The Pittsburgh Steelers did plenty of things right on Sunday. Ben Roethlisberger didn't turn the ball over. Rashard Mendenhall rushed for a season-high 151 yards and scored a touchdown on the ground as well. Hines Ward found his mojo with 7 receptions for 107 yards. Troy Polamalu recovered a fumble and caught an interception.
However, this was far from a complete game for the Steelers. Mendenhall lost a fumble. The Steelers were called for 10 penalties resulting in 107 penalty yards, following last week's 14-penalty performance. The Bills were able to sack Roethlisberger five times. William Gay was very spotty in coverage again, giving up several key completions. Somehow the Steelers keep winning despite their flaws.
The left side of the offensive line looks overmatched even with the return of Chris Kemoeatu. Jonathan Scott and Kemoeatu were called for several holding penalties. On the positive side, Ramon Foster seems to be a much needed upgrade over Trai Essex at right guard.
With all of the injuries along the line, there is little the Steelers can do to improve personnel until the draft in the spring. However, they should make the offensive line a focus during practice.
Teams love to use three receiver formations against the Steelers because of William Gay. Quarterbacks continually pick on him at will. Tom Brady burned him for three touchdowns when the Patriots were at Heinz Field.
The opposition knows that they're not going to be able to run with ease against the Steelers, so they bring in a third receiver knowing that this takes a defensive lineman or linebacker out of the game and puts Gay in it.
Many of the yards the Steelers do give up on the ground come when William Gay is on the field. William Gay stands out on special teams, but is too often a liability in coverage. Dick Lebeau will have to use creative schemes to compensate for Gay and the front office needs to address this problem in the offseason.
Overall, Roethlisberger is playing well. However, he nearly cost the Steelers the game with a fumble at Pittsburgh's goal line in overtime. Luckily, he recovered his own fumble.
Ben is great at extending the play, but he isn't always good at recognizing when he should give up on a play. He needs to continue to minimize turnovers because the Steelers' shortcomings along the offensive line and in the secondary make winning the turnover battle even more important than usual.
The Steelers are certainly one of the top teams in the NFL. But with a key divisional matchup with Baltimore looming on the horizon, they have some work to do in practice. Baltimore defeated the Steelers earlier this season prior to the return of Roethlisberger. The winner of this game will almost certainly take the top spot in the AFC North.
If the Steelers want to earn an unprecedented seventh Lombardi Trophy, they will almost certainly have to face the Jets and/or Patriots in the playoffs. But, Pittsburgh needs to work out the kinks first. This could be the Steelers team that finally topples the Patriots in the playoffs...or it could be more of the same. There is a lot riding on the shoulders of the coaching staff.