Although the Dallas Cowboys gave them a scare, the Pittsburgh Steelers escaped with a victory on Sunday. While Mike Tomlin’s team certainly deserves credit for winning their first eight games, they should also thank NFL schedule makers for their undefeated start.
In fact, despite their perfect record, the Steelers may not even be the best team in the AFC. Dig deeper and you’ll quickly realize that Ben Roethlisberger and Co. have had an incredibly easy first-half schedule that takes away some of the shine from their hot start.
Pittsburgh survived on Sunday to stay undefeated
After rattling off seven consecutive wins, the Steelers traveled to Dallas to take on the 2-6 Cowboys. The matchup turned out to be much closer than expected.
Facing the NFL’s worst defense, Pittsburgh surprisingly struggled to put points on the scoreboard. In fact, the Steelers produced fewer total yards (355) than the Cowboys (364) in their 24-19 win.
Still, Ben Roethlisberger made plays when it mattered. Facing a 10-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter, the future Hall of Famer threw two touchdown passes, including an 8-yard strike to Eric Ebron that finally gave the Steelers their first lead of the game.
Despite a valiant effort by Garrett Gilbert, the Cowboys finished just short of staging a comeback. Dallas dropped to 2-7 while Pittsburgh remained undefeated thanks to a strong fourth-quarter performance on both sides of the ball.
The Steelers should thank NFL schedule makers for their 8-0 start
Although the Steelers boast a perfect record, they should be thanking NFL schedule makers for their 8-0 start. Because once you take a closer look at Pittsburgh’s first eight games, it’s easy to see why the team has yet to lose.
So far, the Steelers have played just three teams with winning records. In fact, their first four wins came against teams with a combined record of 10-22-1. According to Pro Football Reference, only the Indianapolis Colts have had an easier schedule than the Steelers in the AFC.
Is there really anything that impressive about beating a bad Houston Texans team by just a touchdown? Should Pittsburgh feel good about surrendering 29 points to the Philadelphia Eagles and their 24th-ranked offense?
While the Steelers demolished the Cleveland Browns in Week 6, they barely escaped with a win against the Tennessee Titans. After beating Ryan Tannehill and Co. by just a field goal, they nearly lost to the Baltimore Ravens before Chase Claypool caught an 8-yard TD pass to put Pittsburgh ahead.
Plus, it took a late touchdown to put away a Cowboys team that lost their last three games by an average margin of 21 points.
Ultimately, the Steelers have simply taken advantage of an incredibly soft schedule and have had far too many close games to be truly considered the team to beat in the AFC. NFL schedule makers did them a huge favor in the first half, and it appears as though Pittsburgh is primed for a strong second half of the season based on its remaining slate of opponents.
Will Mike Tomlin’s team finish the season with a perfect record?
After taking down the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium, the Steelers will look to move to 9-0 against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Overall, the rest of Pittsburgh’s schedule looks completely manageable, if not easily winnable.
- Week 10 – vs. Cincinnati
- Week 11 – at Jacksonville
- Week 12 – vs. Baltimore
- Week 13 – vs. Washington
- Week 14 – at Buffalo
- Week 15 – at Cincinnati
- Week 16 – vs. Indianapolis
- Week 17 – at Cleveland
The Ravens present the most challenging matchup, but the Steelers will have the benefit of home-field advantage. Other than Baltimore, none of Pittsburgh’s remaining opponents represent massive threats.
The Colts have been inconsistent this season and just lost by two touchdowns to the Ravens.
Meanwhile, the Browns may own a winning record after eight games, but will they still be in a position to compete for a playoff spot by Week 17? Cleveland certainly has a track record of falling short of expectations.
Ultimately, the Steelers have an excellent chance of running the table. Still, given the presence of Patrick Mahomes, it’s too early to crown them AFC champions.
After all, everything changes once the playoffs arrive.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference..