The Pittsburgh Steelers couldn’t have asked for a better start to the 2020 season. Pittsburgh rattled off 11 straight wins to begin the year, as they remained the only undefeated team in the NFL and the No. 1 seed in the AFC through Week 12.
But the tides have turned in the last few weeks. The Steelers have dropped two games in a row after starting the season 11-0, and their glaring weakness has been exposed in the process.
The Steelers looked like the best team in the NFL through 12 weeks
The Steelers were cruising along just fine nearly three-quarters of the way through the 2020 season. Pittsburgh started the year 11-0 with dreams of joining the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the second team to ever finish an NFL season undefeated.
The Steelers didn’t have a tough schedule through their first 11 games, but they did have a blowout win against the surprisingly impressive Cleveland Browns and two close victories over the Baltimore Ravens on their resume.
Pittsburgh’s defense was the biggest reason for the team’s 11-0 start. The Steelers are allowing an NFL-best 18.2 points per game this season. They’re also tied with the Dolphins with the most defensive takeaways this season with 25. Their 17 interceptions are an NFL-high.
The offense was humming along through the first 11 weeks of the season, too. Pittsburgh averaged 29.8 points per game through Week 11, which was the fourth-best mark in the league at the time.
The Steelers looked poised to challenge the Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC crown in the 2020 playoffs, but not anymore.
The Steelers have lost two games in a row after an 11-0 start
Steelers fans were waving their terrible towels and dreaming of a seventh Super Bowl parade after the team’s 11-0 start. But those towels started to slow down in the last two weeks, as Pittsburgh has dropped two games in a row to fall to 11-2.
The Steelers lost a stunner to the Washington Football Team at home in Week 13. Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball 53 times for 305 yards, but the offense still only mustered two touchdowns and a field goal in the game.
Pittsburgh then traveled to upstate New York to face off against the AFC East-leading Buffalo Bills this week. After a 7-0 start to the game, the Steelers allowed 23 unanswered points and went on to lose 26-15.
The Steelers’ lack of a run game has been exposed as their fatal flaw
During the Steelers’ 11-0 run to start the season, the offense was a balanced attack with James Conner handling primary backfield duties and a slew of dangerous wide receivers causing damage on the outside. They were fourth in the NFL in scoring through 11 weeks, but they’ve fallen to the bottom of the league in recent weeks.
Since Week 12, the Steelers are averaging just 17 points per game, which is the fifth-lowest mark in the NFL over that span. Opposing defenses have finally figured out Pittsburgh’s fatal flaw — its run game.
The Steelers are averaging just 89.1 rushing yards per game this season, which is the second-lowest mark in the NFL. The Houston Texans are the only team worse than the Steelers in terms of running the ball.
Pittsburgh has been even worse on the ground of late. Over the last three games, the Steelers are averaging a measly 45.3 rushing yards per game. They only managed 21 yards on the ground against Washington. With Conner back in the lineup against Buffalo, the Steelers still only managed 47 yards.
Teams are starting to learn the Steelers are a disaster in the run game, and they’re loading up in the secondary to stop Pittsburgh’s pass-heavy attack. You need to have some semblance of a balanced offense to make a run in the NFL playoffs, and the Steelers simply don’t have that this year.
11-0 will be a distant memory when Pittsburgh is bounced in the first round this postseason.
All stats courtesy of ESPN