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 is the Steelers’ biggest concern heading into the postseason?
There are no dominant teams in the NFL this year, or at least, no teams without clear flaws, even if they might not show themselves in every game. The Steelers finished the season tied with the best record of anybody in football, yet all who finished with the same record have obvious weaknesses.
Pittsburgh has gotten stronger from last season, certainly, but there are still issues. The running game is actually not as strong as it was a year ago, for whatever reason, though Le’Veon Bell is coming into this postseason run healthier than the last.
The health of Antonio Brown heading into this run is a concern as well. It’s hard to imagine that he will be 100 percent in about a week and a half’s time from now. But the team’s supplemental cast surrounding him in comparison to last season is substantially better.
Defensively, there is one clear negative change from last season, and that would be the absence of Ryan Shazier. Shazier was a huge presence for the defense in both of the past two offseason runs, but he won’t be out there this year.
The run defense has struggled to stabilize while adjusting to his absence. While there have not been many long runs ripped off against them, opposing offenses are consistently getting successful carries, even if they might be interspersed with a few tackles in the backfield.
But, at the end of the day, it will always come down to the Patriots for many people until they are eliminated. And how did the Patriots beat the Steelers the last time they played? Well, pretty much Rob Gronkowski.
The Steelers haven’t necessarily struggled with tight ends throughout the year, but Gronkowski plain and simply dominated them. And they didn’t even have to play him last year in the postseason. They upgraded a couple of spots in the secondary since then, but will it be enough, if the two teams play again?