On Sunday, the 2-4 Pittsburgh Steelers will travel to California to take on another 2-4 team in the Oakland Raiders. Both teams have had pretty interesting seasons thus far to say the least. Oakland has lost most of their games, and in those games they haven’t played very well. The games they won were against the Jacksonville Jaguars and the San Diego Chargers. The win in San Diego showed that this team has a lot of hope and potential, but in statistically the league’s best division (AFC West) , Oakland won’t reach that potential at least for this season. They’ve played poorly more than they’ve played well. The Steelers are looking to win their third straight game and continue to stay alive. If they win on Sunday and the Cleveland Browns lose, they’ll move up to second place in the AFC North after being in dead last since Week 2. Interestingly enough, the Steelers have allowed 11 PPG in the last two games and have only allowed one touchdown to be scored. They have only scored two touchdowns of their own, however. If they can start scoring more touchdowns of their own, not only will they continue to win games (and probably run away with some), but they can become a legitimate contender again. The Steelers aren’t done yet. Their team is not much different than the last couple of years. A slow start doesn’t mean a slow season.
Take this into consideration: There are three teams in the NFL currently with two wins other than Oakland and Pittsburgh. The Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons and Washington Redskins are all teams with two wins. Interestingly enough, Houston, Atlanta, Washington and Pittsburgh all finished at .500 or above last season. What has been so different this season for these teams who didn’t really change that much in the offseason? In Houston’s case, the quarterback play has been awful. For Atlanta, they haven’t closed out close games like they normally do and they of course have had numerous injuries plaguing them. Washington played their first five games or so waiting for Robert Griffin III to get back to 100 percent. Pittsburgh’s running game, until last week, was pretty much non-existent, and the offensive line played terribly.
The only teams who have showed improvement the last couple of weeks are the Steelers and Redskins. Washington might still have a shot, but it’d be a stretch to see them making the postseason, especially with the way they have matched up against their own division (0-2). Atlanta is just too injury-prone right now to make a legitimate run, and Houston is just in shambles. So, that still leaves Pittsburgh at 1-1 in the division with two straight wins (including one against the defending champs) and a remaining schedule that isn’t exactly difficult for a team that has played like them the last two weeks. With the Browns looking like they’ll probably fall out, the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens may actually end up fighting for a Wild Card spot.
Let’s break it down. The four teams that win their division have an automatic playoff spot. Two teams will most likely come out of the AFC West, with the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs leading that division. So that leaves one playoff spot still up for grabs. The New York Jets and Chargers look like they have the best shot at it right now, but what about Pittsburgh and Baltimore? Their remaining schedules are about the same in strength. If the Steelers beat the Ravens again they own that tiebreaker, and if it came down to it they already own the tiebreaker against the Jets. The Chargers still have to play the Chiefs and Broncos twice and also still play the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals. They may not be able to keep it up.
So, when you look at things theoretically, Pittsburgh still has a chance. When looking at things futuristically, one can conclude that if Pittsburgh keeps playing this way, they can end up 9-7. That’s probably their best case scenario. But, in a season where the NFL is jam-packed with good football teams, 9-7 just might be enough. One thing is for sure, the Steelers are the best two-win football team right now.