As the Steelers embark on yet another season, the time to think about Lombardi Trophy number seven is here. Let’s dive in and find out why the Steelers will win the Lombardi this season.
1. Number ‘7’—Number 7 is always number one on this list. Ben Roethlisberger is the key to this team’s success. He can easily be voted the team MVP on an annual basis and somehow he continues to get better with age. With new offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner seemingly opening up the playbook for Ben a bit more this year, Roethlisberger may have an even bigger impact on the offense than in recent years. I fully expect more no huddle and, gasp, quarterback sneaks.
2. The rest of the Killer B’s—The Steelers have arguably the best offensive trio in the NFL with Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. Brown and Bell will have huge years, as well. The Steelers need these guys and their big-play ability on a weekly basis. While both guys are easier to replace than Big Ben, they are extremely important to this team’s success and the entire flow of the game.
3. Special Teams—I believe special teams will be a strength for the Black and Gold this year. With ace kicker Chris Boswell using his toe to put up points every week at a consistent rate and the addition of Ryan Switzer to the return game, this unit can be counted on to score points, change field position and therefore change outcomes of ball games.
4. Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt—The Steelers sport two extremely talented defensive ends. They are both nightmares for offensive linemen, running backs and quarterbacks alike. In my opinion these two are the defensive anchors and will need to set the tone on the line in order for the rest of the defense to be successful.
5. T.J. Watt—I expect Watt to take a huge leap this year from being good in 2017 to great in 2018. I think he has the potential to sack the quarterback 10 times this season and if the Steelers let him loose, possibly more. He can be a key cog on the defensive side of the ball and a potential leader of a linebacking group that needs one.
6. The offensive line—The Steelers have one of the best offensive lines in the entire league. This unit is capable of protecting Big Ben, allowing time for him to get the ball downfield, breaking open holes for Bell in the running game and most importantly, they’ve played together for a long time and are an extremely cohesive unit.
7. The Steelers learned from the Jacksonville loss—I think the Steelers have learned from the devastating playoff loss to the Jaguars last January. It was a game they should and could have won but failed to sufficiently prepare for the team that knocked them out. They will use that loss as fuel for the 2018 fire.
Now, just as there are seven reasons the Steelers will win the Super Bowl this year, there are seven reasons they won’t capture the coveted Lombardi as well…
1. Big Ben gets hurt—If Roethlisberger goes down, it’s curtains for the Steelers. Sure, they may be able to win a game or two in the regular season but I wouldn’t expect a Nick Foles situation (that occurred in Philadelphia) to occur in the postseason for Pittsburgh.
2. The Patriots—Until the Steelers do it, how can anyone think they can get past the Patriots, especially in the playoffs?
3. The defense—While I think they are improved and are capable of becoming memorable, I also think they have some major weaknesses. I’m not convinced the linebackers are great (outside of Watt) and the secondary is still a big question mark for me. I need to see them become more consistent in their play.
4. A lack of discipline—One thing that has plagued this team over recent years has been a lack of discipline, both on and off the field. Personal fouls and dumb penalties are possible on any play with this team and off-the-field suspensions, Twitter posts and drama seem to follow these guys around, as well. If they fail to fix this, they won’t be successful.
5. Clock Management—Mike Tomlin has notoriously been a bad game manager, specifically with the clock. If he can’t get the timeouts right or make the right calls to impact the game in the crucial moments, they won’t reach their goal.
6. Not getting a bye—I think this team needs to gain a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in order to advance deep into the playoffs. Having that first-round bye will be critical, despite what happened last year.
7. The Refs—Yep, I said it. The NFL referees are bad and they could easily mess up a call that may impact the outcome of the season. The Jesse James catch from last year, anyone?
Time will tell which list is correct, but if you ask me, I think the Steelers are staring at an 11-5 regular season and are going to win it all this year. This, finally, is their time.
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