PITTSBURGH - Comfort yourself with this knowledge:
The Pittsburgh Steelers are 2-2, just one game behind Baltimore in the AFC North.
It's early. Only one quarter of the NFL season has been played.
But it sure isn't trending well.
Four games into the season, the Steelers have not distinguished themselves on either side of the ball.
Everyone knew the offensive line would be an issue heading into the season.
It's been as bad as expected, with Ben Roethlisberger taking a beating as he runs for survival on too many snaps.
But the defense, which rarely gave up 100-yard rushing games, has been shredded by opposing running backs.
Smart offensive coordinators have found ways to get through the Steelers defense, but they've always had a plan.
It's working now because the Steelers aren't playing well.
Is the defense, in the words of Warren Sapp, old and slow?
As much as people try to make the case that running is obsolete in a pass-happy NFL, it's still an effective strategy.
Running the ball eats up the clock and keeps a defense on the field past the point of fatigue.
The team that can run well will probably pass better because a defense has to respect both aspects of the attack.
Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is one of the most respected coaches in the NFL.
But the x's and o's don't matter much if the players can't execute what's been drawn up.
The Steelers have already cut back on linebacker James Farrior's playing time. They've been replacing him with Larry Foote.
Should there be a similar strategy on the line, where Aaron Smith hasn't been especially effective?
Would the energy of Ziggy Hood or No. 1 draft pick Cameron Heyward compensate for their lack of experience?
The Steelers lost in Houston on Sunday even though the Texans did everything possible to self-destruct.
They had two apparent touchdowns nullified by penalties.
The Steelers still have four games left with Cleveland and Cincinnati, which they should win.
They also have Kansas City, San Francisco and St. Louis on the schedule, which should be easy marks.
That could give them nine wins. Beat Jacksonville and Arizona and they'd have 11, which could get them a playoff spot in this division.
Is that just dreaming?
The temptation here is to reprise coach Jim Mora's famous dismissive "Playoffs?" when someone mentioned that possibility for his struggling team.
The way things have gone in the first four games, no wins should be considered automatic for the Steelers.
This team has problems. Major problems.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org