Tim Benz: Appreciate Steelers winning streak without massaging their slow start | TribLIVE.com
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Tim Benz: Appreciate Steelers winning streak without massaging their slow start

Tim Benz
1900901_web1_gtr-Steelers11-110319
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Bud Dupree celebrates with T.J. Watt after Watt’s sack of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Brian Hoyer in the fourth quarter Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019 at Heinz Field.

The Pittsburgh Steelers started the season 0-3.

Then 1-4.

Despite numerous injuries and offseason defections, they have scratched their way back to 4-4 and remain within shouting distance of playoff contention.

“It’s good to be .500 at the turn,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said Sunday.

“It’s good to be sitting at 4-4. I never thought I’d hear myself say that.”

Me either.

For now, can’t that be enough?

Can’t we just appreciate the Steelers salvaging the first half of this season without overhyping what they might be?

Or — perhaps better phrased — what they have been?

Instead of trying to make the Steelers out to be a 7-1 wolf in .500 sheep’s clothing, maybe just worry about how they can contain Aaron Donald Sunday when the Los Angeles Rams come to town.

Despite how some fans and media may try, the NFL can’t adjust the Steelers’ win total based on recent fluctuations.

Minkah Fitzpatrick ran really fast on his 96-yard interception return for a touchdown. But it’s not like he was Superman spinning the globe backwards in time.

I’m referring to sentiments like these, attempting to qualify why — and how — the Steelers lost the four games that they did in the first five weeks.

Are we really doing this again? Already?

Is this the sequel to the #JustAFewPlaysAway season of 2018?

I thought the Steelers were trying to qualify for the NFL playoffs. Not the college football playoff.

Does strength of victory and quality of loss really matter? Since when have we become a fan base that takes so much comfort in close calls and near misses?

So much for the ol’ “standard is the standard” credo.

The mentality of “well, they only lose to the good teams” amuses me.

Theoretically, the good teams are the ones that’ll be in the playoffs, right? So that doesn’t portend very well, does it?

This stuff drives me insane. Because this mentality is often only advanced from one end of the lens.

Because while you’re “reminding” me that the Steelers’ four losses have come against four likely playoff teams, I’ll remind you that their wins have come against the 4-5 Los Angeles Chargers, the 1-7 Miami Dolphins, the 0-8 Cincinnati Bengals, and a 5-3 Colts team that lost their starting quarterback, center, cornerback and wide receiver between Wednesday’s practice and the second quarter of the game Sunday.

So if you want to drop “good losses” in my lap, I’ll throw “easy wins” in yours.

If you want to cite injuries being an issue for the Steelers in their defeats, I’d suggest you take a look at who sat out for the Bengals (A.J. Green and much of the offensive line), Chargers (Melvin Ingram, Derwin James), Colts (Jacoby Brissett , T.Y. Hilton), and Dolphins (pretty much everybody they had left).

I know, the Steelers were unlucky with Donte Moncrief’s drops and James Conner’s fumble.

Were they lucky when Adam Vinatieri missed that potential game-winning field goal Sunday? Or when the Niners turned over the ball to them five times in the same game?

Oh, sorry. This exercise isn’t supposed to work that way?

The refs robbed them on the Terrell Edmunds’ pass-interference penalty versus the Seahawks. I get it. But did they get some help on that long-reviewed spot against the Dolphins?

Hey, you can keep moving the goalposts. I’ll keep moving them back. I can do this all day.

Even looking ahead, Steelers fans like to crow about the weak schedule the Steelers could exploit the rest of the season.

That’s true. They have five games remaining against teams with three wins or less.

Great. The Buffalo Bills — the AFC’s top wild-card contender at 6-2 — have four such games remaining.

Anyone check on the 4-4 Raiders? Their divisional game against the Chiefs is their only one left against a team currently above .500.

See where I’m going with this? The NFL is as deprived of quality teams as it has ever been. This .500, injury-addled, star-crossed Steelers team is helping to personify that.

I got into this debate with a few people on Twitter. Here’s how it went.

Isn’t that what I am? I’m optimistic that their quick turnaround shows this former 1-4 team can somehow stay in the playoff race until mid-December. Their soft schedule and the lack of quality competition for the two wild-card spots realistically gives them a pulse moving forward.

It’s also realistic — based on 12 seasons of watching Tomlin-coached Steelers football — to assume one of these rotten teams will upset the Steelers sometime soon.

So let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Appreciate what the Steelers have done to weather the storm and bounce back after such a dreadful start.

But spare me the woulda, coulda, shoulda mentality. I got all filled up with that somewhere around the time Chris Boswell was falling to the turf in Oakland a year ago.

And if Fitzpatrick really can spin the earth backwards, maybe he could push a few more spins to get it back to that day so we could tell Ben Roethlisberger where the X-ray machine is, that’d be nice.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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