I wrote an article this week contending that the bye week fell at the perfect time for the Pittsburgh Steelers, particularly with respect to their having the opportunity to get a number of key players back from injuries, some of which have been nagging issues throughout the year.
Aside from that, the bye week falls in the dead center of the season, week nine, which nice and symmetrically divides the first eight games of the year from the last eight. It is the literal midseason mark, a time to catch your breath, take stock of where you’ve come from, and energize yourself for where you have yet to go.
It also helps that it comes on the butt end of a testy three-game winning streak that saw them respond to an embarrassing blowout by the Jaguars at Heinz Field with wins over, the Chiefs and Kansas City, the Bengals at home, and finally the Lions in Detroit. Many on the team seemed to agree that the bye was well-timed.
“It’s nice that the bye fell when it did”, offensive coordinator Todd Haley told reporters, “because now we’ll start that third quarter of the season here after a couple days’ rest, a couple days’ analysis for us as coaches, and really your mindset has to be that you’re back to 0-0 and trying to win quarters again”.
His guys agreed. Running back Le’Veon Bell called it “perfect timing”, noting that “it’s literally halfway, midway through the season. We couldn’t ask for a better time. The fact that we are coming off a three-game winning streak is huge for us”.
Beyond that, he hopes that the break gives everybody the opportunity to get on the same page and make sure that they are at their best for the home stretch. “We have been winning games and not playing our best ball”, he said. “With the bye week we are going to watch film, we will continue to get better, clean some things up and move forward. We are ready to go out there and play some more football”.
“We are going to be healthy, hopefully get some of our guys back off of this bye week and come back and play better football”, he added, equally importantly. Starters Marcus Gilbert and Stephon Tuitt, at right tackle and left defensive end, specifically, have both missed the majority of the season. They are also looking to get tight end Vance McDonald back.
Rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, coming off of a true breakout game that included seven catches for 193 yards, among which was a 97-yard touchdown reception—tied for the longest offensive play in team history—was on board with the timing of the break.
“I think it’s great for us”, the 20-year-old said. “We have to let our bodies rest, get healthy, come back next week and get ready for Indianapolis”. Not that Smith-Schuster probably needs all that much rest. The kid makes me feel old, and I’m not ready to be ‘old’ yet.