Through eight games of the 2011 NFL season the Pittsburgh Steelers' record stands at six wins and two losses. If that sounds a bit familiar, it should.The Steelers record after eight games in each of Mike Tomlin's previous four seasons?
And they've had just about every outcome a team can have after all of those 6-2 starts: in 2007 they made the playoffs and lost; in 2008 they won the Super Bowl; in 2009 they missed the playoffs; last season they lost the Super Bowl.
So what will this year's team do? While Sunday's pending collision with arch-nemesis Baltimore could go a long way toward deciding the supreme team of the AFC North, as history shows it's far from certain how the Steelers season will play out.
A look back at each of those 6-2 start and how those seasons panned out ...
First eight: Having cleared the air from Bill Cowher's departure, the Tomlin regime announces its presence with authority cruising to a 3-0 record and sustaining only close road losses at Arizona and Denver. The Steelers move to 6-2 courtesy a 38-7 Monday night aggravated assault of arch-rival Baltimore at Heinz Field.
Second eight: The Steelers would roll to 9-3, including the "legendary" 3-0 muck and mire Monday night game against Miami at Heinz Field, but December would prove to be brutal for the black and gold.
The Steelers were embarrassed in a week 14 road loss in New England (then again, so was everybody, the Pats were 16-0 that regular season) but it was a 29-22 home loss to Jacksonville a week later -- minus Aaron Smith, who had been moved to IR -- that almost exactly foreshadowed their playoff exit three weeks later against the same team.
End result: 10-6; AFC North Champs. Lose wild card game vs. Jacksonville 31-29 at home.
First eight: Despite a really shaky offensive line and losses to Philadelphia and the defending champion New York Giants, the Steelers make a fairly methodical march to 6-2 and set the stage for a memorable second half of the season, and more ...
Second eight: Much was made of the Steelers having the league's toughest schedule in 2008 and deservedly so as they faced a murderer's row of competition in the season's second half that would define the season.
After a loss to Peyton Manning's Colts, the Steelers peel off five consecutive wins against San Diego, Cincinnati, New England, Dallas and Baltimore that would clinch an AFC North title.
Though they'd whiff on a chance to lock up the top seed from Tennessee, the Steelers were solidified as a Super Bowl contender.
End Result: 12-4; Super Bowl XLIII Champions.
First eight: With only two losses -- both on the road, both by a field goal -- and a string of impressive wins, including a memorable one at home over Brett Favre's Vikings, the Steelers look well on their way to repeating as AFC, if not Super Bowl champions.
Second eight: The Steelers promptly begin the second half of the 2009 season with their longest second-half losing streak (five games) in a decade courtesy of some truly ugly losses to some truly bad football teams -- 13-6 to Cleveland, anyone?
All this, despite Mike Tomlin's promise to "unleash hell."
But, the Steelers did manage to end the season on a fairly impressive three-game win streak, including a thrilling 37-36 home win over over Green Bay and a win over playoff-bound Baltimore.End result: 9-7; miss playoffs.
First eight: Despite losing Ben Roethlisberger to a suspension, the Steelers go 3-1 in their first four games -- losing only at home after blowing a late lead to Baltimore -- and 3-1 in their second four, losing only to defending champion New Orleans on the road.
Second eight: Though the Steelers would make a methodical marh through the second half of their season, including a thrilling and typically violent win on the road in Baltimore, it was a 39-26 lashing at home by New England (in a game that was nowhere near as close as the final score suggested) that would serve as a harbinger of the secondary weaknesses that would undo the Steelers on February 5, 2011. But one heckuva ride, nonetheless, including an epic road win in Baltimore.End Result: 12-4; advance to, but lose Super Bowl XLV to Green Bay, 31-25.