Pittsburgh Steelers Showing They Have What It Takes To Win the Super Bowl
It's been a few weeks since I've written for Bleacher Report. Some computer problems and last-minute preparations for the arrival of my son haven't given me much opportunity to offer up my opinions about the Steelers.
Normally, following a Steeler game I'd be grading out how the team did. Today's game took all the drama out of that, though. A's all around for the Steelers.
Let's turn our focus to where this team stands as it prepares for the real football season. How strong of a chance does it have to win its seventh Lombardi Trophy this year?
This team has overcome a lot of adversity this season. The loss of their franchise quarterback for the first quarter of the season did nothing to slow them down, as it went 3-1 without Ben Roethlisberger at the helm.
The Steelers lost both starting offensive tackles to injury, yet managed to piece together a patchwork offensive line that does enough to help themselves win.
Of course, I think the emergence of Maurkice Pouncey as a Pro Bowl-caliber center as a rookie has been huge. Imagine how poor of an offensive line they'd have without him in the picture?
Our young wide receivers are becoming huge threats. Mike Wallace had a great rookie season, but he has followed it up by proving he belongs in the discussion as one of the elite wideouts in the league.
He's not just a burner anymore. He's making adjustments on the short routes and taking slant-route completions to the house. Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown are showing signs of being top-tier receivers, as well.
Hines Ward and Heath Miller provide the veteran presence you need to mentor the younger guys. Both guys have shown some signs of slowing down a bit this year, but they are still capable of making the big plays when the Black and Gold need it.
Rashard Mendenhall continues to cement his status as one of the best runners in the league. The fact he has had this kind of success behind a porous offensive line tells you a lot about his talent.
Ben Roethlisberger continues to prove he is one of the best in the NFL. He threw for over 3,000 yards and 17 touchdowns despite missing a fourth of the season, and also threw only five interceptions this year.
He's one of the best managers of the game out there. He is poised to lead Pittsburgh to a third title under his lead, and not many quarterbacks in the history of the game can lay claim to that kind of success if he does pull it off.
What can you say about the defense? Once again, it stacks up as one of the best units in the league, though admittedly the pass coverage at times can be a bit soft. However, going by scoring defense, it's one of the very best at keeping the other team from scoring. That never hurts in the playoffs.
Who will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl this year?
Is there a better linebacking corps in the league than the Steelers' group? James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley and James Farrior have been huge this year. I think if the Steelers get Aaron Smith back for the playoffs, we'll see the Steeler defense end up playing as well as it did in the first four games of the year.
I think if there's an Achilles heel for the Steelers this year, it would have to be the special teams. The loss of Daniel Sepulveda for the season really hurt the Steelers' ability to pin teams deep on their punts.
Jeremy Kapinos is not a very good punter. Today's game against the Browns showed the best strategy would be to score on every possession and not rely on him making any kicks.
Shaun Suisham has stepped up following the dismissal of Jeff Reed. He's only missed one kick, though I admit I am apprehensive about his ability to make kicks when it really matters. He's had a less-than-impressive track record for making clutch kicks. I hope I am proven wrong.
Another area of concern is who the Steelers have already lost to.
All four of their losses on the season came to playoff contenders. They've lost to the No. 1-seeded New England Patriots, No. 5-seeded Baltimore Ravens (albeit without Roethlisberger), and they lost to the sixth-seeded New York Jets. They also lost to the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.
On the other side though, they beat the NFC's top-seeded Atlanta Falcons without Roethlisberger, and they did beat the Ravens on the road.
The only game the Steelers never really competed in was against the New England Patriots. One could hope perhaps that defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau was holding a bit back in that game in anticipation of a playoff matchup with them later in the year.
After mentioning all of this, though, I think what really gives the Steelers a winning edge is their heart. They haven't backed down from a challenge all season. No matter what the situation was, they lined up and went out to play football.
They are a veteran team that knows what it takes to win, and I think their hard work and dedication is going to pay off in Dallas when Dan Rooney is handed the franchise's seventh Lombardi Trophy.
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