Is this just the Pittsburgh Steelers year?
To weave through a grueling National Football League regular season and survive the playoffs in three or four games against the best teams in the league, requires both talent and a bit of luck..
A season can be derailed by debilitating injuries, like the San Francisco 49ers have suffered this year. A season can be hindered by fluke plays that snatch a seemingly locked up victory only to be tallied in the losing column. A bad officiating call, a key fumble, an ill-advised pass into coverage have all been responsible for teams to slip out of contention for the NFL’s biggest prize.
Then, there is the one team that just seems to have the cards fall right for them and end their campaign in a confetti shower at the site of that year’s Super Bowl.
So far, in 2020, the team that has had things go their way is the same team that had their 2019 campaign sidelined by injuries, Pittsburgh.
The Steelers opened this season on the road in a Monday Night Football matchup against the New York Giants. A win there, followed by a second week narrow victory over the Denver Broncos at Heinz Field, have proven to be early season wins over teams that have gone on to find winning more difficult than an antelope outrunning a pursuing lion.
Wins over the Houston Texans, Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns followed, and then it got tough for the Steelers. If this was just an ordinary season for Pittsburgh they couldn’t have survived three Ben Roethlisberger interceptions while Tennessee missed a game tying field goal at the end of regulation three weeks ago.
Then two Sundays ago, after overcoming a minus three turnover ratio against Tennessee the week before, the Steelers needed the turnovers to beat their primary division rival on their home field. Out rushed and out passed decisively, 265 yards to 48 on the ground and 208 to 182 through the air, the Steelers capitalized on a plus three turnover ratio to eke out a 28-24 road win over the Baltimore Ravens.
Their eighth straight victory came last week, when they narrowly edged a pathetic Dallas Cowboys team while handing Jerry Jones’ boys their first point spread win of the season.
Okay, one might think, the Steelers luck has run as far as it can go. Like a rubber band stretched to it limit, isn’t it about time to snap back with a Pittsburgh loss?
Many might think this is the week when the much improved Cincinnati Bengals come calling with their rookie star quarterback, Joe Burrow, that the Steelers perfect season will be dented.
But, luck be with Pittsburgh this year, and luck is with them again this week.
Every team has a bye during the 17 week regular season, and only really good teams win games on both sides of their bye week. And, if a team has an emotional victory headed into their week off, they almost always come out of their open date with a struggle.
Recent cases to illustrate this point.
The Las Vegas Raiders handed the Kansas City Chiefs their only loss of the season at Arrowhead Stadium headed into their week off. When they got back into action, they hosted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and got blown out, 45-20. That was against the same Tampa Bay team that has struggled in their two games against the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints since that dominating win in Vegas.
Three weeks ago, the Arizona Cardinals downed the previously unbeaten Seattle Seahawks in a game they never led until they kicked the winning field goal in overtime. It was an emotionally draining and satisfying win for Kliff Kingsbury’s young Cardinals.
After that big win and their bye week, the Cardinals returned to action last Sunday and lost at home to the Miami Dolphins.
This week, the Bengals visit the Steelers after upsetting the Tennessee Titans before enjoying their open date last week. In other words, Cincinnati has had two weeks to celebrate that victory and take their 6-2 point spread record into Heinz Field with expectations they can compete against the only undefeated team in the league.
Not this week, not this year.
Qoxhi Picks: Pittsburgh Steelers (-7½) over Cincinnati Bengals