Don’t get me wrong, Pittsburgh’s defense runs like a well-oiled machine on a weekly basis and has won them football games week after week. Even after losing stud linebacker Devin Bush early on in the season and now losing another linebacker Bud Dupree for the rest of the year, the Steelers will ride this defense all the way to its first AFC North Championship in two years.
However, it is the offense that seems a little suspect to me. In eras of old, the team could rely on other-worldly talent to pull them out of holes in games with the likes of Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, but the only killer bee that remains is 38-year-old quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
With all signs pointing to a large regression in performance (age and missing nearly all of last season due to injury,) Big Ben has proven solidly consistent in 2020 with 27 touchdowns and 7 interceptions after week 13 (better than the stats that won Rich Gannon the NFL MVP in 2002.)
The problems lay in an inconsistent running game and a wide-receiver core that has an unhealthy hankering for a layered crispy peanut butter core covered in chocolate. With seven drops against Washington, the Steelers took the league lead in drops, having 10 more than any other team. It was also back to back games with five-plus drops. The team has only had two such games in the past 15 years.
While a dropped pass in football may not be all the fault of the receiver, when the numbers have gotten to this level there is a problem. Coach Tomlin said catching the ball has to be a “non-discussion” for players and there have certainly been some disgusting dropped balls for the Steelers this year.
The Steelers run game has amassed 100 yards rushing in nearly half of their games played this season, but have gained as little as 29 twice in the early going and managed a meager 45 against Washington.
The team’s defense ranks first in points allowed and third in yards allowed. Despite this, other than three blowout victories over the Browns (9-3), Bengals (2-9-1), and Jaguars (1-11), the average margin of victory for the Steelers is six points. The offense ranks seventh in points scored and only twenty-first in yards gained.
So, now at 11-1 and comfortably in the lead to win the AFC North division, all signs point to a playoff bout with the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs. The league's best defense against one of the most high-powered offenses the league has ever seen. If the defense can't form a steel curtain against the Chiefs, the Steelers offense will have no shot of keeping up with Patrick Mahomes and company.
For now, the Steelers can wear their jagged crown in the regular season throne, but the fight for the Lombardi Trophy will be nowhere near as easy. I’ve made it this far in an anti-Steelers article without mentioning their cakewalk schedule. Heading into the season their opponents were projected to have a sub .500 record and so far it has kept to that with all opponents played so far current records showing a .367 winning percentage. There. I did it.