Today is Christmas Eve, and as I sit here thinking and writing about the Pittsburgh Steelers, I can’t help but wonder if they, too, are on the eve of something special for the rest of the 2015 season.
I don’t know that any other team in the league has had as much success as Pittsburgh has had who has gone through the level of adversity that they have had to endure throughout the course of the season, beginning with suspensions to star offensive players and kickers who couldn’t stay healthy.
Plenty of teams, including the Steelers’ next opponent, have been riddled with setbacks this year, but perhaps none of come through it as well as they have, and even as they sit here at 9-5 and the chances of winning the division seem slim, they control their own destiny for the playoffs, and could lock up a spot on Sunday with just a bit of likely help.
Through all the bumps in the road, I think that the Pittsburgh Steelers team that we are now seeing on Sundays is not far from the one that we expected to see when we entered the season. Even without Le’Veon Bell, there is the explosive and dynamic offense.
DeAngelo Williams has been a season saver with his nine rushing touchdowns, success in situational football, superb pass protection, and his sheer ability to make his own offense when the blocking breaks down.
And put quite simply, as long as the Steelers have Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, they are a threat to put up 30 points in any game, in any stadium, against any opponent. The only real dip in Brown’s production over the last three years came when Roethlisberger was sidelined.
Defensively, we knew that the reloading process wouldn’t be seamless, but this unit has found ways to get things done. They have scraped together a very respectable series of splash plays, including 40 sacks and 15 interceptions, their most in either category in five seasons, and the fumbles have been there too.
As would be expected, these numbers have relied upon the contributions of any number of players. Only one player has more than five sacks, for example, and only one has more than two interceptions. The help has come from just about everywhere—and it also helps that it has come at opportune times, including several red zone interceptions. Ryan Shazier’s first career interception on Sunday helped set up the game-winning drive and complete the fourth-quarter comeback.
Since Roethlisberger has returned, the Steelers have gone 5-2, including 5-1 in their last six games, and they have a very real, even likely chance of finishing the second half of the season by going 7-1 and finishing on a five-game winning streak to go 11-5.
As long as their health holds up, the Steelers can be a very dangerous team in the playoffs this year after being blindsided by Bell’s injury a year ago with no adequate replacement. I expect this to be the first year that they win a playoff game since 2010, when they went to the Super Bowl.