In the NFL, teams can not afford to lose games against opponents that they are better than. The Pittsburgh Steelers are finding this out as they are paying for early season losses to the Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans.
The Steelers saw their record drop to 6-4 after losing to the Baltimore Ravens Sunday night. This dropped Pittsburgh two games behind 8-2 Baltimore with six to play. If the Steelers had beaten either Oakland or Tennessee they would be 7-3 and only one game back. If they had beaten both of them then Pittsburgh would be tied with the Ravens at 8-2.
In a 16 game season every game counts. Teams can not afford to lose any of them. The best teams win games that, on paper, they are supposed to win. The Steelers went into Oakland and blew two 10 point leads in losing to the Raiders. Oakland’s record stands at 3-7. Pittsburgh lost a Thursday night game on the road to Tennessee in which they had many chances to win. The Titans record is 4-6. The Steelers have also lost to the Denver Broncos.
When Pittsburgh lost to Tennessee their record dropped to 2-3. This put them in an early hole as Baltimore started the year 4-1.
Unlike the Steelers, the Ravens did not lose to inferior opponents. Baltimore did not play great against the Cleveland Browns in either of their games, but beat them twice. The Ravens gave up a ton of yards to the Dallas Cowboys, but beat them, 31-29. When Baltimore played the Raiders they crushed them 55-20. Sure, three of these games were at home while Pittsburgh lost on the road, but the Ravens did what they had to do.
By building a 7-2 record going into the Steelers game, Baltimore had a little wiggle room if they had lost. By winning, they all but buried Pittsburgh in the AFC North race.
The Steelers problems have been compounded by losing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to a shoulder injury. Without him, they have scored 16 points in six quarters of football. The man who has taken Roethlisberger’s place, Byron Leftwich has not thrown a touchdown pass. Pittsburgh was not able to move the ball consistently against Baltimore or the Kansas City Chiefs a week earlier.
When a team loses early season games they can never get them back. There is no guarantee that they will win the next game after a loss or any of the others on their schedule. A team can not say, ‘Well we lost to Oakland, but we’ll beat Cleveland twice and get those games back.’ All it takes is one key injury and everything changes. For the Steelers that injury came against Kansas City when Roethlisberger went down.
The Ravens have had their share of injuries, also, but Baltimore has won games anyway. By going 6-2 in the front end of their schedule the Ravens have taken control of the division.
By losing to Oakland and Tennessee, Pittsburgh put itself in a hole that will be hard to climb out of. Though they are 6-4 and in playoff contention, the Steelers are about winning championships.
They can’t win them by losing to teams like Oakland and Tennessee.