Pittsburgh, PA (KDKA)- Thanks to their 17-12 win over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers are above .500 for the first time in the 2019 season. And, more importantly, Mike Tomlin’s group is in the thick of the playoff hunt as the second half of the season is officially underway.
The Steelers, winners of four straight, have gotten it done on the defensive side of the ball lately allowing just 14 points and 303 yards per game in that stretch. The team has been particularly adept at garnering pressure, picking up 14 sacks and 34 quarterback hits, and creating turnovers (14) in the winning streak. For a defense that began the year getting blown out by New England and giving up 28 points to the Seahawks, it’s been quite the turnaround. The biggest reason for that turnaround, according to Inside The NFL analyst and former NFL wide receiver Brandon Marshall, is the head coach.
“It’s Mike Tomlin. There are defining moments that bring a team together whether it is a game or a play or a situation. Everyone coming into this year knew that the Steelers had an uphill battle,” said Marshall. “No more Le’Veon Bell, no more Antonio Brown, how would they look? How would that high powered offense come into shape? Then, they lose Big Ben. We wrote them off as soon as that happened. To see the job that he has been able to do in bringing them together has been tremendous. To me, he is the coach of the year.”
High praise for Tomlin from Marshall, but the Steelers head coach has put himself in the conversation for coach of the year when you consider the circumstances. The team has started backup quarterback Mason Rudolph for most of the year and even had to insert third stringer Devlin Hodges for a game. That game, a win over the Los Angeles Chargers, is what started this winning streak.
The 5-4 record currently has the Steelers sitting in the final Wild Card spot in the AFC, leading the similarly surprising Oakland Raiders due to a better in conference record. With games left against Cleveland (twice), the Bengals, Cardinals and Jets, the schedule would seem to be in their favor. However, despite that favorable outlook, Marshall doesn’t believe the team can catch the Ravens in the division race.
“Right now, it is the Ravens division to lose,” said Marshall. “They’re doing a tremendous job and I don’t see the Steelers having enough power to take them over.”
The Ravens barely escaped in the first matchup of the season, winning 26-23 in overtime despite Hodges needing to enter the game in relief of Rudolph. Whether or not the Steelers catch the Ravens, the teams will meet in a Week 17 clash in Baltimore that could have playoff seeding implications for both squads.
You can get more NFL insights from Brandon Marshall along with Ray Lewis, Steve Smith Sr., Phil Simms, and host James Brown tonight when Inside The NFL airs on Showtime at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.