While a lot of us, me mostly, on this site have spewed a lot of doom and gloom concerning the 2016 Pittsburgh Steelers during their bye week, it’s still important to remember that they entered it with a 4-3 record and atop the AFC North division. As fans of the Steelers, there are still several reasons to still be excited about this year’s team coming out of the bye as it relates to them possibly winning a seventh Lombardi Trophy in February.
1 – Roethlisberger’s Return Forthcoming – While it’s still unclear whether Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will play in the team’s post-bye road game against the Baltimore Ravens, one would think there’s a great chance of that happening. At worst, Roethlisberger should be back for the team’s Week 10 home game against the Dallas Cowboys. If Roethlisberger can remain healthy for the remainder of the season, the Steelers will have a solid chance of winning every one of their remaining nine regular season games regardless of how the team’s defense plays.
2 – Green’s Debut On Tap – The Steelers have finally allowed tight end Ladarius Green to start practicing and now we wait for him to be activated to the team’s 53-man roster. When Green finally hits the field, the Steelers will have yet another weapon for Roethlisberger to use in the passing game and especially on third downs. More than anything, getting Green on the field could result in opposing defenses having to choose the poison that could kill them a little more carefully. In fact, it could wind up with wide receiver Antonio Brown perhaps seeing a little less bracketed coverage.
3 – Even More Reinforcements On The Way – In addition to Roethlisberger and Green possibly returning to action as soon as Week 9, the Steelers should also get back defensive Cameron Heyward, tackle Marcus Gilbert, and wide receiver Markus Wheaton back by Week 10 at the latest as well. Additionally, wide receiver Sammie Coates should be able to overcome that busted left index finger of his at some point during the next few weeks and outside linebacker Bud Dupree will likely be back on the field for at least the final four regular season games. In short, this year’s team should exit their bye the healthiest they’ve been in a while.
4 – Bell Is Ringing Loudly – Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell has managed to register nearly a 6-yard average every time he’s touched the football since his return from his three-game suspension. While Bell has only registered two plays of 20 yards or more so far in the four games that he’s played in, you must know more of those are on the way. He looks extremely fresh right now and could quite possibly reach 1,500 total yards from scrimmage in the team’s final nine regular season games.
5 – Defensive Play Should Improve Some – Consider it a leap of faith, but the Steelers defense should improve some during the second half of the season. I mean, they really can’t play much worse as they’ve only registered 8 total sacks and 3 interceptions in the team’s first seven games of the season. Heyward’s return will help quite a bit as he figures to not only stabilize the defense’s play against the run, but also generate pressure as a pass rusher as well. Assuming the Steelers offense can get back on track when Roethlisberger returns from his injury, that should also help the Steelers defense immensely. A great offense can serve as a great defense in addition.
6 – Watered-Down AFC – Outside of maybe the New England Patriots, there really isn’t a team in the AFC that you can point to as having a real strong chance of making it to the Super Bowl as we enter Week 8 of the regular season. Sure, the Patriots just beat the Steelers, but Pittsburgh not having Roethlisberger for that game certainly stacked the deck in New England’s favor. If the Steelers can find a way to make the playoffs and stay relatively healthy in the process, we could potentially see a rematch between the Steelers and the Patriots during the playoffs with the winner of that game having a great shot at representing the AFC in the Super Bowl. Only seven AFC teams entered Week 8 with a winning record and the Steelers were one of them. After this week’s games are over, that number could possibly shrink to five teams.