On Sunday morning, the Steelers were 7-4. They had a pair of home games four days apart against teams that entered the tournament with identical 2-10 records.
And the Steelers lost both games.
As noted on the Amazon Postgame Show, the Steelers became the first team in league history with a record above .500 to lose at least eight consecutive games to teams below .500. While opportunities for such a feat undoubtedly don’t pop up often, the Steelers found a way to pull it off.
What makes the history-making losses even more poignant is the fact that both happened in Pittsburgh.
The full outcome won’t be known until the next four games are played. Maybe they can turn it around and still go to the postseason. Or maybe they had a mental breakdown after throwing a clear shot to go up 9-4. Instead, they’re 7-6, their starting quarterback is still injured, and they find themselves among a pack of teams competing for three wild-card spots in a wide-open AFC.
They face the Colts, Bengals, Seahawks and Ravens to close out the season. They have proven, under longtime coach Mike Tomlin, the ability to find a way to fight through any and all adversity and emerge with at least a winning record. Maybe they’ll do it again, winning two of the last four. Maybe 9-8 will be good enough to make the playoffs.
Or maybe Sunday and Thursday’s events are proof that the magic is gone and won’t be regained within the next month. They have two extra days to prepare for their visit to Indy. The Colts, along with every other team the Steelers face, will be playing for something — unless the Ravens somehow lock up the No. 1 seed in Week 17 and sit out their starters for the playoffs, as they did in 2019.
Regardless, back-to-back home losses for teams in the midst of losing seasons don’t provide cause for unbridled optimism in Pittsburgh. It’s going to be a grind. It will be a fight. And if the last two games mean anything, it’s going to be an ugly, smelly mess.