What to expect:
In the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected QB Ben Roethlisberger out of Miami University in Ohio. Since then, only 4 different quarterbacks have won the AFC Championship game, including Big Ben. That’s 4 QB’s in a span of 13 seasons! The short list includes Tom Brady (5 wins), Peyton Manning (4 wins), Ben Roethlisberger (3 wins), and Joe Flacco (1 win). With Peyton Manning retired, and Joe Flacco nursing a back injury, the AFC looks like a two-horse race at the moment. Although upcoming stars such as Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota could soon add themselves to the exclusive list, the Steelers and Patriots remain best positioned for a Super Bowl birth this season until proven otherwise. The big question is: “Have the Steelers done enough this offseason to dethrone the defending world champs?” Let’s find out…
Signed star WR Antonio Brown and LT Alejandro Villanueva to long-term deals. – Score a lot of points and protect Big Ben. Sounds good.
Franchise tagged star RB Le’Veon Bell. – Don’t worry; he will be with the team before the season starts. There are 12.1 million reasons why.
The NFL conditionally reinstated WR Martavis Bryant. – He is 6′-4″ and can run a 4.3 40 yard dash. (Wow!)
And most importantly… Big Ben did not retire! That helps.
Lost only one starter (LB Lawrence Timmons) in free agency. – He will be replaced by long time backup Vince Williams.
Cameron Hayward is back from a season ending pectoral injury last year. – Hayward will be a crucial leader on this young defense.
LB T.J. Watt was drafted with Pittsburgh’s 2017 1st round pick. – Can Watt provide much-needed pressure to a certain 40-year-old quarterback? (What’s his name again???)
And most importantly… James Harrison did not retire! No really, he’s still playing!!!
If they stay healthy and don’t have player suspensions, the Steelers are a great team that can win a lot of games. Beating New England in the playoffs will be tough, so home field advantage is essential. Are there enough wins on this schedule to get the job done?
Schedule walk through:
Week 1: At Browns
A season opening loss to the Browns seems unlikely for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
Win 30-14 Record: 1-0
Week 2: Vs. Vikings
Minnesota has a strong defense, but Big Ben plays a lot better at home than away.
Win 23-15 Record: 2-0
Week 3: At Bears
Without a definitive starter at quarterback, Chicago remains a question mark.
Win 28-10 Record: 3-0
Week 4: At Ravens
On the road against bitter division rivals, this seems a safe spot for a hiccup.
Loss 17-10 Record: 3-1
Week 5: Vs. Jaguars
Jacksonville looks impressive on paper, but what will Blake Bortles look like on the field this season? I’m not sold on the Jaguars just yet…
Win 27-20 Record: 4-1
Week 6: At Chiefs
Arrowhead Stadium is a tough place to play, but the Steelers proved they could win there in last year’s playoff game. *AFC home field advantage implications.
Win 17-14 Record: 5-1
Week 7: Vs. Bengals
Bruised from a grudge match in KC, a divisional rival shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Loss 27-21 Record: 5-2
Week 8: At Lions
I foresee a shootout with fantasy points a plenty. The score should reflect that as well.
Win 35-27 Record: 6-2
Week 9: BYE WEEK
Week 10: At Colts
Ever since Peyton Manning left, Pittsburgh has had Indy’s number. In their last 3 meetings, the Steelers have averaged 41 points a game!
Win 42-13 Record: 7-2
Week 11: Vs. Titans
This has the makings of an exciting Thursday Night Football matchup. The Titans are a trendy upset pick here, but I have to go with the better team at home.
Win 24-23 Record: 8-2
Week 12: Vs. Packers
Super Bowl preview anyone? Green Bay will need this win more as they traverse through a more difficult NFC conference.
Loss 30-26 Record: 8-3
Week 13: At Bengals
WR Martavis Bryant is back, and Bengals fans know what that means. It’s time for another 94-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to upset the Bengals at home.
Win 30-24 Record: 9-3
Week 14: Vs. Ravens
The Ravens could be playing to take the AFC North. They could also have a losing record. Either way, splitting the season series just seems right.
Win 28-21 Record: 10-3
Week 15: Vs. Patriots
Oh boy, here we go. The winner of this game could very well secure the #1 seed in the AFC. Pittsburgh has been game planning since January for this rematch. It will all come down to whether or not the Steelers’ pass rushers can get to Brady before he turns 45. *AFC home field advantage implications.
Win 33-30 Record: 11-3
Week 16: At Texans
As a Christmas Day treat, the NFL presents two potential division leaders facing off in a Watt family showdown. Imagine if J.J. comes in as a TE with T.J. covering as a LB! The Steelers are undefeated on December 25, so T.J. gets family bragging rights.
Win 31-27 Record: 12-3
Week 17: Vs. Browns
If all goes according to plan, the Steelers are able to rest their starters for the final week of the season. The Browns should have more stability at the quarterback position by now, so lets give them a little love.
Loss 18-16 Record: 12-4
Final Record: 12-4
Player Predictions: *Projected healthy for a 16 game season
QB Ben Roethlisberger: 4,001 passing yards, 31 passing TD’s, 10 INT’s
WR Antonio Brown: 115 receptions, 1,450 receiving yards, 15 receiving TD’s
RB Le’Veon Bell: 275 carries, 1,400 rushing yards, 11 rushing TD’s
LB Ryan Shazier: 94 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 4 INT’s, 2 forced fumbles
LB T.J. Watt (Rookie): 60 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 1 INT, 3 forced fumbles
The Pittsburgh Steelers have everything they need to contend for a record 7th Lombardi Trophy. From a 2-time Super Bowl winning quarterback, to a young and talented defensive unit, the organization should have high hopes for this upcoming season. While the team looks ready to make some noise right away, consistency and health remain as two big obstacles that have to be overcome. Will all the offensive superstars be available in the playoffs? How will the team adjust when something, or someone goes wrong? All the pieces are in place, but the Steelers have to keep them together on the field for a full season to be successful. Big Ben won’t be around forever, so its boom or bust for the Killer Bees in 2017.
San Francisco Giants
name a better trio I'll wait...