Updated: Nov 17, 2021
(Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
Prior to Sunday's tie against the winless Lions, the Steelers won their last three games by a combined 10 points. They're averaging just 19.7 points per game, which ranks 26th in the league. And then on defense, they've been incredibly disappointing. Outside of All-Pros T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward, the performances have been subpar.
The biggest issue is not being able stop the run. The Lions somehow rushed for 229 yards against the Steelers. Devin Bush has been awful. He honestly might be a bust. And on the defensive line, it's Cameron Heyward and just a bunch of guys. They're really missing Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu right now.
Also, the defense has just eight takeaways in nine games this season. They're just not getting the turnovers like they were in 2019 and 2020 when they ranked 1st and 2nd in taking the ball away.
Yeah, the Steelers didn't have Ben Roethlisberger for the Lions game due to him being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. They would have won with Roethlisberger, no doubt. He wouldn't have short-armed an open Ray-Ray McCloud in the end zone for a touchdown or misplaced the ball to Diontae Johnson on third-and-3 with open grass in front. Johnson would have got in field goal range or at least close to set Chris Boswell up for the game-winner.
However, I don't know if the Steelers would have blown out the Lions with Roethlisberger. They're just not great offensively. The O-line is just OK and it's not like it's the Roethlisberger from five to six years ago.
The Steelers are now entering the brutal part of their schedule. Five of the Steelers' last eight games are on the road. The Vikings are the only team that they'll face who currently has a losing record.
Here are the Steelers' final eight games -- at Chargers, at Bengals, Ravens, at Vikings, Titans, at Chiefs, Browns and at Ravens. They'll probably need to win at least four games to make the playoffs at 9-7-1. With that schedule and the injuries that the Steelers are currently dealing with, I'm not sure if they even get to .500 at 8-8-1.
The Steelers have been on a trend of collapsing down the stretch also. They lost four of their last six games in 2018 and missed the playoffs. And then in 2019, they lost their last three games and missed the postseason. Last year, the Steelers started the season 11-0 and lost five of their last six games, including the wild-card game to the Browns at Heinz Field.
I could see the Steelers perhaps losing their last four games, or like in 1998 their last five games of the season. And coincidentally that losing streak started with a loss to the Lions in overtime on Thanksgiving Day. Yeah, I know the Steelers didn't lose to the Lions, but it still felt like a loss with it being a tie. Hopefully I'm wrong, but for some reason, this season just feels like 1998.