By Danny Cox
Four weeks of the 2012 NFL season have gone by and the Pittsburgh Steelers are sitting at 1-2 and near the bottom of the AFC North. If not for the Cleveland Browns starting out 0-4, the Steelers would be sitting in the cellar of their division and looking up at three teams instead of two.
This is nowhere near where Coach Mike Tomlin, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and the rest of the Steelers thought they would be.
In the first week of the season, the Steelers had a 19-14 lead on the Denver Broncos almost halfway through the fourth quarter. Peyton Manning and Tracy Porter then stepped up for the Broncos and destroyed Pittsburgh in the final nine and a half minutes to hand them a 31-19 loss.
From there, Roethlisberger took matters into his own hands in week two and decimated the defense of the New York Jets. Big Ben threw for 275 yards and two touchdowns en route to a 125.1 quarterback rating. The Jets looked like they weren’t even on the field at times.
Pittsburgh’s defense tightened up after the Steelers fell behind 10-6 halfway through the second quarter. From that point on, Roethlisberger threw two touchdowns and got a rushing score from Isaac Redman as they routed New York 27-10.
The Steelers were back on track with only the Oakland Raiders in their way before the bye week. It appeared as if they would soon be getting a break to heal and be sitting pretty over five hundred.
At this point, the injuries really began piling up for Pittsburgh. Running back Rashard Mendenhall was still out. James Harrison and Troy Polamalu would be out at least one more week due to their injuries, and the once feared defense was now one that had holes in it all over the place.
Pittsburgh traveled to Oakland and looked pretty good in holding their own with all of the injuries. At the end of the third quarter, Antonio Brown caught a touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to put the Steelers up 31-21. Things seemed to be in control yet again, but they changed quickly.
In the fourth quarter, the Raiders got a touchdown from Denarius Moore thrown by Carson Palmer, and then tied the game at 31 with less than seven minutes to go. Sebastian Janikowski entered the field one more time and booted a 43-yard field goal as time expired to give Oakland the win.
Upon their return from their bye, the Steelers face off against the Philadelphia Eagles. That is yet another team which has had its troubles this season, but they’ve been able to handle them better and have started out 3-1 atop the NFC East.
Pittsburgh needs to defeat Philly on Sunday in order to stay in the playoff picture. If they end with a loss to Michael Vick and the Eagles, it’s going to be a tough road to see themselves as contenders.
They’re already two games behind Baltimore and Cincinnati in the race to win the AFC North. Five other teams have better win-loss records than them which would leave only one position available if the playoffs were to start today.
Expectations have not been met so far this season, but the Steelers can change that as things go on from here. A little bit of help from the “healing fairy” and a victory against the Philadelphia Eagles would be a great way to kick-start things into gear and get them back on track for the playoffs.
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Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. His work can be found on Examiner.com.