Steelers Opponent, Week 9: Bye Week

395973F9-63D3-4646-A6EB-54CB2D0A93F0Chillin’ at the Bye Week practice: Photo via Steelers.com

It may sound odd to characterize a week of rest as an “opponent.” And theoretically, what could be better than a chance to heal up and then go into the second half of the season with renewed vigor? Well, plenty, as it happens. Because one of the things a break like that can do is to interrupt the process of team-building, which in these degenerate days of a much lighter schedule in training camp, more of the team-building has to take place while you’re playing actual games that count.

And between all the drama that has characterized this season, what with Le’Veon Bell excusing himself from training camp and Martavis Bryant being excused by the league, we’ve certainly seen the offense in particular taking its own sweet time to gel. In fact, I think it is fair to say it hasn’t really done so yet.

Given all this, you could argue it isn’t the best thing for the team to have a bye just at this point. But my main interest in this article is to take a look at the Steelers under Mike Tomlin, post-bye week, in the same way I did for the Bengals and the Lions.

As we saw, those two particular teams have had very different post-bye results. While the Bengals’ overall win percentage is 53%, post-bye week it is 40.7%. Looking at the Bengals since Andy Dalton has been their quarterback, both numbers are better—60% overall and 50% after the bye—but as you can see they are distinctly worse after a bye. The Lions, on the other hand, are just the opposite—much better after a bye week than their overall record would indicate. Let’s just look at the figures since drafting Matthew Stafford. (Jim Caldwell hasn’t been their head coach very long, and may not last too much longer either…) Under Stafford they have won 43.7% of their games, but have won an astonishing 75% of their post-bye week games. (This figure will have dropped somewhat after last Sunday…)

So let’s do the same exercise for the Steelers:

Since 2003 the Steelers have won 63.8% of their games. During this time they have won 57.1% of their post-bye week games. If we confine it to the Mike Tomlin era, the overall wins rise slightly to 64.4%, but post-bye wins come up a bit more, to 60%. During most of the time it didn’t seem to matter whether the games were at home or away, and in fact Mike Tomlin, after his first season, had an unsullied post-bye record, with the Steelers winning six years in a row, even in a couple of years where the Steelers weren’t that great overall.

But—and it’s a big but—the Steelers have now lost the last three post-bye week games. The first was at home against a much inferior Saints team (the Steelers were 7-4 coming into the game, the Saints 4-7, and the Steelers ended the season 11-5, the Saints 7-9.) The last two were on the road, against Seattle in 2015 (the game in which Ben Roethlisberger self-reported a concussion) and last season’s game against the Ravens. The Ravens’ record wasn’t that much worse at the time (4-3 Steelers, 3-4 Ravens) but of course Baltimore ended the season 8-8.

So one could look at the losses the past two seasons as being part of the overall huge home-road splits for Ben Roethlisberger. But somehow it was a bit alarming to see it laid out that way.

This season the football gods seem to have set things up nicely for the Steelers, as they will travel to Indianapolis to take on a struggling Colts team, one which will presumably still be Luck-less, since he hasn’t yet practiced this season. These sorts of games make me quite nervous. But that would be whenever in the season it fell.

It will be interesting to see whether the opportunity to keep up with the Jones (or the Bradys, I suppose it is) will be enough to send a hungry and focused team to Lucas Oil Stadium next week. Because if the Steelers lose that game, one will have to conclude that, with the help of the bye week, the Steelers beat themselves.

11 comments

  • cold_old_steelers_fan

    Far be it for me to say that teams who beat themselves are just indulging in masochistic self-gratification. Instead I will rail at the unfairness of Caldwell losing his job when his greatest sin, as far as I can tell, is having an offensive line that would make a CFL coach blush. In spite of this he managed, using duct tape and baling wire, to get them to play way over their heads vs the Steelers. their failings only becoming apparent in the red zone.

