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 it too early to start talking about playoff possibilities?
With the Steelers having now won two games in a row—albeit against bad teams—and on the verge of returning to a .500 record, things are looking much different than they did a month ago, following three losses to open the season and Ben Roethlisberger going down.
Through seven games, Mason Rudolph appears to be settling in, as does a defense that has been strengthened by offseason and mid-season additions, and which has been creating turnovers at a surprising, if unsustainable rate.
There are indications that the Steelers have enough strength on both sides of the ball—and on special teams as well—to win games. At the very least, they have been very competitive, even through major growing pains, against quality teams like the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks. They should be able to win games.
And they’re only two games behind the Baltimore Ravens, with their divisional opponent’s next challenge being the New England Patriots, who currently feature the best defense in the NFL. Baltimore has done, frankly, better than I thought they would so far this year—but then again, the Steelers should have been able to beat them a few weeks ago. And there’s still the wildcard in play.
So is it premature to think ahead to the postseason? Not for the players, of course, but for us. Are we getting ahead of ourselves? Should we wait on it and gather some more information about who this team is before considering their potential to make it into the postseason? Or have we already seen enough to know that it’s a very legitimate possible outcome?