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Pittsburgh Steelers: Redundant or reliable?

Last Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers came away with one of their ugliest wins in recent history.

A last second field goal helped them seal a 20-17 victory over a horrible Indianapolis Colts team.

After the game, players, fans and the media all shared the same thoughts: A win is a win, but improvements must be made.

For a majority of the game, the stereotypical 2017 Steelers were on full display. They were sluggish after the bye week, played down to their competition, struggled to pass, allowed big scoring plays and were fighting internally on the sidelines.

However, one could also argue that the Steelers showed a few positive traits in the second half against the Colts that, in the end helped them get the win.

After watching the fourth quarter and taking a few days to think things over, it could be argued that this team is more reliable than they are redundant.

On Offense

Without question, the main cause of frustration this season has came of the offensive side of the ball.

The pass game is nowhere near where it should be. Le’veon Bell continues to be used more than some would desire. Todd Haley and Ben Roethlisberger once again show that they simply do not like each other.

Yet, in a game where they will be remembered for all that they did wrong, the few things I noticed them do right were very encouraging. Despite having a horrible start to the first half and falling behind by two scores in the third quarter, the offense did just enough to get the win.

I am aware they had great field position and I agree, the game should have never been close, but when you come from behind down 14 points on the road, in my book that is a plus, regardless of who you are playing.

Throughout the entire year, while Roethlisberger struggled, I always wondered one thing: When the game is on the line, can he still turn it on?

On Sunday, I found out that he still can.

Though he looked rough at times, late in the game when it matted most, he moved the chains on third down by hitting multiple receivers, got the job done in the red zone where he threw both of his touchdown passes and finally, led the team down the field on the final drive of the game to set up the game winning field goal.

I am not here to say that Roethlisberger had a great game or that he is showing any signs of improvement. However, what I will claim is that what makes Roethlisberger great is that regardless of what happened in the first 58 minutes of the game, if you get him the ball in the last two, he will get the job done, more often than not.

Once again, he did just that.

On Defense

The Steelers defense has been one of the biggest surprises in football this year.

Week by week, they not only hold off their opponent from creating a big lead, but often find ways to help the struggling offense get moving.

It is clear that this Steelers defensive unit has a problem with allowing one or two big scoring plays a game. However, after those mistakes, they seemingly always make up for it.

Down 17-3 in the third quarter, with an offense that showed no signs of life, the defense brought the Steelers back into the game. After failing to get to the quarterback at all in the first half, they tuned up the pressure and forced three sacks and an interception inside the Indianapolis 15 yard-line.

Pittsburgh has always been a team that won from defense. Players like Stephon Tuit, Cam Heyward, Ryan Shazier and Sean Davis are quickly showing Steeler nation that this group is capable of meeting that high standard.

They have improved against the run, they bend but don’t break against the pass and are lights out in crunch time. Though they have yet to pass the “Brady test” and will certainly have to compensate for the loss of Joe Haden, this groups ability to always keep the team in the game should give fans a great deal of confidence regardless of the obstacles that are ahead.

Special Teams

Special teams has not been the best this season.

Overall, there has not been much to talk about in this phase of the game excluding one player: Chris Boswell.

Boswell has silently been one of the most automatic kickers in the league this season. He does so while playing in a home stadium that is known to be one of the toughest places to kick in.

Boswell has not been asked to do anything crazy, like kick from 60+ yards but if you think about it, without him, how many wins do the Steelers have this year?

For example, replace Boz with a bad kicker like Roberto Aguao.

In nearly all of their wins this season, Pittsburgh struggled to find the end zone and relied on the kicking game to get them enough points to win. If he is anything close to inconsistent, the Steelers are not where they are right now.

After missing only his third kick this year, Boswell made two huge plays that helped the Steelers come out on top.

His hustle on the blocked extra point which led to Jesse James making the two point saving tackle ended up being a big difference and of course, the second big play was his game winner from 33 yards out.

Though it was not far, a last second kick on the road in a tie game after you have already missed once and had an extra point blocked is still big. There was no doubt at all when the ball left his toe. Boswell isn’t an all pro, but he has yet to be the reason the Steelers have lost.

Overall

As I mentioned before, there is a great deal to improve on for this team. Their 7-2 record does not come off as dominant when you have watched them play in every game.

But, with all of their flaws, this team is still in first position to have the top seed in the AFC as of right now.

They have two teams with winning records left on their schedule, which could be both a blessing and a curse due to their reputation to play down to their competition.

The Steelers have proved to be solid enough to win in all three phases of the game. They have shown small hints of having what it takes to be a championship team. However, they still have a long way to go.

 

Photo courtesy of Darron Cummings/Associated Press.

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Noah Hiles

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