Pittsburgh Steelers: 9 wins – 7 losses, 1 draw, AFC seventh
With 3 losses in the first four games, Pittsburgh could expect a difficult season in 2021. And yet Mike Tomlin has once again found the weapons to carry his team higher than expected. While the franchise is about to say goodbye to Ben Roethlisberger, at the club for 18 years, it will have the opportunity to play spoilsport in a raised conference.
How did they get there?
Based on a defense still as strong, the Steelers managed to hang the playoffs on the last day thanks to a small miracle, the defeat of the Colts against the Jaguars. Offensively, however, the season has been complicated with a performance that places the franchise in the top 10 worst teams. “Big Ben” looks like Peyton Manning at the end of his career, but he still has the aggressiveness that makes it possible to pull off matches.
The star of this team is called TJ Watt, probable future defender of the year, who is one of the only defenders in this league capable of winning a game for his team. He did not however hold this squad alone, since players like Cameron Heyward or Joe Haden deserve mentions. This group will have to be even better, because the next attack in front has regained all its confidence.
The key player: Mike Tomlin (Head Coach)
Yes, he is not a player. And yet the key is him. If the Steelers are still in the positive and in the playoffs, it is because they have one of the best coaches in the league, constantly underestimated even though he has never had a negative season.
Mike Tomlin is a genius who shoots 120% of these players, and he has playoff experience. He will know how to mobilize the leaders, and choose the strategy which will give the most chance of winning. His duel with Andy Reid is unmistakable.
Why are they going to go to the end?
D-Fense. Despite an attack that does not perform and does not let the squad rest, the numbers are solid: 9th defense against the pass, 55 sacks (1st in the league) and 24.9% pressure from the quarterback (7th). With an average attack Pittsburgh would have a top 5 defenses. What this defense lacks to be definitely scary: a return to the highest level of Devin Bush and Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Why won’t they go?
Ben Roethlisberger looks like Peyton Manning in his senior year, and he doesn’t have the luxury of having a full squad around to back him up. He still fights with just as much force, but can not do it any more. When it comes to the arms race against the big AFC teams, the march may be too high.
He is not helped by a line which is not performing in either the passing game or the running game. Scoring points risks being a way of the cross for this group, despite targets of a good level. 35.3% of drives end with points, which does not encourage optimism.
The defensive line was the group most affected by the injuries. Tyson Alualu has been out since week 3, while Stephon Tuitt is also out. Even if there is depth in the workforce, these absences are likely to be felt.
In attack, the only notable absentee is Juju Smith-Schuster, without this seeming to affect the performance of the receivers too much.
The clash against the Chiefs looks like a potential disaster if Pittsburgh fails to cause some loss of balls. The “playmakers” will have to respond, like Minkah Fitzpatrick for example. Containing Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce is not easy, and each individual will have to play above their level. A victory remains highly unlikely, but not impossible. Difficult to see them do more than a victory at most.