Why the Pittsburgh Steelers Are Better at Midpoint This Season Than Last
The Steelers are now 6-2 at the midpoint of this season and are coming off a big win against the New England Patriots.
The Steelers have not exactly dominated every team they have faced so far, though they currently have the best record in the AFC going into a tough matchup with the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9.
After starting 6-2 in 2010 the Steelers went on to the Super Bowl, and here are 10 reasons that they are in better shape going into the rest of 2011.
The Bye Week
This season, the Steelers’ bye week is still a few games away in Week 11, and last season it was early in Week 5.
I would much rather have the bye week later in the season than early because the team has to go the rest of the season with basically no breaks.
A later bye week allows for injured and older players to rest up for the stretch run towards the playoffs, and the Steelers’ players could use that rest.
The Remaining Schedule
Not that the Steelers should be taking any team lightly going forward, but the rest of the schedule should not be difficult for them.
The Steelers have a nasty habit of playing down to their competition, but I have been saying for two weeks now that they have a chance to run the table, and I still stand by that.
At this point last season, Max Starks was out for the year with a neck injury and was cut before the 2011 season started.
The Steelers offensive line looked horrendous through the first four games of the season and Starks was re-signed and was back starting at left tackle.
Even though the Steelers lost Willie Colon for the season, Marcus Gilbert has done very well at right tackle, and with the addition of Starks, the offensive line as a whole has been pretty good as of late.
Heath Miller is quietly one of the best all-around tight ends in the NFL, although he did have a down year in 2010 with only 42 receptions, 512 yards and four touchdowns.
Now that the offensive line has been pulling its own weight, Miller has not had to block as much and has been getting more involved in the passing game where he can be a dangerous weapon.
Through eight games, Heath already has 30 receptions, 361 yards and two touchdowns, which puts him on pace to surpass his 2010 totals en route to a great season.
The Steelers have maybe the best, fastest and most explosive receiving core in the NFL with Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown.
That list does not even include the Hall of Famer Hines Ward, who missed last week's game against the Patriots with an ankle injury.
Hines was knocked out of the game against the Patriots last season and the offense seemed to take forever to get back on track. Without him this time, the offense dominated the Patriots defense.
With the offensive line improving, the receivers developing and Heath Miller running routes again, Ben Roethlisberger has gotten into a great rhythm.
In his last four games, Roethlisberger has 11 touchdowns and only two interceptions, and only has four interceptions since throwing three against the Ravens in Week 1.
Even though Roethlisberger may not have the best stats every year, he is the best quarterback in the NFL and he will continue leading the Steelers towards the playoffs and another Super Bowl.
One of the Steelers' most glaring issues going into the season was the cornerback position and who was going to start opposite Ike Taylor.
Bryant McFadden has been injured through the season, which opened the door for Keenan Lewis and William Gay to play more, contributing to the league’s best pass defense.
We all know what we have in Gay, and it's great to see Lewis finally step up and show signs of being the corner we all thought he could be when the Steelers drafted him.
Troy Polamalu is the best safety in the NFL, one of the scariest defenders in the league, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and he has zero interceptions on the season.
Polamalu started slow last season as well, with two interceptions in the first eight games only to pick off five in the final eight to finish with seven for the year.
Over the last half of 2011 Polamalu will start to catch these easy picks that have been hitting him right in the hands and he’ll have a few unbelievable plays like he always does.
This season, you can argue the Steelers have lost even more players to injury than in 2010 but they are in much better shape this time around.
The offensive line is coming along even with Willie Colon out for the season, Ziggy Hood has replaced Aaron Smith for the second straight season, LaMarr Woodley picked up the slack for James Harrison, Emmanuel Sanders/Antonio Brown for Hines Ward, Steve McLendon for Chris Hoke and Casey Hampton, Keenan Lewis for Bryant McFadden, Stevenson Sylvester for James Farrior, etc.
The Steelers have really shown their depth this season, and the only injury to be worried about would be LaMarr Woodley, who may have to miss one game due to a hamstring injury.
With the season half over, the Steelers are 6-2 and have not even come close to reaching their full potential as a team.
Last season the Steelers went 6-2 over the second half of the season on the way to a 12-4 record, and I can see them matching that or better this season.
The Steelers offense and defense have been getting better every week and they have been doing it with main guys who have been hurt or starting slow.
When the team gets its injured players back, which most will be, the Steelers will be even more in rhythm and even stronger for a Super Bowl run.