After recording their first victory against a quality opponent, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ skeptics are finally beginning to thaw out, with ESPN the latest to see the team make a significant move ahead in their power rankings.
Heading into their week six game against the Cleveland Browns, who were 4-1 entering the game, ESPN had the Steelers ranked ninth in the league. After manhandling their divisional little brothers by a score of 38-7, Pittsburgh is now ranked third, moving up six spots, and passing, among others, the Baltimore Ravens, who were almost waylaid by the Philadelphia Eagles that same week.
The only two teams that are now ranked in front of the 5-0 Steelers are the Seattle Seahawks at one, who are the only remaining unbeaten team in the NFC, and the Kansas City Chiefs, who are 5-1 and have recovered from a surprise loss to their division rivals, the Las Vegas Raiders.
Now six weeks into the season, pretty much every team in the league at this point has been impacted in one way or another by injuries, so with each team’s entry in the list is a short blurb about their biggest impact on the injury front—and you know for the Steelers who that is: Devin Bush. Brooke Pryor writes:
The Steelers’ most recent injury is the one they could least afford. Inside linebacker is the thinnest position on the team, and Bush played every snap before he tore his ACL in the second quarter of Sunday’s win against the Browns. Backup Robert Spillane, who played one defensive snap entering the season, took over for Bush and wore the defensive headset for the rest of the game. Spillane is slated to wear the headset going forward and take over Bush’s snaps. The Steelers expressed confidence in Spillane, but facing unbeaten Tennessee and impressive running back Derrick Henry this week will be a significant test.
I mean, there’s the quarterback position. I’m pretty sure that would have been a less affordable injury. Outside linebacker is not incredibly deep, either. On a certain level, I do feel like people are making too much of the loss of Bush. He is a very talented player, but he hasn’t been a complete player yet, and people are also overlooking Spillane, about whom I am cautiously optimistic. It’s not as though he has proven that he can’t play.
The Steelers weathered the loss of Stephon Tuitt last season. They will weather the loss of Bush, too. Frankly, it doesn’t alter their true defensive strength, which is their front four and their pass rush. Their front four also excels at stopping the run, as does Vince Williams, which is why Bush, their every-down mack linebacker, was hardly averaging five tackles per game, with just five solo tackles in the past three games.