The Pittsburgh Steelers were being doubted up and down, left and right around this time of year. What kind of success could they have with a quarterback with a bad arm? The franchise was able to hold off critics for a bit with a 11-0 start to the season—by far the best in the team’s history—but they ultimately collapsed, finishing 1-5, including a first-round postseason exit.
By now, most have come to view this team as the one who finished the previous season rather than the one at the beginning, and they haven’t done much to quell the skepticism, particularly with the decision to mark on with Ben Roethlisberger, while losing some half a dozen starters. They need to get off to a good start. Or at least that’s what Mike Florio argues for Pro Football Talk.
When they go all in, bring back Ben, here we go. We’ve got to run the ball, we’ve got to show them that we can come out and do what we did last year. They went 11-0 last year. You can’t go 2-2 in September the year after you went 11-0 and expect to be better. You need to come out of the gates and establish that, yes, Ben still has it, that, yes, Najee Harris was the right pick in round one, that, yes, the offensive line is working.
We know one of the realities of having reduced offseason workouts, reduced training camp intensity, it takes some time for the offensive line to get to where it’s going to be. The Steelers need to crack that code. They need to hack that process.
They need to get the offense moving, and they need to count on their defense to do well enough to get those wins in September so they could carry the momentum into October and November, because this is the all-in, one-last-year-with-Ben, we-think-we-have-a-chance-to-win-the-Super-Bowl season for the Steelers. What they do or don’t do in September is going to be critical to how that plays out.
Starting well is always preferable to the alternative, and the Steelers also have arguably the most daunting schedule in the NFL this year. It starts out with a road game against the Buffalo Bills, and they also travel to face the Green Bay Packers in week four, with home games against the Las Vegas Raiders and the Cincinnati Bengals in between.
If they are going to be a Super Bowl contender, then you would expect them to be able to go at least 3-1 during that stretch, even if it won’t be easy. By week six, they also get the Seattle Seahawks, and later on in the season, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tennessee Titans.
In all, they play 11 games against teams who were in the postseason last year. In other words, that means that they can’t get off to a slow start. They can’t finish slow. And they can’t let off the gas in between, either.