January 14th, 1973 was almost 42 years ago for the Miami Dolphins who played and won Super Bowl VII. The significance to that victory is of course the game they needed to win to become the first NFL team to ever go an entire season and post season undefeated.
On February 3, 2008, the New York Giants put an end to the New England Patriots hopes to be only the second team in NFL history to go undefeated, which would have actually "One Upped" the 1972-1973 Miami Dolphins who only had to play in 14 regular season games, not the 16 the Patriots played. Many fans the world over feel there should be a notation or an asterisk in the record book when the news broke that the Patriots were filming things they should not have been filming. However, regardless of how people feel, the NFL never stripped the Patriots of a single win, so their regular season undefeated streak remains a valid and in the books.
Still a couple months before the kickoff to the 2014 season, many analysts are already starting to predict what kind of season each team will have and what record they will finish with. I’ve also read many fan predictions as well and the best I can tell is that the average I deduced is about an 11-5 record in the regular season with most of Steeler Nation, of course, predicting that the Steelers will be holding #7 high over head when the smoke clears and I’m no different either, as I also think this is our year to win it all!
It really doesn’t matter to me how the Steelers get to the post season, to the Super Bowl or how they win their 7th Lombardi, as long as they win it, I am good as gold (Black & Gold that is)! However, all records can be broken… eventually, or at very least, tied! The Steelers came close in the 2004 season, had they not lost in week 2 to the Baltimore Ravens, which turned out to be the only game they lost until the post season. So the question posed is, can the Steelers go undefeated in 2014?
Many so called "Experts" on the NFL say that it is practically a statistical impossibility to win every game played in a single season/post season in the NFL. The same is said about planes crashing and lightning striking the same place twice, but it has happened, hasn’t it? The first thing that people must consider when evaluating a teams potential season record is the strength of that team’s schedule. This year, the Steelers have a rather favorable schedule and because of that, this is a very good year for them to have a legitimate chance to go undefeated. In fact, it is one of the best schedules they have seen in quite some time as their own division is filled with a team that is getting way too old and beat up (The Ravens) and should not be the rival bash it once was, another team that is so overrated it isn’t funny (The Bengals) and of course let’s not forget the hopeless Cleveland Browns who are one of the most active teams in the NFL during the draft. They are more interested in trading down than up in order to really find the Franchise Quarterback they’ve so desperately needed since… forever!
The only teams I personally see as being a threat that the Steelers play in the regular season are the Indianapolis Colts in week 8 and The New Orleans Saints in week 13. There are two other games this season that have a chance to go wrong for the Steelers, the Carolina Panthers in week 3 and the Atlanta Falcons in week 15. I do not think the Panthers are that big of a threat with the Steelers newest additions during this past off season, especially on Defense. Adding Ryan Shazier to the starting lineup lends a big helping hand in the secondary in both coverage and on blitz packages. In fact, the Steelers are now starting 4 Linebackers that were drafted in the first round (3) and second round (1). They are younger and much, MUCH faster than anything we’ve had in several years. Plus Mike Mitchell will be playing that game as a Steeler, not as a Panther. I’m sure he’ll be one hell of an asset in that game even if he as no choice but to listen to the boo’s from a stadium filled with fans that one year ago were applauding his play. The Falcons are too one dimensional in my opinion to be able to score a lot of points against our Defense and certainly do not have what they need on Defense to stop the kind of offense the Steelers will bring.
As for the Colts, I do not see Andrew Luck any differently than I saw Peyton Manning, if either is pressured, they will make mistakes and even with a healthy Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw, neither which scare me against the Steelers, I do not think the Colts are going to be ready for this new look of the Steelers. They have the Offensive capability to score against any team, even the Steelers, but with the 20th ranked overall Defense last year, the Colts are just going to come up short.
The Saints come to Pittsburgh very late in the season and yes, at this point in the season, every game has playoff implications whether it is needed to win the conference, division or just to make it into the playoffs at all, most week 13 games are very important ones as it also will count towards the seed you get and whether or not your one of the teams that get that all important first round bye. The good news for the Steelers is that the Saints are coming to them, meaning Home Field Advantage! Next, let’s also not forget that game is played after the Steelers late season, week 12 bye. The Saints on the other hand, would have played 6 games since their week 6 bye and some of those teams are the Green Bay Packers, Carolina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers, and Baltimore Ravens, who may be older but can still put a good hit on a player. The Saints may very well be so beat up by the time they face the rested Steelers at home that they don’t even put up much of a fight.
As to the rest of the teams on their schedule, sure any team van beat another on any given Sunday (Thursday and Monday too), but I really don’t see other teams as a real threat as long as they keep a balanced approach on both sides of the ball and utilize the changes they’ve made on both sides of the ball as well. They will enjoy some of the best starting field position thanks to the 3rd round pick of Dri Archer; they should have no trouble reclaiming the name "Blitzburgh" this year and should lead the league in sacks all season long. I also believe that with the Steelers not having just one starting Running Back on staff, but two, that they will revive the once feared ground attack in Pittsburgh and also using Dri Archer (Utility Player Extraordinaire) in a Darren Sproles type role adds a completely new dimension to the Offense as I would dare say that Dri Archer is an improved model of Darren Sproles. He’s faster and stronger than Sproles was or is and he will be a handful for opposing teams to deal with. Last, I think the addition of Coach Mike Munchak taking over as the Offensive Line Coach will finally get the Offensive Line to play much better than they have in recent history. Better protection for Ben Roethlisberger, open holes for LeVeon Bell and LeGarrette Blount to drive a Mack truck through and if all else fails, then an outside pitch to the fastest man in the 2014 draft may just help with those inside runs when he is on the field as well. Saving the best for last, there is Ben Roethlisberger and his targets. Antonio Brown has proven himself time and time again and was rewarded with having the second most receiving yards last year over all other receivers. He is joined by a proven commodity in Lance Moore, second year receiver Marcus Wheaton and a lot of talented receivers vying for a roster spot and regardless of whom those other receivers are, you know they’ll belong there if they won the right to be there after training camp is over and done with.
A lot of changes, all good ones in my eyes an easier schedule and a team hungry for their 7th Lombardi Trophy may very well equate to the first 19-0 team in the history of the NFL… and who better to have that record then a team who currently holds the record for most Super Bowl wins in NFL History?
I for one, think the Steelers can achieve the impossible! That’s my story, and I am sticking to it!