Back when the “norm” really was the “norm” for the Pittsburgh Steelers, no one was looking for the silver lining at 6-8 and last place in the AFC North.
But the standards surrounding the Steelers have fallen dramatically in the six years since their last playoff win, so we do things like that now in Pittsburgh. Take, for example, the month-long missions by fans and media to search for relevance within this wayward 2022 season finale.
Can the Steelers keep the Micro’s playoff hopes alive over Christmas? Can the Steelers extend their streak of non-losing seasons to 19 consecutive years? Can they sweep the NFC South?
Ike. There is a low bar.
But at least the Steelers ended that final achievable goal Sunday, by winning their fourth game in four attempts against this woeful NFC division. Coach Mike Tomlin’s team did just that by going to Charlotte, NC, and beating the Panthers 24-16.
This means that four of the Steelers’ six wins have come against a very rotten division, all of whose teams are 6-8 or worse. So, being an actual champion in the cross-conference division isn’t very impressive in this case.
In fact, as Mark Madden of TribLIVE and 105.9 The X pointed out during his “Madden Monday” podcast this week, it’s a little dangerous.
It’s been suggested that this latest win over another bad NFC South team makes it easier for the Steelers to trick their fans – and themselves – into believing they’re better than the truth is.
“It allows the Steelers to provide an illusion, not least to themselves, about what they need to do to win,” Madden said. “They won this game against Carolina by running the ball and playing defense. That’s the way they like to play it. That’s their style that dates back to the Super Steelers in the ’70s. But it wouldn’t work against a good team. And it wouldn’t work over the course of 17 games.” It enhances their way of doing things, but they can’t win – play that way – enough.”
• Feats of power: The Steelers win the battle for the running game, third down, and red zone en route to victory over Carolina
• The Steelers used their running game and defense to defeat Carolina
• Mike Tomlin: The Steelers showed a lack of intelligence by committing 3 personal fouls in the win over Carolina
On Sunday, the Steelers passed Carolina 156 yards to 21 yards. Those 21 yards was a season low for the Panthers and a season better for the Steelers defense, which also held the New Orleans Saints (another NFC South team) to 29 yards again on November 13.
As for the Steelers quarterback position, Kenny Pickett has a short week to get cleared and ready for the Las Vegas Raiders. They come to Accresor Stadium on Saturday night. Mitch Trubisky led the team to victory Sunday in Charlotte, despite passing just 179 yards. Madden expects the Steelers to return to Pickett to compete against Vegas.
“I do. But they would have been better off playing Trubisky all season because he’s the best quarterback,” Madden insisted. “I don’t see how anyone can look at the way Pickett played in his time and how Trubisky played in his time and not conclude that Trubisky is the best midfielder.”
Both QBs complete exactly 65% of their throws. They both threw four touchdowns. Pickett has eight interceptions. Trubisky has five. Pickett averages 179 yards per contest, Trubisky 178. Trubisky also has a higher passer rating (81.1 to 74.9), and his yards per pass attempt (7.0) are slightly more than Pickett’s (6.1).
But Pickett is the Steelers’ first-round pick, and Trubisky is a veteran of his third-team pick just a year earlier. So expect the Steelers’ preference for Pickett’s play to continue over the past three weeks in the name of developing the 20th overall pick in the draft.
Also on the podcast, Madden and I discuss the penguins’ recent play. We’re in the final of the World Cup, and we’re looking at the numbers of Pirates freshman Austin Hedges.
Hear: Tim Benz and Mark Madden talk the Steelers, Penguins, and more
Tim Benz is a writer for the Tribune-Review. You can contact Tim at email@example.com or via Twitter. All tweets can be retweeted. All emails are subject to publication unless otherwise specified.
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