The journey toward the Super Bowl is now well under way with the Pittsburgh Steelers back practicing at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, still informally referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility. With the regular season standing in their way on the path to a Lombardi, there will be questions for them to answer along the way.
We have asked and answered a lot of questions during the preseason and through training camp, but much of the answer-seeking ends in the regular season, and teams simply have to make do with what they have available to them. Still, there will always be questions for us.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond as they develop, looking for the answers as we evaluate the makeup of the Steelers on their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.
Question: What was the biggest (pleasant) surprise for the Steelers during the first half of the season?
Since we are still transitioning back into actual football mode from the bye week, I figured it would be appropriate to throw out a retrospective question like this.
Now that we’ve played half of the games, what has been the most pleasant surprise of the season so far for the Steelers? It could be an individual player’s performance, although it doesn’t have to be. It could be a circumstantial performance, or anything really, provided that it pertains to football.
I’m going to guess that a popular pick will be the performance of cornerback Joe Haden, who has been the best player in the secondary so far—arguably, at least, as one could make a pretty solidly convincing case for Mike Hilton out of the slot.
Speaking of Hilton, now that I’ve reminded you, perhaps you’d like to change your answer. Hilton locking down the nickel back position was far from a guarantee, but he has been one of the steadiest players for the Steelers on either side of the ball, and has contributed in all phases of the game.
While the pass rush hasn’t been consistent from game to game, it has been productive despite being one of the least-frequent blitzers in the league, as attested to by the fact that they are on pace for over 50 sacks on the year. Coverage has been, for the most part, above the line as well.
Chris Hubbard? How about the job that he has done? He has started most of the season and played in the equivalent of six games, and yet the Steelers have allowed the second-fewest sacks in the league, and he hasn’t been a liability.
Third-down defense is a big one that I think has been overlooked a little too much so far. They’ve been one of the best teams in the league in getting off the field. It might just not seem like it as much because the offense has been terrible converting them on the flip side.