September is upon us and the Steelers are a mere 7 days away from embarking on their quest to win their seventh Lombardi Trophy, their first since 2008. They are one of the odds on favorite to get it done this year, along with New England, Seattle and Arizona.
In honor of their quest for number seven, let’s break down the seven reasons why they will and won’t win the title come next February.
Why They’ll Win:
• The first reason on our list of seven is number seven. Big Ben is one of the top three quarterbacks in football, inarguably and quite frankly is getting better with each passing year. As he goes, so does the black and gold and he’s quite capable of going really far. He is by far and away the most valuable player on the team and that’s why he tops this list.
• The running attack is another key. With LeVeon Bell and DeAngelo Williams carrying the ball, the Steelers have one of the most dominant backfileds in the NFL. Bell will miss 3 games but Williams will step up nicely. This team has a pretty unstoppable attack with these guys carrying the load.
• We can’t talk about the offense without mentioning the best receiver in football can we. Antonio Brown is nearly impossible to guard and opposing cornerbacks fear him. He’s the best in the business and while I think he’s just third on this list of reasons why, that’s only because the team is that deep on the offensive side of the ball and I trust Ben to get the ball to a lot of receivers. None of the other receivers however can be compared to A.B.
• The defensive line is strong. Anchored by Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, you have two ends who can rush the QB as well as stuff the run. They are a force to be reckoned with.
• The linebacking corps is solid. I love the potential that Timmons, Harrison, Jones, Dupree (on IR right now), Moats, Shazier and company have. They are potentially the most talented unit on the defense and certainly the most developed. I look for big things from these guys.
• The sixth reason is the incline they’ve been on. They have made the playoffs the last two years, advancing last year to the second round and probably should have beaten the eventual champion Broncos along the way. They will build on that recent success and take the next steps to get to the Lombardi.
• The next man up may actually be good this year. The Steelers are extremely deep at wide receiver, running back, linebacker and even the secondary could have some talent with a couple of rookies being drafted in high rounds. They have a solid choice of players off the bench in most areas and that could be very beneficial should significant injuries occur.
The Reasons They Won’t Win:
• The secondary has rookies who could be good but are they ready? This unit is the worst on the team and when William Gay is your top corner, you do have problems. I don’t trust this group to get it done in the clutch and should the team face off against Tom Brady in the playoffs, do you trust these guys to prevent him from picking them apart?
• Mike Tomlin has proven time and time again that he can’t manage the clock and he’s capable of making some extremely bone headed decisions. I’ve been pleased with the calls he’s made in pre-season but it’s pre-season, meaning it is of very little importance in regards to relevance. I don’t trust him in the clutch at all.
• If injuries occur to guys like Big Ben, Cam Heyward, Mike Mitchell or if Bud Dupree doesn’t come back at all, it could derail the season. They are deep, as I mentioned above, but significant injuries, keeping these guys out, Big Ben in particular, for an extremely long period of time could be disastrous.
• Another issue they seem to have each year is committing stupid penalties. If they can’t keep their heads on straight, especially when the play teams like the Bengals, they won’t win the championship. You can’t give away free yards and be a championship caliber team. Sure, they’ll have a game or two where this will happen, but if this becomes the norm again, kiss that trophy goodbye. Mike Tomlin needs to ensure discipline is key from day one.
• If egos get in the way. If Antonio Brown starts complaining he’s not getting the ball enough (as he did at times last year) or if James Harrison decides to battle the NFL some more or even if Mike Tomlin chooses to ignore logic by going for it on absurd fourth downs, the train will come off the tracks.
• The division could be the best in football and having four games against the Bengals and Ravens and two more against an improved Browns team (yes, I think they are improved, they could get as much as 5 wins this year!) the team could trip up and find themselves a game or two out of the post-season.
• Lastly, turnovers. It’s obvious but true. If Ben throws too many picks or the ball gets fumbled often. If the defense doesn’t create turnovers, this team won’t succeed. It’s a battle that must be won.
We’ll figure this all out together over the next four or five months but I tend to like the list of why more than the why not. This is a very solid team and I fully expect a deep playoff run this year.
Mike Pelaia hosts the website Steel Nation Association http://www.steelnationassociation.com– Covering the Steelers and helping Children’s Hospital All Day Everyday. You can e-mail him at email@example.com.