Week 8 of the NFL season is upon us. The Steelers are 4-3; they remain loosely gripped on the division lead, and are now heading to the bye week. We seemingly say this every year, but it appears that this week off could not have come at a better time. Coincidence? Yes, definitely. But the Steelers have faced some major injuries throughout the last several years, and at different points in the season, so really any bye week is perfect.
The obvious go to in reference to this week’s importance is the healing of Ben Roethlisberger. Torn meniscus’ are different for many players, and with the nuanced predictions in terms of recovery, it’s hard to say what it reasonable to assume, but we can agree Big Ben recovers faster than most. This week, his second of recovery, is imperative to getting him back out on the field. And, of course, they can’t lose this week which is always a bonus.
Cameron Heyward’s dynamic abilities on the field have been clearly missed, but not just for his strength and field awareness. His leadership on the field can’t be understated, and his intellect and communicative talents are just as, if not more valuable. He will have an opportunity to come back in the following week against the Ravens, a tough division game where we know the defense needs to be at their best.
Ryan Shazier will have more opportunities to get 100%, and dust off some rust that looked to be apparent against New England. Marcus Gilbert as well will have time to rest and get better for week 9. Even though Hubbard has done alright in Gilbert’s absence, he made impactful mistakes in the run game last week, and also took away a touchdown opportunity. Gilbert will certainly be a nice upgrade in a game where the Steelers will undoubtedly look to the talents of Le’Veon Bell on the ground.
As far as the receivers go, Antonio Brown has said he will be working on his quad issue, while Markus Wheaton will have an opportunity to battle back from his shoulder injury. DeAngelo Williams will hopefully be ready to go against the Ravens, as he’s rehabbing his knee during this Bye.
In addition to all of these players, there are a slew of others who are banged up and will have opportunities to be a little more rested come the Ravens matchup. But as you can see, all of the aforementioned players, with the exception of Williams, are starters. That’s vital to getting this group back on the right track. We know this team has the talent to do special things, but the injuries have seemed to continually drop them down a notch year in and year out.
Getting some of these guys back, any combination of them, will be key as they return to a game that, let’s face it, is more meaningful than the Patriots one. To get home field advantage in the playoffs is a HUGE plus, and to do that you have to first win your division. The Ravens have some time to rest as well and you can be sure they will be ready to bring their “A” game.
One more thing that this bye week offers is a chance to right the wrongs we saw in the red zone last week. Settling for field goals, and deep attempts, are not the formula to winning games. When those chances present themselves it’s so important to convert those drives into 6 points. The Steelers blew those opportunities last week, and now Landry Jones will have another week to take all the reps and prepare himself for these situations should he get the start, which he most likely will.
Not to mention it will be nice for him to develop more of a rapport with his receivers, including Cobi Hamilton as the two showed some nice chemistry on the field last week. Hamilton may not see much action should Sammie Coates, Wheaton and Brown be available. In that case, Jones will have the chance to develop more chemistry with those guys, as it was apparent on a few plays that he and his receiver were not on the same page.
The bye week always comes a great time, but in the Steelers case for week 8 it appears to be coming at the perfect time.