Steelers looking toward next season as they settle for spoiler role this year
The Steelers probably played their best overall game of the season as they clearly outclassed and out played the AFC North leading Cincinnati Bengals 30-20.
They now look forward to finishing up the season against the Green Bay Packers in Green Bay, 7-6-1, before closing against the struggling Cleveland Browns, 4-10.
If nothing else happened against the Bengals, this game more than any other demonstrated the pure young talent of the Steelers as they outplayed a team with a far better record.
It also pointed out the fact that the Steelers front office is going to have to make some very hard decisions about who they keep and who they let go for next season. Sometimes it takes a losing or poor season to develop a team. Much like the 15-1 Steelers after they had gone 6-10 the previous season.
If the Steelers win out, and continue to look as impressive as they looked against the Bengals, Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley’s jobs are safe. It’s doubtful that the Rooneys’ would fire Tomlin after just two poor seasons. Remember, Bill Cowher had two 6-10 seasons.
The young defensive line and linebackers looked extremely impressive, especially nose tackle Al Woods. Brett Keissel is gone, so look for youngsters to battle for playing time on the front line. And for the first time in years that line will be able to put pressure on the quarterback, opening the door for the linebackers.
Those youngsters are: Ziggy Hood, Cameron Heyward, Steve McLendon, and Woods on the line.
As good as LaMarr Woodley has been, he may not be signed because of the great play of rookies Jarvis Jones, and Vince Matthews, along with young Jason Worilds and of course Lawrence Timmons who is still under contract.
These young players have put in their time learning now it’s time to let them loose and show what they can do. And injuries have forced the Steelers to do just that. Woods looks like he’s going to be a monster.
The question mark on defense is the old secondary. So far none of the youngsters have stepped forward to push the old veterans, Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, or Ike Taylor. Look for defensive backs to be high on the draft list. Troy may be gone. His contract is up, as is Roethlisberger’s. Can the Steelers afford both?
On offense Antonio Brown once again showed why he’s one of the best in the game with 5 catches for 66 yards giving him 95 catches for the year, and 1206 yards. He also had a touchdown on a 65 yard kickoff return. He’s under contract, but they will have to decide between Emmanuel Sanders, who the New England Patriots want in the worst way, or Jericho Cotchery, who Roethlisberger likes a lot. It’s not likely both will stay because Cotchery has upped his market value this year with 9 touchdowns and Sanders is a rare young talent. If one goes it opens the door for Markus Wheaton to step up his game as the third receiver.
Le’Veon Bell has been very impressive this season both with his running and his receiving, which makes him a perfect weapon for Roethlisberger.
When was the last time Ben was sacked? This young offensive line, even without its best player, Maurkice Pouncey has done a great job protecting Ben this year. There has been times when he has had almost all day. Why? Because of the no huddle offense and Ben has finally got it. He’s getting rid of the ball.
This line is made up of youngsters who are only going to get better. They are Kelvin Beachum, David DeCastro, Ramon Foster, Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams.
Against the Bengals Ben was 20 of 25 for 191 yards and Le’Veon Bell had 57 yards on 24 carries and 50 yards through the air on 5 receptions.
If the Steelers front office doesn’t panic and start making a lot of changes look for the Steelers to be back on top next season.
They will receive much higher draft choices if they finish 8-8, to battle the abundance of young talent they already have on this team. Don’t write the Steelers off.
In the AFC North race this season the Baltimore Ravens did it again as they pulled off another victory beating the Detroit Lions 18-16 to pull to just one game behind the Bengals at 8-6. They play the Patriots this weekend while the Bengals face the Minnesota Vikings, who upset the Philadelphia Eagles last week. If both teams win, or lose, the division will be decided in the final game of the season when the two clash.