After an unfortunate but not unforeseen season-opening loss, the Pittsburgh Steelers seemed to have gotten on a role soon after, steamrolling through the 49ers before marching up and down the field against the Rams, in spite of lacking the points to show for it.
That all changed in a hurry during the third quarter in St. Louis when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took a shot to the knee that resulted in a sprained MCL and a bone bruise that has prohibited him from returning to the field since that time.
In that span, the Steelers have had to endure 17 quarters of football without him, during which they staved off one potential comeback in a close game to secure a victory in the game in which the injury occurred, and followed it up by posting a 2-2 record in his absence.
Frankly, the fact that the Steelers could reasonably claim that they could have done better is, in my estimate, a sound endorsement for their future. It foretells a team that can reach greater heights, against better opponents, at closer to full health. And getting Roethlisberger back is just what the doctor ordered.
In fact, the two victories that the Steelers did manage to secure with Mike Vick and Landry Jones at the helm were against the two more difficult opponents on the schedule, starting with a Chargers team that looked much more deadly than they do at the moment, in San Diego, with their tight end newly activated from the suspended list.
Pittsburgh squeaked by on a surprising last-second touchdown, and followed it up with an even more impressive 25-13 victory over the Cardinals, who came into the game as the highest-scoring team in the league.
They did so with an all-around effort in which the defense complemented the offense and was opportunistic with the ball, taking the football away three times, including once in the end zone, all while protecting the ball on offense.
Meanwhile, the Steelers’ start offensive players, when enabled, have shined, none more so than Le’Veon Bell, who has been nothing short of his All-Pro self from last season, already posting three 100-yard rushing games in his five games played, and routinely making the most out of negative runs, sometimes turning them into positives.
Though the Steelers have taken some body blows since Roethlisberger has last been on the field—the loss of Kelvin Beachum is more significant than some realize, but still pales in comparison to playing without your franchise quarterback—this team is built well enough to command the attention of the rest of the league as long as its key players remain in position.
The Steelers were able to weather the storm through four games to come out an even .500 with a 2-2 record, one that should have been 3-1 barring the failings of a kicker no longer on the team.
Their performance in his absence has revealed that this is a better team than many might have realized, including themselves. Once Roethlisberger is back up and running at full strength, this is a team that can do some damage in the postseason, whether they are able to do so at home or on the road.