Steelers' season -- and their future -- at a crossroads after brutal stretch

Ray Fittipaldo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Football

PITTSBURGH — Mike Tomlin's formula for winning this season always had such little room for error. Winning games while being outgained made for a cute storyline for a while, but Najee Harris spoke the most prophetic words of the season three weeks ago in Cleveland.

"If we keep playing this type of football, how long is that [expletive] going to last?"

Not long, Najee.

He uttered those words moments after the Steelers had fallen to 6-4 at the hands of a rookie quarterback making his second career start. That got offensive coordinator Matt Canada fired, but not much has changed.

Since then the Steelers are 1-2, and on Thursday night they lost to a quarterback making his third NFL start. They also made some dubious NFL history in the process.

NFL Network reported Friday morning the Steelers are the first team with a winning record to lose back-to-back games to opponents that were eight games under .500.


The NFL came into existence in 1920, and it's hard to imagine another team doing the same in the next 100 years.

Tomlin has put so much pressure on his defense to deliver week in and week out that it's surprising it took this long for the dam to break. The Steelers have been starting linebackers the past few weeks who weren't even on the 53-man roster a month ago. They've played with backup safeties for most of the second half of the season, too.

Even the Cardinals and Patriots, the dregs of the NFL, found ways to exploit the holes Tomlin and his staff haven't been able to patch.

They threw to their tight ends and running backs to get favorable matchups against inside linebacker Mykal Walker, who was signed off the street in late October. Even after he was beaten for two touchdowns in the first 20 minutes of play Thursday night, Tomlin kept running him out there.


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