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Deciphering the missing pieces to the Steelers’ Super Bowl puzzle

The Pittsburgh Steelers are considered a major contender in the AFC, but what might be missing before they win another Super Bowl.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Green Bay Packers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are again considered a major contender in the AFC, and to possibly represent the conference in the Super Bowl, but honest black-and-gold fans aren’t foolish enough to think the team is perfect.

Quite the contrary.

The Steelers have some glaring holes in their lineup, and fans know just how serious those can be. Whether it is the gaping hole left by Ryan Shazier at the inside linebacker position, or the need at tight end, I was able to ask Bryan Knowles of Football Outsiders a few questions about the Steelers, and what is missing from the Steelers’ puzzle was an answer which intrigued me.

Check out his answer for what might be missing from the Steelers’ Super Bowl puzzle:

If the Steelers could wave their magic wand and change one thing, it would be to gain the ability win the battle in the trenches. They ranked 30th in the league last year against the run on third and fourth downs, and 31st in “power” situations (third and fourth down with less than two yards to go, or right on the goal line); they just couldn’t win on defense when it came to stopping teams from getting those last couple yards. Turning more third-and-1s into punts rather than first downs will really help. Making more tackles would really help, too – the Steelers had more broken tackles than any other team in the league last season.

The tackling problem, at least, should be better in 2018. Some regression to the mean should happen (they were a lot better at tackling in 2016). In addition, a large portion of the Steelers’ missed tackles was consolidated in Ryan Shazier, Sean Davis and Mike Hilton, with a combined 58 broken tackles, or more than 40% of Pittsburgh’s total. Terrell Edmunds eventually either sending Davis to the bench or moving him to more of a free safety role should help a lot, as should having a full offseason to figure out how to replace Shazier rather than patching together everything at the last minute.

The offense has no glaring weaknesses; we project it to be the best in the league. If the defense can keep up, the Steelers might well be Super Bowl favorites.

The one factor which struck me with Bryan’s answer was regarding the Steelers’ offense. Everyone points to the defense as the weak spot on the team, rightfully so, but can the offense live up to the hype and produce the way people expect? That is a tall task, and a lot of pressure put on Ben Roethlisberger and company. Last year the defense stood tall on more than one occasion, and while the thought of this happening again is tremendous, it can’t be expected as the 2018 regular season inches closer.

What do you think of Bryan’s response? If the defense improves will the Steelers be on their way to Super Bowl glory? Or is there more missing than one might suspect? Leave us a comment in the comment section below letting us know your thoughts!