The Steelers limp into the bye losers of two straight games and are decimated by injuries. On the surface things seem bleak, but there are many reasons to be optimistic about the second half of the season. Pittsburgh is due to get back several key players back as soon as the Ravens game after the bye. To make things even better, the second half schedule lightens up considerably. Finally, considering how bad the injuries have been, 4-3 and having the division lead isn’t all that bad a result. There are still real concerns even if the team ever gets reasonably healthy, but there are reasons to be optimistic in the second half of the season.
The Steelers have been ravaged by injuries and suspensions the past year and a half. The good news is they expect to get most of their injured players back as soon as their next game. There seems to be a good chance Ben Roethlisberger will be back for the Ravens game after the bye. The same goes for right tackle Marcus Gilbert, who is sorely missed especially against teams with a good pass rush. Tight end Ladarius Green could make his debut in the Ravens game as well. This will be a huge boost for an offense that has become too reliant on Le’veon Bell. Green should draw safeties away from constantly double teaming Antonio Brown, freeing him up to make the big plays we are used to seeing. Hopefully Sammie Coates can overcome his hand problems, and Eli Rogers can show up on time for meetings so we can see what this offense can do with it’s full compliment. There’s reason to be optimistic on defense as well. Cam Heyward and Ryan Shazier should be ready to go when the season resumes. Pittsburgh’s defense really fell apart without those two not in the lineup. What could be the key to this defense becoming a real weapon is the return of Bud Dupree. This team needs a pass rusher in the worst way, and Dupree might be that guy. He has been quoted as targeting week 10 as a comeback date, and it can’t come soon enough.
Another reason to be optimistic is the relatively weak second half schedule the Steelers face in the last nine games. They only face three teams with winning records after the bye, including two games against the winless Browns. There opponents are a collective 22-33 on the season thus far. The division title is theirs to be had with 5 games remaining in the AFC North. It’s a down year in the division, and Pittsburgh should be able to win it going away. It’s also a down year in the AFC, where no team besides New England is better then 5-2. This puts the two seed very much in play for the Steelers. The point being, nothing that happened in the first half can prevent Pittsburgh from going on and having a very successful season.
As down as Steeler nation is after losing a tough game to the hated Patriots, there is a lot to be excited about for the rest of the season. Pittsburgh had several chances to win that game without several key players. Getting those players back and still leading the division leaves the Steelers poised for a big push towards a Super Bowl run in 2016.