Three weeks ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers became the first team in franchise history to win their first eight games. In Week 10, Pittsburgh became the NFL's first 9-0 team since the 2015 Panthers. On Wednesday (yes, Wednesday), the Steelers stayed undefeated after completing a season sweep of their AFC North rival Ravens. The NFL's last undefeated team, the Steelers currently have a one-game lead over the defending champion Chiefs for the race to secure the AFC's No. 1 seed. They also have a three-game lead over the Browns for first place in the AFC North.
Since the start of the Super Bowl era, 13 teams, including the 2020 Steelers, have won at last 11 games before losing their first game. Out of those teams, nine reached the Super Bowl, with five teams ending the year with the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Here's a look at each 11-0 NFL team since the start of the Super Bowl era.
|Started||Finished||Won Super Bowl?|
No (lost to San Francisco)
No (lost to the Giants)
No (lost to New Orleans)
No (lost to Denver)
While it's way too early to predict the Steelers' playoff fortunes, Pittsburgh's depth at various positions should enable them to withstand possible injuries better than most clubs. It will also give them more versatility as it relates to their possible playoff matchups.
One-dimensional teams seldom win the Super Bowl; just ask the '84 Dolphins, whose prolific passing attack was not able to deliver a third Lombardi Trophy to Miami. Conversely, the '06 Colts, after falling short of their goal the previous season, received vastly better play from their defense that allowed them to win the franchise's first title since moving from Baltimore to Indianapolis.
Pittsburgh's 1978 team, whose 7-0 start stood as the franchise's best mark until being passed by the current team, is another example of a team that possessed a complete team in all three phases. The Steel Curtain defense, albeit a little older, was still the league's most dominant unit. Pittsburgh's offense received a career year from quarterback Terry Bradshaw, who that season became the first and last Steeler to win league MVP. And while Bradshaw and the passing game was the focal point of the offense, Bradshaw certainly did not forget about his talented backfield duo of Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier, who both scored touchdowns during Pittsburgh's 35-31 win over Dallas in Super Bowl XIII.
The right arm of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been the Steelers' main mode of transportation on offense. Roethlisberger may be edged by Alex Smith for Comeback Player of the Year, but he is currently a front-runner to win league MVP. In Wednesday's 19-14 win over the Ravens, Roethlisberger attempted a season-high 51 passes, completing 71% of his throws despite several drops by his receivers. Monday's game against Washington may help further determine which quarterback takes come Comeback Player of the Year honors.
While they anything but perfect on Wednesday, the Steelers did enough to stay undefeated. Facing a Ravens team that was without a host of significant players (including reigning MVP Lamar Jackson), the Steelers committed two turnovers while going just 1-of-4 in the red zone. Pittsburgh's defense allowed two splash plays: a 39-yard run by quarterback Robert Griffin III and a 70-yard touchdown pass from Trace McSorley to Marquise Brown. On special teams, Chris Boswell missed his fourth extra point of the season, while Ray-Ray McCloud muffed punt set up the Ravens' first touchdown.
Despite the miscues, the Steelers received several strong individual performances. T.J. Watt racked up two of Pittsburgh's three sacks. Joe Haden's pick-six of Griffen got the Steelers on the board. Benny Snell, playing in relief of James Conner, racked up 93 total yards on 19 touches. J.C Hassenauer, who had just 42 career regular season snaps prior to Wednesday, filled in for Maurkice Pouncey after the eight-time Pro Bowl center was placed on the team's reserve/COVID-19 list hours before kickoff. James Washington's clutch third-down catch on the game's final possession helped put the game on ice.
"We don't have to reinvent the wheel," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said when asked about his team's struggles on Wednesday. 'It's not some transformational thing that needs to transpire. We've got to coach better and play better when we get inside the bowl. So I expect our team to play better on Monday night."
Can the Steelers go undefeated? They have the talent to do so, but health will likely play a significant role in that coming to fruition. The Steelers are dealing with a new injury after outside linebacker Bud Dupree reportedly suffered a torn ACL during Wednesday's win. Pittsburgh will also have to overcome its current challenge of playing three games in a 12-day span.
"It has been a very challenging last few days," Roethlisberger told the media after Wednesday's game. "Mentally, we're getting into that mental warfare, if you will. Proud of the way the guys won the game today, but we've got to get ready to keep going."