With the Pittsburgh Steelers now on their bye week the team will get a chance to rest up their long list of injured players prior to playing out the final stretch of ten games that will start with them hosting the Miami Dolphins in Week 8 on Monday Night Football. Thanks to their Week 6 Sunday night road win over the Los Angeles Chargers, the Steelers entered their bye week with a 2-4 record and still very much alive in the AFC North division. The Steelers road win over the Chargers also resulted in them having a six-spot jump in the ESPN NFL Power Rankings:
Up spots to No. 20 overall are the Steelers and the team’s biggest weakness entering the seventh week of the NFL regular season is their passing game, according to Brooke Pryor, who covers the team for ESPN.com. She writes:
“It’s crazy to say that a team with JuJu Smith-Schuster is struggling in the passing game, but that’s been the case, as the Steelers rank 28th in passing yards per game. With the extra attention Smith-Schuster is receiving as a WR1, the Steelers desperately need a solid second option to draw attention away from him or capitalize on open opportunities. Smith-Schuster is coming off a game in which he had just one catch for 7 yards and was targeted four times — the lowest regular-season output of his career when he has been targeted. The carousel of quarterbacks isn’t helping, as Devlin Hodges is already starter No. 3.”
That assessment is correct and the Steelers quarterbacks this season, Ben Roethlisberger included, have combined to complete just 6 of 28 (21.4%) deep passes thrown more than 15 yards past the line of scrimmage for 207 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. The Steelers offense has also produced just 18 explosive plays through 6 games and four of those came via Roethlisberger passes. They have just 12 total in their last 4 games.
The Steelers next three game are against the Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Rams with all three being home games. The Dolphins enter Week 7 last in ESPN’s power rankings while the Colts are currently ranked 15th, five spots higher than the Steelers. The Rams, who currently sport a 3-3 record, are ranked 11th overall.
The Steelers absolutely must win at least two of their next three games and preferably their next two against the AFC teams. They are currently chasing the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North and they seemingly have a tough next two games against the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots with their bye week sandwiched in the middle of those contests. The Ravens enter Week 7 ranked 9th in the ESPN power rankings and they effectively have a three-game lead over the Steelers due to them beating them at Heinz Field in Week 5.