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Mack: A Must Win In Tampa For Steelers

Chris Mack
September 24, 2018 - 10:49 am

The term “must win” is thrown around pretty loosely in sports these days.

Go back to April and you’ll find baseball fans calling random Tuesday nighters on the west coast “must win.” Hockey fans will throw a “must win” at you for a Thursday night face off against the Buffalo Sabres in early February. In reality though, it's rare to find victories absolutely necessary when you're just three games in to a season.

Here the Steelers are though, in Tampa for a Monday night game that could go a long way toward deciding whether the rest of the 2018 season means much at all.

Their All-Pro running back is in Miami, spending more time on jet skis than in spikes and gaining the kind of pounds you can't exchange for dollars. Not to mention that the team is open to trade offers on him that include anything more than the 3rd Round draft pick they'll get in compensation when he leaves in free agency. 

Their All-Pro wide receiver is "frustrated" and "pissed off" that his team isn't winning, and probably more so that reporters have an interest in his seemingly disingenuous public facade as an always-smiling, super-happy, branding/marketing/endorsement machine. 

Their defense resembles an unarmed line of Peace Corps volunteers attempting to stand tall against a German Panzer division.

Oh, and their franchise quarterback is 36-years old and being tasked with scoring at least 36 points per game just to keep his team in it, but due to elbow issues can't seem to get the ball more than 36 yards downfield with great accuracy.

Without a win in the first two weeks, the Steelers have everything going against them. 

A loss would send them into the depths of the AFC, staring up at a middling-at-best division, as one of just four winless teams in the NFL.

Would a bounceback be possible? Sure. Probable though? Absolutely not. Bouncing back doesn't necessarily mean the Steelers would go to the playoffs, either. Five years ago they started 0-4 and “bounced back” to win eight of their final 12 games, still missing the postseason at 8-8.

The numbers in this case don't lie: Teams that start 0-2 have less than a 5% chance of making the playoffs. 0-3 teams see their chances fall to about 2.5%. It's safe to say that an 0-2-1 start wouldn't exactly be paving the "Stairway to Seven" with rose petals. It'd be more like carpet tacks or hot coals.

A wasted season at this point in Ben Roethlisberger’s career isn’t just another missed chance at a Lombardi Trophy during a Super Bowl-or-bust window, it’s a squandered opportunity to take advantage of what certainly appears to be a down year for the New England Patriots, who’ve started the year 1-2 and acted as a roadblock to the Steelers’ Super Bowl hopes on multiple occasions.

It’s very likely we’ve seen the end of the “Killer B’s” era of Ben, Antonio Brown, and Le’Veon Bell, if only because Bell is out here liking tweets that suggest he’ll never play for Pittsburgh ever again.

It’s also likely that a Steelers’ loss in Tampa tonight will end any legitimate chance they have at a championship in 2018.

That makes tonight’s game, just the third of the season, a “must win,” regardless of how early in the season it is.

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