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The Steelers Under Mike Tomlin are a Football Anomaly



Steelers HC Mike Tomlin
Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin against the Green Bay Packers, Nov. 12, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

The Steelers can’t keep getting away with this, right? They are now 6-0 in one-score games, lead the league in turnover differential, have forced the most turnovers in the NFL, and turned the ball over the second least in the NFL. Dating back to last season, they have won nine of ten in the crunch-time games. It’s truly baffling, but the Minnesota Vikings pulled off this stunt last year, too. That did not end well for them, getting bounced early in the playoffs.

There are a lot of signs pointing to this stopping for Pittsburgh soon. Turnovers can be a volatile stat, though the defensive impact the Steelers have just seemed real. Offensively, though, they are a team benefitting from turnover luck. But no team should be able to win this much in close games. Naturally, they are coin flips. Don’t tell the Steelers that, though.

Steelers Mike Tomlin

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin at practice on Oct. 25, 2023. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Do you think that 6-0 is not sustainable? You could be right that Pittsburgh might drop a game or two, but Mike Tomlin has his teams winning an absurd rate of one-score games. Pittsburgh is 48-22-2 over the last seven seasons in one-score games. Yes, not the previous year or two, but the last seven seasons.

Is it Sustainable?

Folks, that’s not a wait-and-see sample size. Pittsburgh is just really good at winning close games. It’s a higher winning percentage than any other team in the NFL since that time, and it spans multiple quarterbacks. Tomlin has this down to a science. Instead of losing 50 percent of the time, Tomlin is losing just 33 percent of the time in those close games. That’s an absurd stat.

I won’t tell you that Pittsburgh will run out of teams. There can be repeats of San Francisco, Houston, and Jacksonville. It is on Pittsburgh, who has more than enough talent to win and compete in those games, not to let the fun get off the track. But when the games do stay on the tracks, it’s pretty clear that the Steelers are excellent at winning those football games.

The data says one thing that seems true — if the Steelers drag you into the mud with them, generally, there is a good chance you will lose. By doing that, they have pulled off stunning upsets against the Bills, Bengals, and other top teams. The opportunistic defense creates turnovers, and even if Pittsburgh’s offense has struggled in recent seasons, that defense always gives them a chance to cash in on big plays.

There is a formula to this. Does it work in the playoffs? The data would say, well, no, it does not. Offenses have to be prolific to win in that area. But until then, with a few teams that appeared undermanned, this is a very impressive stat that shows why the Steelers keep winning. But it needs to continue if Pittsburgh wants to make the playoffs. They already knocked off the Browns and Ravens. They will have plenty of other contenders to grapple with and try to pull off the same magic trick.