The Pittsburgh Steelers are riding a two-game winning streak and have won three of four games since the much-needed Week 9 bye week.
Turns out, they’re getting relatively healthy and firing on all cylinders at just the right time. Sitting at 5-7 on the season, Mike Tomlin has the Steelers right in the thick of things when it comes to the AFC playoff picture and the final two Wild Card spots.
Though things seem to be trending in the right direction currently, the wheels will fall off soon for the black and gold, at least according to NFL.com columnist Jeffri Chadiha.
In his latest “5 things we know” column regarding the NFL, Chadiha writes that he knows the Steelers will finish with a losing record for the first time in the Mike Tomlin era, in large part due to the upcoming schedule for the black and gold.
“Tomlin has a produced a Hall-of-Fame worthy career because he’s gotten the most out of every team he’s led since the Steelers hired him in 2007. He’s been doing the same thing in Pittsburgh with this group, even though it’s not going to end in typical fashion for him,” Chadiha writes regarding the Steelers. “The man has gone 15 years without a losing season. He has a 5-7 team that needs to win four of its last five games for that streak to continue to 16. Not gonna happen.
“That’s not a knock on Tomlin. It’s just reality. The Steelers will see the Ravens twice, the Browns and the Raiders before the season ends. Sure, there are questions about those teams, but they’re all better than Pittsburgh right now. To be honest, it was stunning that Tomlin dragged a weak Steelers squad into the postseason in 2021. The Steelers are still mathematically alive in the postseason race. But they’re about to start fading fast.”
Based on the way the Steelers are trending currently, that’s a rather bold take from Chadiha to put in his “what I know” part of his column.
On paper, the Ravens (twice), Raiders and Browns look a bit formidable, but some context is needed.
The Ravens haven’t beaten the Steelers since the 2019 season. The Steelers have won four straight against the AFC North rivals. Add in the fact that the Ravens likely won’t have Lamar Jackson on Sunday and are already down key pieces offensively in J.K. Dobbins, Rashod Bateman and more, it’s going to be tough for Tyler Huntley to do enough to lead the Ravens to a win.
While the Raiders are playing good football right now, they’ll be facing off against the Steelers on Christmas Eve in a nationally televised game in which Steelers legend Franco Harris will be honored at halftime with a jersey retirement. There will be extra added juice for that game, and for a team that plays inside a dome, that will likely be a very cold, potentially snowy game.
As for the Browns, getting Deshaun Watson back in the lineup is a huge boost for Cleveland. While he was bad in his return, he’ll have a handful of games back under his belt by the Week 18 matchup and should be raring to go in his first tilt with the Steelers as part of the Browns rivalry.
With all that said, assuming the Steelers can’t win four of their next five down the stretch feels like a bit of a reach for Chadiha, considering how the black and gold are playing and who is on the schedule. It’s hard to circle a single game in which there’s a definitive loss for the Steelers. That bodes well for Tomlin and his team moving forward.
Based on the way the Steelers have turned things around in the second half so far, banking on them finishing with a losing record feels like a bit of a risky gamble.