The Steelers offense led by #7 is closing in on the top spot
in the NFL. Photo Courtesy: Getty Images
The last time the Pittsburgh Steelers were in the NFL playoffs, the top ranked overall and passing defense that season made Tim Tebow look like a real NFL quarterback (10-21 for 316 yards and 2 Tds, 0 INTs) in a 23-29 loss at Denver. Since then, he’s been fired from the NFL twice and works for the World Wide Leader. After going 8-8 two consecutive seasons, you could see why many fans of the Black and Gold were clamoring for Head Coach Mike Tomlin to possibly join him.
Tomlin has the Steelers poised to make a run at Lombardi #7.
But don’t look now, the most Bi-polar team in the NFL appears to have taken the right medication. After alternating wins in their first six games of the season, and losing three games to teams at least three games under five hundred at kickoff—the Bucs were 0-3, Jets 1-8 and Saints 4-7—Tomlin’s Crew has to be the most feared in the AFC winning 7 of their last 9.
Pittsburgh has the second ranked total offense in the NFL. Let me say that again. The Steelers, notoriously known for smash mouth, take the air out of the ball, ground and pound, three yards and a cloud of dust football, has the number two total offense in the league—only 13 yards behind New Orleans coming into week 17.
Antonio Brown leads the NFL in receptions (122) and receiving yards (1,570) to go along with 12 TDs. Le’Veon Bell is the second leading rusher (1,341) in the league and has 77 receptions for 774 receiving yards and Ben Roethlisberger, the most disrespected quarterback with two Super Bowl rings in three appearances is second in passing yards (4,635)—just 36 yards behind Drew Brees for 1st coming into Sunday—and closing in on 5K for the first time in his career. Don’t forget, Big Ben’s new favorite toys, Rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant (25 Rec, 528 yards and 7 TDs in 9 games ) and second year pro Markus Wheaton (50 Rec, 627 yards and 2 TDs).
Brown leads all receivers in catches (122 and 1,570 yards).
The Steelers have already played two of their possible AFC playoff opponents in the Colts and North division rival Cincinnati. The results, not good for the opposition. Indianapolis gave up 51 points with 6 TDs and 522 passing yards to Roethlisberger, 92 rushing yards to Bell and 133 receiving yards and two TDs to Brown. The Bengals were blown out 42-21 in Cincy less than a month ago giving up 25 4th quarter points with a winner take the division title matchup tonight in Pittsburgh. Oh, by the way, Roethlisberger is 8-0 in season finales.
Of the other three teams that could be playoff opponents for Pittsburgh, the top ranked defense is Denver at number three giving up 21.6 points per game and 309 yards per game—before the Bengals carved them up for 353 yards (207 yards rushing) on last Monday night. Next is New England at number thirteen and they give up 349 total yards per game, but only 19 points. Do they really want to face the Killer B offense in a one and done situation?
Maybe they do, because if you’re Tom Brady and the Patriots or Peyton Manning and the Broncos, you’re licking your chops to go against that Steeler Defense. It’s no secret the Steelers struggle against the pass. Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau’s D gives up big plays like Houston Rocket guard James Harden; 50 plays over 20 yards and 15 over 40 yards. They’re twentieth in total defense, giving up 354 yards a game and 23 points and number 27 out of 32 against the pass (255 ypg).
Safety Troy Polumalu is breaking down in his twelfth season and starting Cornerback Ike Taylor, who was injured most of the season with a broken forearm is showing his age (34) and why this may be his last season playing on the shores of the Three Rivers.
Bringing back Super Bowl Champion veterans Defensive End Brett Kiesel and Linebacker James Harrison out of semi retirement stabilized the unit midseason, which helped lead to the three game winning streak that propelled them back into the North Division title hunt. As LeBeau gets more of his young linebackers back healthy and out on the field, maybe he can dial up enough pressure to keep opposing QBs from exposing the Steeler secondary. If he can restore the D to some resemblance of “Blitzburgh”, the Steelers could make a deep playoff run.
But, it’s a new era in Pittsburgh, so make no mistake, if the Steelers are to get to Arizona in February with a shot to reclaim the Lombardi trophy, and be the first franchise to win seven of them, it will rest on the right arm of Big Ben, feet of Bell and hands of Brown. Bzzzzzzz, bzzzzzzz, here comes them Killer Bee’s.