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7-3 at the Bye: Some Things to Reflect on in the First 10 Games

1. Ben Roethlisberger is having his best season – The Steelers QB week in and week out makes daring plays, escapes hard hits and sacks, and usually is able to extend plays to find an open man. He’s the MVP of this team this season, and all the off field issues from a year and a half ago seem long gone.

2. The Defense isn’t as good as in the past, but that’s Ok – They have given up some runs, and of course the Ravens final drive last Sunday still hurts, but overall they have overcome injuries, and the pass defense is as good as it’s been in a long time. They still have issues getting off the field on third down, but you have to admit that the defense once healthy is as good as any in the AFC.

3. The Run game isn’t very good – Through 10 games Rashard Mendenahll is putting up only 60 yards a game, and overall I don’t trust the run game with the game on the line. It might not matter with the season Roethlisberger is having, but it sure would be nice to see a couple more big games from the running backs, and I’d like to see more of Issac Redmen and John Dwyer in the last six regular season games.

4. Polamalu is Still a Beast – When Troy Polamalu comes up to the line of scrimmage, QB’s eyes have to get bigger. He’s still playing at a high level, and while he won’t repeat at NFL Defensive Player of the Year, he’s still playing very well. He has a sack and a defensive TD, and here’s thinking he will have a couple more game changing plays before it’s all said and done.

5. The remainder of the schedule is a cakewalk – Other than a Monday night game in San Fran, the Steelers seem poised to win 5 games of their final 6, which would make them 12-4 on the season, and with the Ravens tripping over teams like the Jags and Seahawks, that could be enough to win the AFC North. Two games with the awful Browns, a game at KC, home for the Bengals, and the 2-7 Rams is what’s left. Again, they have to beat the Ravens outright since they lost two games to them already.

6. Antonio Brown is a Star in the Making – Brown made some amazing plays Sunday in Cincy, and he seems poised to be the next Hines Ward on this team. In 10 games he has 44 games for 626 yards with a touchdown. Combined with Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Ward, he is a big part to what has become the best WR core in the league.

7. The AFC is Wide Open – Is there a team in the AFC that truly scares you? That’s what I thought. The AFC has two 7 win teams (Steelers and Texans), three 6 win teams (Patriots, Ravens and Bengals) and 7 teams that have 5 or 4 wins. The Steelers can hang and can beat anyone in this conference, and that means getting to the Super Bowl is not as far fetched as it seems like it may have been heading into 2011.

Matt Loede has been in the sports media for over 16 years, with experience covering the MLB, NBA, and NFL. On Sunday’s during football season, you can hear Matt on national networks like Fox Sports Radio, Associated Press, and others. Born and raised in Cleveland Ohio, Matt studies and talks football inside and out, and is anxious to share his thoughts and comments with readers on a daily basis.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. DrGeorge

    November 14, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Matt, you’ve got it right on all points. And those last six games look like a cakewalk for the Steelers. Just as the Seahawks must have looked like a sure victory to the Ravens before Sunday’s debacle. But, in the NFL, strange things happen. The Ravens handed us a gift yesterday, but the margin for error remains slim. The Steelers need six wins and the hope that the Ravens will stumble again. To win the division, the Steelers can’t afford to take lightly any team remaining on their schedule.

    Notwithstanding the victory in Cincinnati, the Steelers still have significant deficiencies — in the running game and on defense. These must be addressed if we hope to go deep into the playoffs. But major improvement on D is unlikely. The defense simply lacks talent at key positions. LeBeau has down a masterful job of adapting, but it is not reasonable to expect him to do much more.

    Therefore, any great improvement must come on the offensive side of the ball, where the glaring deficiency is the lack of a dependable running game. The gusty conditions in Cincinnati yesterday illustrated once again the limitations of Arians’ aerial circus and underscored the need for a better rushing game. If we can improve our running game and become more balanced, we will be far more difficult to defend. And that fix is doable. We have already seen glimpses of what the O-line and running backs can do when properly used. We also know an effective running game is a necessity if we hope to beat the Ravens in the playoffs and get back to the Super Bowl. Now, it’s up to Tomlin and Arians to make that happen. For them, the bye week has come at a very opportune time.

  2. Mark

    November 14, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    Agreed Doc. The fixes that are “doable” can lift this team to January football. I like when the CB play aggressive, it gives them more opportunities to make plays/turnovers. The O line can play better and we have seen glimpses of good play from a unit that plays more games together.If the running game can improve (MORE REDMAN) I think that can carry the team. Right now the team scores about 20-23 points a week. With a better run game that can improve to 26-28 which would make opposing offenses hard pressed to beat them. The bye is at a great time for healing and at 7-3 we are probably right where we should be record wise. My comment on Redman was meant to bring attention to the fact that when he carries the ball, we move forward! Is he better than Mendy? Maybe, maybe not. But my eyes see a ball carrier in Redman that moves the pile and fights for better yards. On Mendy’s TD run yesterday, he kept churning and got the job done. Hit that hole and keep driving. Thats what our RB’s need to do. When Moore is in the game as the icer, I have to wonder about the mind-set of Arians/Tomlin. Where is Mendy or Redman? Is it a trust issue? anyway, if somehow the Steelers can win the next 3 after the bye, 10 wins at that point should point towards a playoff spot. Chiefs/Bengals/Browns, all AFC games and all winnable.

  3. DrGeorge

    November 14, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    You know, Mark, at this point the question is whether the O-line blocking schemes and the timing of the plays called will permit any of our RBs to succeed consistently. I personally think Redman and Dwyer deserve more playing time, but the RB choice is not the solution to our running problems. With our O-line, we should be able to make yards with any of our RBs. The problem begins and ends with Arians and his willingness to commit to a more balanced attack. But it will take Tomlin’s personal intervention to make it happen.

    • jay

      November 21, 2011 at 6:14 pm

      I agree with both Mark and Doc…I do not have faith in ARIANS and it is well documented on here, Pete!!! I hate him and his aerial circus and, although I do prefer passing the ball than running, I believe and feel, through my own observations, that the way he goes about minimizing the run game (i.e., rarely calling two runs in a row, not running in the redzone, etc.) makes me sick because it means I have to watch BB get hammered by opposing defenses! Again, was never a big fan of Whiz either…TOO MUCH Run!!!! I like balance and like play calling that keeps me guessing..when I watch the Steelers, I can not only typically make an accurate run/pass play call before it happens, but to whom and the type?!?!!?!? What do you think professional defenses can do if I can do that????

  4. Mariners100

    November 15, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    With Houston losing Matt Schaub for the year, the only team that scares me is Baltimore.

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