillette Stadium to visit the New England Patriots. Anthony Smith isn’t around to provide Bill Belichick with bulletin-board material. So as long as Ryan Clark keeps his mouth shut, the Steelers can beat the Patriots and get to .500.
Then the Steelers will have back-to-back home games against the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions, neither of which reminds anyone of the ’85 Bears.
The Steelers will be in the thick of the playoff race in no time …
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold on a second.
Someone pour half a glass of cold water on our heads so we snap out of it and take a glass-half-empty look at the Steelers’ next few games.
The Steelers haven’t beaten the Ravens at home since January of 2011.
The Steelers haven’t won at Oakland since 1995. The Raiders hung with the unbeaten Chiefs on the road for a half Sunday, and they’ll be coming off a bye while the Steelers travel cross-country. And judging from the London fiasco, travel agent wouldn’t be the best career fallback option for Mike Tomlin.
As far as the Patriots go, the Steelers have never beaten a Tom Brady-led team at Foxboro.
Let’s not give “fantasy” football a whole new meaning and hallucinate a Steelers turnaround just yet. Remember this is just one win, and let’s look at who the Steelers beat.
While the 3-3 Jets are better than most pundits expected this season, don’t forget that they are the Jets. Their history is dotted with infamous defeats.
There was the Butt Fumble last season. There was the Dan Marino fake spike game in 1994. There was the loss to the 0-14 New Orleans Saints in 1980. The Jets are the only team to lose to the 1-15 Saints that year.
We’re not going to skip merrily through the forest and toss around black and gold rose petals after one win. But we won’t be wearing bags on our heads, either. Fans of the 1980 Saints did that, but the Steelers are better than the 1980 Saints. The Jets won’t be the only team they beat.
Heck, the Steelers are even better than the 2005 Houston Texans.
After their Week 4 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, the Steelers joined the 2005 Texans as the only other team in NFL history that hadn’t forced a turnover through the first four games of a season. That Texans team finished 2-14.
The Steelers finally forced a turnover Sunday. Two of them, in fact. Clark and Lawrence Timmons both intercepted Geno Smith passes inside the Steelers’ 5-yard line in the second half.
Those pickoffs foiled two potential touchdowns that would have given the Jets a one-point win, and they broke the Steelers’ historical bond with those ’05 Texans. Now they’re in the same boat with 10 teams who forced two turnovers or less through five games, according to Pro Football Reference.
So the Steelers’ accomplishments Sunday at least suggest that they’re not of the same ilk as a 2-14 team. They can make this season respectable.
After all, they’ve put those “Owen” (as in Owen Four) jokes to rest.
We don’t have to hear that anymore, and we no longer have to ruminate about the Steelers’ worst start in 45 years. We actually can point to a team of the glorious 1970s that was in the same situation as the 2013 Steelers.
The 1976 Steelers also were 1-4, but they won their last nine games (the regular season was 14 games back then) and reached the AFC championship game.
Backup quarterback Mike Kruczek led the Steelers to six of those victories. He was helped by a defense that allowed just 28 points in the last nine games, which demonstrates how much needs to go right for a team to make the playoffs after a 1-4 start.
This year’s Steelers don’t necessarily have to be that stingy on defense or even win nine straight games to get into the playoff conversation, but they have little margin for error. With 11 games remaining, they probably can afford to lose only two, maybe three, and still make the playoffs.
Sunday’s win was a step in the right direction. Nothing more than that.