    Hopefully the Steelers will use this break to heal without losing focus. I believe this season is Ben’s last hurrah and it would be a shame for it to fall short.

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  • One slight correction – the Ravens did NOT beat the Steelers twice last year, thanks to the Immaculate Extension.

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  • Interesting that you write about team building, Rebecca. Coach Tomlin had a surprise for the team on Wednesday. Weather wasn’t that great, so he chartered a couple of buses. At about four minutes after nine, Coach told the assembled team that they weren’t going to practice outdoors, but were going to hold a team building exercise at Dave and Busters. According to Missy Matthews, who was just down the hall, the place erupted into a giant cheer, and the guys headed for the buses and spent a good part of the day playing video games and hanging out.

    Tomlin told reporters this kind of team building and camaraderie is very much needed as the season wears on.

    Juju, who was wearing some kind of blonde or golden cartoon character wig at D&B’s, said he was in his element. Um. Yep.

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    • It amazes me that Mike Tomlin still has his detractors—or at least it amazes me that he still has detractors who don’t have another, shall we say, agenda. I think that if he were to go 16-0 and win the Super Bowl ever year there would still be a few who grumbled about how he’s a soft coach. The week after the Chiefs game Gerry Dulac’s Steelers chat was full of questions saying “why did they do this or that stupid thing,” and Dulac finally just started answering the questions with “you do realize they won the game, right?”

      I think that Tomlin, while he doesn’t necessarily know exactly how to deal with every single man that comes through the facility, gets it right with the great majority of them. Bryant is big new precisely because there are so few players who don’t want to be playing for the Steelers. A great many of them are on other teams, and not just the Browns…

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      • cold_old_steelers_fan

        I don’t know if it is so much he doesn’t want to be with the Steelers for the sake of it being the Steelers as much as he wants to be paid like a #1 WR even though he hasn’t earned it yet. He has flashed potential at times but not earned it.

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        • Oh, absolutely the issue is money. He’s all eaten up about the money he has “lost” (and for which he has only himself to blame.) Bob Labriola pointed out that his agent almost certainly had to front the money for his year in Las Vegas, and the agent is presumably quite concerned about getting the money back. But the agent shows little knowledge of how the Steelers operate if he thinks they can be pressured into caving. He will see his investment deactivated, I’m guessing, before he sees the Steelers let him go to another team, and that won’t help the cause at all.

          But I suspect Bryant knows he’s not going to be paid like a No. 1 unless he shows that sort of production. If he returns to 2015 form he certainly will. But every opportunity he squanders is going to be one opportunity closer to being irrelevant. And that’s on him. The Steelers want him to be successful just as much as he does, because it benefits them if he’s back to 2015 form in a big way, but they can take only so many chances on him. And that’s possibly what it’s hard for him to realize.

          He commented after the Twitter/JuJu fiasco that “of course I think I’m the best. Why would you play the game if you don’t think you’re the best?” But as a performer I will say you have to have a split personality. When you’re actually in a game you have to have complete confidence in your abilities. This confidence comes from a combination of preparation and trust in your God-given talent. But in between games (or performances or whatever) you have to use the preparation period to look very critically at what didn’t go right at your last performance. He has coaches to help him with that. I sometimes had critics. Both of us have the “film.” But you have to have sufficient humility to accept the criticism and learn from it.

          One of the things I learned the most from in my career was a seriously harsh review. My immediate impulse was to blow it off, because it was a bit over the top. But after I calmed down, I realized that what he said was true, at least at some level, and through the years that stayed with me and pushed me to improve. I even wrote him a letter thanking him, about 10 years later. He was surprised.

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          • Has he ever said/written about $$?
            I haven’t seen anything.
            I’ve been in and out a lot this fall and may have missed it.

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  • Completely off topic. But here is a video from Player’s Tribune down by Hines Ward reminiscing with two of his buddies from his first year at Georgia.

    https://www.theplayerstribune.com/a-better-brotherhood-hines-ward-uga/

    Miss that man.

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