We are at the halfway point of the season and with the bye coming, it’s a good time to take stock of how the Steelers have performed so far. There is good reason for optimism with this team. Being 6-2, and currently the number one seed in the AFC is hard to take issue with. There are reasons for concern however. The Steelers have been inconsistent at best on both sides of the ball. They have yet to put together a complete dominant performance this season. Having said that, being 6-2 without playing their best football bodes well for the potential of this team.
Ben Roethlisberger – It’s now been a season and a half of inconsistent play from the franchise quarterback. We thought last season could be chalked up to all the injuries to the wide receivers. It has continued into this season though, and with a full complement of healthy options at receiver. It may be time to realize Ben is nearing the end. The question is can he be just good enough to take this supremely talented team to the Super Bowl.
Martavis Bryant – The ultra talented wide-out has been a major disappointment in the first half, culminating with being sat out of the last game before the bye. This team really needs a deep threat opposite Antonio Brown to really jump-start the offense. How well Bryant plays in the second half could determine how far this team can go.
AB and Le’veon – What else can be said about these two superstars? They are the absolute best at their positions in the NFL. It’s scary to think where this team might be without them in the first eight games and going forward.
JuJu Smith-Schuster – JuJu has been a breath of fresh air for this team. On a team full of veteran divas, having a player who’s seems too young to care about anything but football is a god send. JuJu had a breakout game against the Lions on Sunday night catching 7 balls for 193 yards. He is well on his way to gaining Big Ben’s trust, something that has seemed near impossible lately unless your initials are AB.
Vance Mcdonald – Quietly, Vance McDonald has become an important cog in this offense. His run blocking has been outstanding thus far. The Steelers run game missed him badly versus the Lions. His reputation for having the drops has held true unfortunately. If he could ever develop into a consistent receiver, it would vault him into a Pro-Bowl caliber tight end.
The big three – This is quite possibly the best defensive line the Steelers have had since the 70’s. They are led by Cam Heyward, who in my eyes is the best 3/4 lineman in the NFL. When Heyward, Tuitt, and Hargrave have been on the field at the same time they have been simply dominant. I’d be remiss by not mentioning Tyson Alualu, he’s been no slouch when called upon either.
Vince Williams – Well the question has been answered on whether or not the team would miss Lawrence Timmons, and it’s a resounding no. With a whopping 4 sacks and 32 tackles from an inside linebacker spot, Williams has been everything the team could’ve hoped for. Williams does need to improve his run fits though. That should come with more experiences as a starter.
TJ Watt – Yet another rookie making a big impact on this team. Watt is tied for second on the team with 4 sacks. That’s even more impressive when you take into consideration how much he drops into coverage. Speaking of that, Watt’s ability to drop into zone coverage and be disruptive in the passing game is nothing short of amazing. The fact that he’s doing this as a rookie is a sign of big things to come.
The new and improved secondary? – As recently as week 7 the Steelers had the second ranked pass defense in the NFL. Well Matt Stafford wasn’t impressed. He gashed the Steelers secondary for 423 yards passing. So how good is this secondary? The truth is somewhere in the middle. Artie Burns is frustratingly inconsistent. He has the talent to be a top corner, one has to wonder if he will ever put it together mentally to do so. Joe Haden has been a fantastic acquisition. He has really secured that second corner spot for the Steelers. Mike Hilton has been a revelation as the team’s slot corner. Ironically he has become everything Pittsburgh hoped Senquez Golson would be.
COACHING AND FRONT OFFICE:
Mike Tomlin – Once again Tomlin has his team with a winning record, and poised for a Super Bowl run. This may be the most difficult group of individuals to coach in the NFL right now, so he deserves quite a bit of credit for that. Tomlin has his share of detractors, but the numbers don’t lie. This team is the number one seed in the NFL despite the numerous distractions. Tomlin has done an excellent job so far. The real test will come in the playoffs, and whether or not he can get the Steelers another Lombardi Trophy.
Kevin Colbert – Did any other GM in the league have a better offseason than Colbert? The draft landed JuJu Smith Schuster and TJ Watt. Those two have been major contributors this season. Quiet acquisitions like Tyson Alualu and Mike Hilton have paid huge dividends. Last minute acquisitions of Joe Haden and Vance McDonald have also paid of handsomely. If Colbert doesn’t win NFL executive of the year there should be an investigation.