Even with a 4-0 start, the Pittsburgh Steelers have struggled to move some of their skeptics. That is no doubt in large part to the simple fact that they have not yet played a quality opponent. The four teams that they have beaten have a combined three victories and one tie on the season, and most of them haven’t had a bye week yet.
The next three weeks will be a very different matter as they prepare to face a trio of teams who are three games or better over .500 in the Cleveland Browns (up next), the Tennessee Titans (whom they were supposed to play last week), and the Baltimore Ravens.
Pro Football Focus still has the Steelers barely ranked in the top 10. Dan Hanzus for NFL.com, however, has been an early buyer on Pittsburgh once he saw Ben Roethlisberger on the field again. They quickly jumped from 12th to seventh and then into the top five, and now entering week six, he has them back up to fourth, behind only the Green Bay Packers, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Ravens. He writes:
The Steelers are 4-0 for the first time in 41 years (how is this possible?) and Chase Claypool has officially arrived as the organization’s latest bull’s-eye hit at wide receiver. Claypool, the second-round pick out of Notre Dame, flashed his playmaking ability in Pittsburgh’s first three wins, but he exploded on Sunday with four touchdowns in a 38-29 win over the Eagles. Like Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Diontae Johnson before him, Claypool’s arrival shows off Pittsburgh’s uncanny ability to find first-round-caliber talent outside the top 32 picks of every draft class. It’s no coincidence why certain teams remain competitive year after year.
It’s certainly nice when you can get four touchdowns in one game from your rookie wide receiver. And we really haven’t necessarily seen this receiving corps at full strength yet, with Diontae Johnson having gotten knocked out of the game in each of the past two weeks.
With Greedy Williams out for the Browns, whoever Denzel Ward is not covering should have opportunities working against Terrance Mitchell in coverage. Kevin Johnson is a quality slot defender who has returned from injury, but JuJu Smith-Schuster can get the better of that matchup.
Even with a quality pass rush from the likes of Myles Garrett, the Browns are still surrendering nearly 30 points per game defensively. They are only 4-1 because the offense has been putting up even more. The Steelers defense will have to get into the backfield—both in the passing game and the running game—as often as possible to get a handle on this one.