After a rocky start to the year, this Steelers team showed that it still has the drive and determination to get the job done as well as find its way to the 2013 playoffs. Pittsburgh stated the season 0-4 after some tough losses against the Tennessee Titans, Cincinnati Bengals, Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings.
However, the Steelers were able to get back on track by winning four of their next six games.
In a Week 9 55-31 loss against the New England Patriots, all hope seemed to have been lost for the Steelers' 2013 campaign. Pittsburgh showed its moxie and came back strong, earning two consecutive wins against the Buffalo Bills and Lions.
Despite a shaky defense, the Steelers offense has flourished over the past several weeks. This is the reason why this team must be feared late in the season. Ben Roethlisberger and Co. have the ability to catch fire and earn a trip to the playoffs.
Roethlisberger was very impressive against the Lions. With a lackluster running game—the Steelers only averaged 1.5 yards per carry—the quarterback still flourished. He was able to complete 29 of his 45 passing attempts for 367 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions for a passer rating of 119.4.
Roethlisberger's four-touchdown performance against the Lions was his second in three games.
Ben Roethlisberger: throws for 367 Yds, 4 TD, 0 Interceptions in win (4th career game with 4 TD and no interceptions)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 17, 2013
His ability to pick apart the Lions' secondary in a one-dimensional offense makes the Steelers a huge threat going forward.
Rookie running back Le'Veon Bell has struggled thus far in his professional debut. However, he has shown glimpses of brilliance at times. Bell has only averaged 3.3 yards per carry this season, but he was able to rush for 4.9 and 4.6 yards per carry against the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots, respectively.
Even though Bell has not had a 100-yard performance this season, Pittsburgh's resurgent aerial attack will afford Bell better looks against fewer defenders on the line of scrimmage going forward.
It is only a matter of time before the Steelers gain a balanced offensive attack on a consistent basis. Consistency is key for teams looking for a playoff bid and Pittsburgh now finds itself in the midst of that discussion.
In years past, it has been the Steeler defense that has carried the team to victory. 2013 is a completely different story. It will be the offense that will continue to propel this team to a playoff berth.
Looking ahead, the Steelers can take advantage of upcoming opponents' defenses:
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Even though the Steelers will see some top-10 defensive units in the coming weeks, the only winning team that they are set to face for the remainder of the season is the Bengals. There are plenty of opportunities for Pittsburgh's resurgent offense to take advantage of lesser opponents going forward.
After Week 11 unfolds, it looks as though the Bengals will maintain a stranglehold on the AFC North. However, looking across the AFC, wild-card spots are still completely up for grabs.
The New York Jets currently hold the sixth seed with a 5-5 record. After a dismal showing by rookie quarterback Geno Smith on Sunday, their grasp on that position seems to be slipping.
The Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans are next in line. However, both teams face difficult divisional schedules during the twilight of the 2013 season.
Steelers 1 game out of the final wild card spot in the AFC with 6 weeks to go— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly_Trib) November 17, 2013
This allows the Steelers—and their favorable schedule—a good chance to climb back into contention.
This is even more plausible after how the AFC North is shaking out in the wake of Week 11. The Ravens fell to the Chicago Bears and the Cleveland Browns fell to the Bengals, which creates a three-way tie in the division:
If the Steelers do, in fact, clinch a wild-card berth, it will certainly be due to a vastly improved offense over the second half of the season. Once the playoffs arrive, a team on a hot streak is as dangerous as any in the league.
That is exactly what the Steelers have going for them.
Despite a 4-6 record, Pittsburgh should not be overlooked going forward. The offense is catching fire at the right time and this team has the potential to make an improbable run—much like the 2007 New York Giants.
Credit needs to be given where it's due. The 2013 Pittsburgh Steelers have righted the ship and are now playoff contenders.