The Pittsburgh Steelers are back! Okay, that sort of jubilation might be a bit premature, but there is reason for excitement. After this past Sunday's division win over the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers are on a two-game winning streak.
For the past two weeks, the Steelers have played much more sound defense. This past Sunday displayed a balance on offense that had been missing.
There are no breaks this week; the Steelers travel to the West Coast to take on an Oakland Raiders team coming off a bye week. A win against the Raiders put them right back in the AFC North, so here's what you need to know.
If it weren't for the pesky Cincinnati Bengals finding a way to win, the AFC North would truly be wide open. Fortunately, even with the Steelers at 2-4, this season is far from over. The Steelers are playing good football, and if the Bengals slip up, don't be shocked if it's Pittsburgh and not the Ravens or the Cleveland Browns who are nipping at their heels.
Going into last Sunday's game, the only two injuries of significance were the broken finger of wide receiver Markus Wheaton and the concussion of linebacker Jarvis Jones. Wheaton's finger had sidelined him for the past two weeks. Jones missed his first game with this concussion.
Fortunately, the Steelers didn't miss either player this week, and so looking ahead to this week's game, how vital either will be is a matter of debate.
This week, Jones' and Wheaton's injury statuses are uncertain, but there's another injury to be concerned with. Offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert had a quadriceps injury going into Sunday's game, and it didn't take long for him to realize he was not well enough to go.
The Steelers will put out an official injury report later in the week, but for now it is safe to assume that Jones, Wheaton and Gilbert will be unavailable for the Raiders game.
What Must Improve
At this point, the Steelers need to look at improvements on a micro level rather than the macro types of changes that were needed earlier in the season.
The offensive line played better this week, due in part to a lighter, more athletic group on the field. This week will be a chance for this new starting five to work together and improve on their performance from last week.
Nevertheless, no "area of improvement" section would be complete without the discussion of turnovers. The Steelers were unable to force a turnover last Sunday, and so it's back to the drawing board on how to find ways to take the football away.
A final area that the Steelers need to focus on this week is containment on defense. The Steelers are going to be facing a very mobile quarterback in Terrelle Pryor, so understanding when to rush and when to cover will be vital this week.