The Pittsburgh Steelers were so close, yet so far
At least they made it very interesting.
With three weeks to play in the 2022 NFL regular season the Pittsburgh Steelers needed 11 games — including each of their remaining three games — to go their way.
They not only needed to win out after a frustrating loss to the Baltimore Ravens, but they needed a bunch of other teams to lose.
They got 10 of the results to go their way.
The Steelers took care of their business and finished the regular season on a four-game winning streak, including Sunday’s 28-14 win over the Cleveland Browns, which capped off a 7-2 run after a 2-6 start to finish with a winning record.
That was still not enough as the Miami Dolphins spoiled the Steelers’ playoff hopes with an 11-6 win over the New York Jets to claim the No. 7 playoff spot in the AFC.
There are a lot of ways to look at this outcome and the season as a whole.
On one hand, this is a team that was not given much of a chance to be competitive in the preseason. Most experts and analysts had them on the outside of the playoff picture, finishing with a losing record, and most likely finishing in last place in the AFC North. They had a lot of question marks. The quarterback situation was a total mystery, the offensive line was one of the worst in the league on paper, and the offense in general was very inexperienced with a bad offensive coordinator. Not only that, they were playing in a division with the reigning AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals, a contending Baltimore Ravens team, and a Browns team that always looks good on paper even if it consistently fails on the field.
I thought anything between seven and 10 wins was possible.
But when the Steelers started the season with a 2-6 record, and given how the offense looked to be even worse than it was a year ago, a lot of those projections dropped down to four or five wins.
Based on that, and based on preseason expectations, finishing with nine was is probably better than anybody expected. So that’s not really a bad season by that measure.
On the other hand, they still missed the playoffs and they had PLENTY of opportunities to get there. With an even adequate offense they could have easily won three or four more games, maybe competed for a division title, and perhaps been a playoff lock. In hindsight, the early season losses to New England and the New York Jets were lousy losses. They had a very good chance to beat Miami and the Baltimore game was also there for the taking.
In that sense, it is a very disappointing season because it was all right there for the taking.
But there is one additional layer to all of this: Even if the Steelers had made the playoffs as a wild card team, they were probably not going to do much, and certainly not as a road team in Buffalo or Kansas City. If they had snuck in as the No. 7 seed they would have had to go through both places in the opening two rounds if they could have somehow stolen a game. That probably was not going to happen as there is a pretty sizable gap between them and the AFC’s top contenders.
So where do they go from here? Let’s talk about that and wrap up a few other observations and thoughts on the season.
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