The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, in which they entered with big aspirations, in spite of a tumultuous start to the offseason. Significant players were lost via trade and free agency, players who have helped shape the course of the franchise in recent years. We even now sit here without Ben Roethlisberger after just two games.
The team made some bold moves this offseason and in some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago. That would especially be the case at wide receiver and inside linebacker, where they have new starters. And quarterback was suddenly added to that list.
How will the season progress without Roethlisberger, behind Mason Rudolph? How will the young players advance into their expected roles? Will the new coaches be up to the task? Who is looking good in games? Who is sitting out due to injury?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Is the AFC North still viable for the Steelers?
It’s hard to make the argument that any team in the AFC North is actually good this year, and that includes the 3-2 Baltimore Ravens. Their two wins that have come outside of the division were to the Miami Dolphins and the Arizona Cardinals, who are a combined 1-7-1 on the season so far.
The Cleveland Browns were just trounced last night by the San Francisco 49ers by a 31-3 margin, the second game they’ve lost already by 25-plus points, and their only non-divisional win was against the 0-5 Washington team that just fired its head coach. The Cincinnati Bengals…don’t have a win yet.
The Ravens, meanwhile, were somewhat competitive against the Kansas City Chiefs, a nice feather in their cap, but they were also dominated by the Browns. In both games, the defense allowed over 500 yards, the first time in franchise history to allow that kind of yardage in back-to-back games.
And while they have the Bengals up next, their two games afterward are against the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots. That will mark the halfway point of the season, and will be a good time to re-evaluate where the AFC North stands. It’s very possible the Ravens are 4-4 after the next three weeks.
Obviously the Steelers need to start winning games, next up a west coast game against the Los Angeles Chargers, but then after the break they get the Dolphins. If they can manage to win those two games and make it to 3-4, things could still get interesting. Three of their four losses have been close and competitive.