Throughout the rich history of the NFL (post-merger), only two teams, the 1972 Miami Dolphins and the 2007 New England Patriots, have enjoyed an undefeated regular season. At 10-0, the 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers have all-but locked up a division title, with the AFC’s lone bye week within reach.
So the question remains, will the Steelers, like the Dolphins and Patriots before them, pull off an undefeated regular season?
Will the Pittsburgh Steelers Go Undefeated?
vs. the Baltimore Ravens
ESPN Odds: Steelers, 58.3%
The Baltimore Ravens should’ve been the biggest roadblock for the Steelers. Pittsburgh’s hottest contemporary rival gave them a real fight the first time they played, and nearly won despite Lamar Jackson turning the ball over four times. The rematch, in Baltimore, on Thanksgiving night, seemed like a big chance for Baltimore to get their win back.
However, the Ravens are slipping a little bit. Not only have they lost three of their last four, but they’ve had a COVID outbreak on what is already a very short week. It remains to be seen how many Ravens can play, and how well they play.
vs. the Washington Football Team
ESPN Odds: Steelers, 78.4%
This should be an easy win for the Steelers. While the
WTF WFT has a promising defense, their offense leaves a lot to be desired. The Steelers have a tendency to play down to bad teams, but after a long week off, I’d be astonished if they blew this one.
@ the Buffalo Bills
ESPN Odds: Steelers, 60.3%
This game is gonna be an interesting one. The Bills are almost certainly a playoff team this year, and in Buffalo, the weather might be a bit of a challenge for the Steelers offense. I’d probably pick Pittsburgh to win, but it could be interesting.
@ the Cincinnati Bengals
ESPN Odds: Steelers, 78.7%
This should be a runaway win for the Steelers. I don’t know that the ESPN robot knows the extent of Joe Burrow’s injury. The only reason they had a prayer of winning games this season was their stunning rookie, and without him… I’d be surprised if they won another game.
vs. the Indianapolis Colts
ESPN Odds: Steelers, 67.3%
I’ve been critical of the Indianapolis Colts, but they just keep winning games. They handled one of the NFC’s best teams in Green Bay this weekend. Their defense seems to be legit, and their offense is good enough. This could be a tough challenge for Pittsburgh.
@ the Cleveland Browns
ESPN Odds: Steelers, 69.9%
Secondly, Cleveland has made some incredible progress this year. Kevin Stefanski has this team playing physical, old-school football, and I like it. They’re firmly in the wildcard hunt, and could be an ugly team to play as the weather gets colder.
But Pittsburgh has had Cleveland’s number for a while, and I’m not quite sure they’re ready to compete with the Steelers. Barring, of course, a situation where the Steelers have already locked up the number one seed and they bench their starters.
vs. the 2007 New England Patriots
Going undefeated takes great coaching, incredible talent, and a healthy helping of good luck. The 1972 Miami Dolphins, who only had to win 14 regular season games, had 12 Hall of Famers on the roster, were number one in both offense and defense, and out-scored their opponents 385-171. But they also played in a completely different NFL. A more telling comparison would be Tom Brady’s 2007 Patriots team.
The 2007 Patriots
The 2007 Patriots were a juggernaut. Tom Brady’s 50 passing touchdowns were the most by any quarterback in a season at the time, and Randy Moss’s 23 receiving touchdowns are still the most by anybody in a single season. They had almost 5,000 yards through the air and over 1,800 yards and 17 scores on the ground.
The defense wasn’t bad either, registering 47 sacks, forcing 15 fumbles, and snagging 19 interceptions. The defense only gave up about 288 yards and 17 points a game, which obviously didn’t hurt the offense, which was moving for about 411 yards and 37 points a game. That means the Patriots won their 16 regular season games by an average of almost twenty points.
They were incredible, and it took the heart and physicality of Michael Strahan’s Giants to impede the league’s first 19-0 season. How do the Steelers match up?
Defensively, the Steelers might be better than the undefeated Patriots team. New England had 47 sacks with 19 interceptions in sixteen games, but Pittsburgh has had 38 sacks and 15 picks in only ten games. They’re on pace for a whopping 60 sacks and 24 interceptions. Nobody in the NFL has given up fewer points per game (the same 17 as new england), and their 306 yards per game in the modern NFL isn’t shabby either.
Offensively, they’re no slumps either. Ben Roethlisberger is playing the most efficient football of his entire career, the run-game is good enough, and only three teams have scored more points this season.
For me, the glaring difference between the 2007 Patriots and 2020 Steelers is margin of victory. The Patriots won their games by an average of almost three touchdowns, even with a couple of nail biters thrown in there. But the Steelers? Only about 12 points. Still an impressive margin, but when you consider they beat down a banged up Cleveland Browns team and the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars, it loses a bit of it’s shine.
Especially when they weren’t exactly boatracing the other bad teams they faced. The Steelers have played three fourths of the pitiful NFC East, the shaky Denver Broncos, and the directionless mess they call the AFC South. Their most impressive win to this point was a nailbiter against the Baltimore Ravens where Lamar Jackson still turned the ball over four times.
Half of Pittsburgh’s wins are by a single score or less, and they have taken advantage of a very favorable schedule. That’s not Pittsburgh’s fault, and all wins are equal, but in comparison to a legendary team like the ’07 Pats… the Steelers come up very, very short.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are a great team. Mike Tomlin is Coach of the Year, Ben Roethlisberger is Comeback Player of the Year, and you can go ahead and tie a bow around the AFC North for the Black and Yellow. Having said that, it’s going to be a no from me.
Frankly, the Steelers have been lucky to stay undefeated to this point. If a ball bounces left instead of right in several games, we’re not having this conversation. They don’t have the world’s toughest schedule ahead, but with Pittsburgh’s penchant for playing down to bad opponents, I just don’t think it’s realistic that they’ll run the table.