The Pittsburgh Steelers improved to 2-1 on the season with a 23-20 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night, but despite the win, the Steelers proved they are fighting an uphill battle in the race for the AFC.
Pittsburgh is still in good position to make the playoffs, but based on their play thus far, they'll have to get much better if they are to win their division.
The Steelers' win was very unimpressive given the advantages they have over the Colts in terms of talent and experience. The Colts, without Peyton Manning, had to roll with former retiree Kerry Collins, who was later replaced by Curtis Painter after suffering a concussion.
Despite this, Pittsburgh's vaunted rush defense could manage only one sack and one turnover, both by superstar James Harrison.
Even worse, Pittsburgh's offense was stoned by an Indianapolis defense that had been gashed by the Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns in the first two weeks. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, considered by many to be one of the best in the game, was able to throw for 364 yards and a touchdown, but also tossed a pick and lost two fumbles.
Running back Rashard Mendenhall was supposed to have a huge day against the Colts' leaky run defense but only mustered 37 yards on 18 carries without a score. And if it wasn't for Mike Wallace's 81-yard touchdown reception, the stats would have looked far worse.
In defeating the 0-3 Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh held on to playoff hopes, but they also exposed their own vulnerability and proved that teams like the New England Patriots, San Diego Chargers, Houston Texans, Baltimore Ravens and even the Buffalo Bills have a leg up in the AFC.
Head coach Mike Tomlin has proven to be one of the NFL's best minds, but if he can't get his team's struggles figured out, he may have to wait until next year to attempt another Super Bowl run.