Eleven games, eleven victories. That's been the story of the 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that's continually walked away victorious from any matchup presented to them.
However, each win hasn't been to the tune of full domination from start to finish. In fact, it can be argued the Steelers have yet to play a game where all four quarters appeared to be in control.
Such was the tune on an unusual Wednesday Night Football matchup with the Baltimore Ravens. After a constant rollercoaster of delays, postponements and COVID-19 impacts, the Steelers finally met with a divisional foe missing their franchise quarterback and a plethora of other key players.
With many believing the Steelers were well on their way to an easy victory (Vegas had Pittsburgh as -10.5 point favorites), fate would again prove no stone can be left unturned in the National Football League. With a 12 point lead and under five minutes left to play, the Steelers appeared all but set to safely reach the finish line well before the Ravens.
Yet, a blown assignment by safety Terrell Edmunds led to a 70-yard touchdown reception by Marquise Brown, thrown by Baltimore's third-string quarterback Trace McSorley.
After collecting a handful of key first downs, however, Pittsburgh emerged victorious.
There's an old saying in the NFL: You are what your record says you are. In the grand scheme of things, Pittsburgh moved to 11-0 on Wednesday night. However, their play left a lot to be desired, a similar feeling after a handful of ball games this season.
Whether it be the countless passes dropped by essentially any Steelers pass-catcher, special teams blunders and Pittsburgh's inability to stop Baltimore's rushing attack effectively, the Steelers failed to again pass the oh-so-important eye test.
It's fair to say Pittsburgh hasn't fully peaked as a football team. It's also fair to say that's a good thing.
Far too often, we see football teams look Super Bowl ready at any early point in the season (a handful play in the AFC North) to only fall short when it matters most. These teams peak in the regular season, only for their best football to be played prior to the playoffs. No mistakes to fix. No reason to show up and get better week after week.
Admittedly so, Pittsburgh has a lot to fix with just five regular season games remaining. From balancing the offense through the ground to ensuring games aren't lost via special teams and every detail in-between, the Steelers are far from hoisting a Lombardi trophy.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin believes that statement to be true, acknowledging Pittsburgh's shortcomings even after remaining undefeated:
"To be bluntly honest, I'm really disappointed in our performance tonight. We did enough to win, but that's all," said Tomlin in his postgame press conference. "It was really junior varsity to be quite honest with you, and it was in all three phases... we're fortunate tonight."
With dates involving the 8-3 Buffalo Bills and 8-3 Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh's path to 16-0 remains unchanged as the team enters their December stretch of games. Losing the likes of Bud Dupree for the remainder of the season also puts a damper into the Steelers' plans, although rookie Alex Highsmith has shown some promise.
Peaking implies your best football is behind you, leaving little room for improvement. The Steelers are far from playing their best football, and with a record of 11-0, that should be highly encouraging ahead of a postseason that will require all cylinders to clicking at all times.
While those cylinders aren't quite there yet, they're slowly but surely starting to go.