If there has been one silver lining to all of the moving parts that the Pittsburgh Steelers have been forced to deal with this season, it is that they have had no choice but to learn how to adapt on the fly, and they have still managed to find success in spite of all of the adversity that they have experienced.
This season, they lost two of their starting offensive linemen, relying upon a journeyman center who led the league in penalties and a first-year 27-year-old left tackle who has spent far more time overseas in combat missions than on football fields. Yet Ben Roethlisberger has taken fewer sacks and been under less pressure overall.
Despite the improved pass protection, Roethlisberger has gotten injured—not once, not twice, not thrice, but four times. The most serious was an MCL sprain that knocked him out for four games, but he also suffered a foot injury, followed by a concussion, and is currently attempting to play through a shoulder sprain.
But even when Roethlisberger missed four games, the Steelers still managed to win, achieving victory in two of the four games that he missed, and they likely would have won three had their kicker not been injured, as he later revealed months later.
The Steelers knew they would have adversity to deal with before they even dealt with it, of course. They signed DeAngelo Williams to start at the beginning of the season because they knew that Le’Veon Bell would be suspended for the first two games of the season. He ended up starting 10 games because Bell tore his MCL.
And now the Steelers are making do with Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman to replace the replacement starting running back, which worked out pretty well at least for one game, as they compiled a total of over 180 yards.
Pittsburgh also knew they would be without Martavis Bryant for at least four games. In preparation, they drafted Sammie Coates, but it was Darrius Heyward-Bey who stepped up in Bryant’s absence. And now all of them will have to step up their game with Antonio Brown out.
This has proven to be a resilient team, for sure, and it should not be taken lightly what they have accomplished this season, eking out a 10-win season and a postseason victory. For a stretch, they were even playing dominant football, consistently putting up over 30 points a game.
And it is largely because they have had no choice but to learn to be adaptably this season, sometimes even on the fly, learning on the job for some players such as Alejandro Villanueva, serving the vital role of blindside protector for a franchise quarterback.
But resiliency, at best, buys you competitiveness. Persistence buys you a fighting chance. It certainly doesn’t buy you a victory, and that is what the Steelers are after today, no matter who is catching, running, or even throwing the ball. This game will be a major test. I don’t know if they will pass it, but it will certainly be exciting to watch.