Pittsburgh Steelers fans are used to accolades like the one Gil Brandt bestowed upon the black and gold in his latest article ranking the most talented rosters in the NFL. The Steelers, naturally, are among the league leaders on the list. When you have Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, Martavis Bryant, Cameron Heyward and Ryan Shazier on an NFL roster you would be a guaranteed lock to be in the top 5.
See what Brandt said about the Steelers roster heading into 2017:
“A strong argument can be made that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le'Veon Bell and receiver Antonio Brown are the NFL's best set of triplets. The offensive line -- including left tackle Alejandro Villanueva and right guard David DeCastro -- is top-notch, while the receiver corps is very deep. JuJu Smith-Schuster will make a good addition at receiver, and fellow rookie James Conner is an ideal fit at running back in terms of his ability to catch and run. The defensive line has three good, young players in Javon Hargrave, Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, and linebacker Ryan Shazier is the real deal. The biggest weakness is at outside linebacker, where first-round pick T.J. Watt needs to contribute immediately. The secondary will continue to improve as cornerback Artie Burns and safety Sean Davis develop. The bottom line: This team can beat you in a lot of different ways.”
The analysis of the Steelers’ roster is not breaking news, or shocking, when you think about it, but what gets old for Steelers fans is who they are behind, almost always, in rankings like these.
None other than the team who knocked them out of the 2016 postseason — the New England Patriots.
Clearly, Brandt has the Patriots ranked first on his list. Here is what he said about Brady and the boys.
“Not much of a mystery here: Take a strong team that just won the Super Bowl, add several top-end veterans who can help immediately, and you have the most talented squad in the NFL. Brandin Cooks joins Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola to form the NFL's deepest receiver corps. Rob Gronkowski will be back, with Dwayne Allen succeeding Martellus Bennett as Gronk insurance. Kony Ealy and Stephon Gilmore will strengthen the pass defense, which also retained Malcolm Butler. The quarterback situation -- with Jimmy Garoppolo backing up Tom Brady -- continues to be impossibly good. Special teams is a strength. The only weakness is the interior of the offensive line, and even there, Joe Thuney, David Andrews and Shaq Mason are ascending players.”
The biggest talking point among Steelers fans, which isn’t surrounding their own roster, is how they stack up against the Patriots. After all, they will most likely have to go through New England if they want to win a seventh Lombardi trophy in Super Bowl 52.
Although the Patriots had some flashy free agent acquisitions, Steelers fans shouldn’t assume it is such an uphill climb to beat New England. It won’t be easy, but it isn’t impossible either. Most fans remember the 2016 AFC Championship Game, and how dreadful that game was, but fans should remember the halftime score in that game was 17-9, and without Le’Veon Bell, who was a focal point of the offensive game plan in Foxborough.
These two teams seem to be on a one way track to collide again in the postseason, and although the Patriots will have Rob Gronkowski and some of their new toys, the Steelers will have Martavis Bryant back and some players looking to make history in the AFC grudge match.