Fans of the black and gold have a bad taste in their mouths. No, it isn't from a bad Primanti Brothers sandwich, but still the stinging taste of defeat the Steelers were given by the New England Patriots and Tom Brady in the AFC Championship game.
As bad as it was, and it was bad, fans shouldn't becom so short-sided as to forget just how successful this season was. For instance, take a look at the team’s offense. Yes, Le’Veon Bell, Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown are dynamic, but could they be shut down? Bill Belichick proved it is possible.
Looking at the wide receiving corps Roethlisberger had to throw to is almost laughable really. Brown is the best in the business, but there was no Martavis Bryant, no Markus Wheaton, no Darrius Heyward-Bey for the majority of the season, no Sammie Coates after Week 4 and no Ladarius Green when the games counted the most. Eli Rogers is great, but he, or Demarcus Ayers, aren’t ready to be a No. 2 receiver, and neither is Cobi Hamilton.
If a couple pieces fall into place next season, this offense will be a nightmare for defenses across the league...even the Patriots.
As for the much maligned defense, we all witnessed a unit which was beaten to a pulp, rise up and start playing solid defense. The three rookie starters, Javon Hargrave, Artie Burns and Sean Davis, got invaluable experience in their first seasons. Ryan Shazier stayed healthy after a hiccup in the first quarter of the season, and Bud Dupree looks every bit the playmaker everyone was hoping to see when he was selected in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Plain and simple, this team could be a playmaker, or two, away from having a championship caliber defense, and that could come through both free agency or the draft.
Either way, this team came too far from a 4-5 record to let it spoil the entire season after a dud in their last game. I know it was the biggest game of the year, and it was the last memory fans have of the black and gold in the 2016 season, but they made huge strides and all of the above variables could go a long way to an extremely successful 2017 season...
I discuss this more in the latest BTSC podcast “Steelers Hangout” above. Give it a listen in the player above, and follow all of the BTSC podcasts on iTunes by searching "The Standard is the Standard", as well as on several podcast apps for Android users.
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