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What adjustments the Steelers need to make to qualify for a playoff spot

Sitting at 4-3, the Steelers are just on the outside of the race for the AFC North title, as well as being in the thick of the battle for a wild-card spot. What adjustments will they need to make to advance to the post-season this year?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Playoffs? You kiddin' me, Marshall?  

Sitting at 4-3, despite a few shakier checks in the W column and some bad marks in the L column, the Steelers sit a game out of first place in the AFC North, and are right there in the AFC Wild Card race. I don't think they've played their best game yet, either. The Week 3 win over Carolina was solid all-around, and they've shown flashes of an excellent team at various points this season.

So how do they bring out more of that?

First, they need more consistency from their linebackers. Lawrence Timmons and Jason Worilds both had excellent games against Houston, but were largely absent during a Week 6 loss to Cleveland. While James Harrison and Arthur Moats appear to be splitting snaps, both have been fairly pedestrian and need to find ways to make more of an impact.

The return of Ryan Shazier may or may not help the Steelers' defense. Sean Spence has shown some ability, but one of them needs to step up if the Steelers are going to play four quarters of outstanding run defense in their final nine games.  

Offensively, providing a stronger vertical option for the passing game will only help the Steelers flip field position and get into better positions to score. Rookie Martavis Bryant showed a glimpse of what he's capable of doing on vertical routes, and should be used in that role more often. Along with that, the Steelers need to get better play out of second-year WR Markus Wheaton. He's seeing his snaps reduced in favor of veteran Darrius Heyward-Bey now, and with Bryant's value-add in certain situations, as well as Justin Brown's blocking ability from the slot aiding the running game, it isn't entirely out of the question, with another poor performance or two, that Wheaton finds himself in Duce Staley Sweats.  

Tying all of this together, the Steelers need to get better play from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He's played well, but he's supposed to play well. The impact a quarterback can make on a game is by far stronger than any other position, and he's shown the ability to produce great play, not just good play. He needs to carry the team on his back during the second half of the year.

Let’s get professional: Midway through the season, it’s time to assess and adjust. To be GMC Professional Grade, you must be calculated in your approach. What adjustments are needed to make sure you are fighting for a playoff spot?

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