Labriola on win over Redskins

It would be easy to be seduced by what happened last Sunday at Heinz Field, just as it was easy to despair over what went on in Oakland and then in Nashville over a three-week period about a month ago. An NFL season can have more ups and downs than a roller coaster for a team's fans, but at least it seems as though the Steelers are ready to get off the ride.

Thanks to their 27-12 victory over the Washington Redskins last Sunday at Heinz Field, the Steelers have pulled themselves over .500 for the first time this season, but even more significantly there has been a consistency of performance developing that's as significant as the wins they have begun to stack.

The contention that the Steelers have disembarked the roller coaster should not be assumed to mean their performances now will take on a steady ascending arc, because they very well could lose this Sunday to the New York Giants. And maybe even look bad doing it.

But nobody gets through an NFL season unscathed anymore, particularly not the high profile teams with the high profile players. It has happened to everybody during these initial wacky weekends where, just to cite one example, the Miami Dolphins are nipping at the heels of the New England Patriots for first place in the AFC East. Were you watching "Hard Knocks?" Those Dolphins are one-half game behind Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Explain that.

It can be explained simply by accepting that what happens in the NFL often is inexplicable, and only then do things begin to come into focus.

The 2012 Steelers are flawed, and making a list of those should be a simple matter for anyone who has been paying even marginal attention since Labor Day. But it has taken the last fortnight for some of their qualities to blossom and become something more than a rumor. Something substantial they should be able to use as the basis for a run at the championship of the AFC North, and then after that, who knows.

The Steelers still have issues, and those issues can cost them any of the remaining games on their schedule, but what has happened of late is that they have learned they are capable of compensating with other players or with other facets of their game, and they are capable of compensating sufficiently to start stacking some wins.

What has happened over the past fortnight is the Steelers have stayed relevant in both their division and their conference through a very rough patch for them that included a slew of injuries to some key players at same stage of development when individuals are working to come together as offensive and defensive units. Now they are one-game behind the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North and tied in the loss column with the teams currently atop the AFC East and AFC West.

The Steelers are 4-3 and they have learned how to deal with their own foibles, inadequacies, and a bunch of injuries. There's still half a season left, and their injured continue to heal. A lot of football left, so buckle up. Should be a heckuva ride to the finish line.

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