Don’t count out the Pittsburgh Steelers just yet — or so one NFL.com analyst believes despite the Steelers’ rocky start.
Bucky Brooks, who is historically rather down on the Steelers compared to popular consensus, provided a shock to the system Friday night, listing the Steelers at 2-3 as one of four teams that, despite rough starts, are sneaky contenders moving forward.
That might be a bit of recency bias from Brooks after the Steelers looked pretty formidable against the Denver Broncos in Week 5, running the football at a high successful rate clip and putting up more than 23 points for the first time all season.
However, there’s still plenty of concerns with this version of the Steelers moving forward. Brooks is jumping on the train though, stating that with a great defense, an improving run game and a veteran quarterback that can take care of the football, the Steelers could find themselves in contention down the stretch despite a rather rough start that saw a three-game losing streak nearly derail the season after Week 4.
“Do not count out the Steelers as a playoff contender despite their slow start,” Brooks writes. “Mike Tomlin has a talented defense at his disposal with enough playmakers to create problems for opponents unable to deal with the unit’s collective speed. Offensively, Najee Harris and an improving offensive line could give the team enough pop to knock out opponents with a barrage of body blows from the heavyweight runner. If Ben Roethlisberger takes care of the ball, the Steelers can be the kind of team that trips up a top seed down the stretch.”
The Steelers’ defense certainly has the playmakers to be one of the best in the league. At this point in the season though the unit is struggling to live up to the expectations, having forced just four turnovers on the season. Heading into the Week 6 matchup with the Seahawks, Pittsburgh’s defense sits 19th in DVOA, according to Football Outsiders’ metrics, which simply isn’t good enough.
The pass rush also isn’t making as big an impact as expected after a Week 1 performance in which the Steelers’ front seven got after Buffalo’s Josh Allen early and often. Since that performance, the Steelers have recorded just six sacks and 14 quarterback hits in the last four weeks, causing a young secondary to struggle against the likes of Las Vegas’ Derek Carr, Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow, and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, the latter of which was expected.
Make no mistake though: Sunday’s win over the Broncos showed the recipe for the Steelers to be a good team in 2021. Run the football, complete some timely throws and not turn it over, while stopping the run and getting after the passer defensively. The talent is undoubtedly there. Now it’s all about execution week-to-week for the Steelers under head coach Mike Tomlin.