Throughout my time covering the Pittsburgh Steelers, there have been some tremendous teams. For those who don’t know, I didn’t start covering the team until the 2014 season, so the Super Bowl 40, 43 and 45 participants were before my time writing about the black and gold.
Otherwise, in the last three seasons there have been teams which fans put Super Bowl aspirations on, but in reality there were gaping holes in the roster. Fans have slowly watched the team rebuild from 8-8 seasons, to barely making the playoffs, all the way to the 2016 AFC Championship game.
Even last year, there were some glaring weaknesses on the team’s roster as they fell one step away from the Super Bowl, but as the 2017 season is right around the corner, I feel it is clear this 2017 roster seems more capable than their previous versions of making a legitimate run to the Super Bowl — even with the New England Patriots still in the AFC and Tom Brady at the helm.
To simplify my thoughts, I broke it down into 5 reasons why I think the Steelers are better equipped to make a run this year, compared to previous seasons.
1. Ben Roethlisberger will bounce back from an average 2016
As dynamic as Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and company are, it is Roethlisberger who is the straw which stirs the Steelers’ offensive drink. His numbers in 2016 weren’t horrible, but they certainly weren’t anywhere near as good as Roethlisberger is capable of. Roethlisberger usually bounces back from a mundane season, which is good news for the 2017 Steelers offense. Cutting down on interceptions and cashing in on more red zone opportunities would be a gigantic step towards Super Bowl 52.
2. Weapons abound for the offense
Just when you thought the Steelers’ offense couldn’t get any better, the NFL reinstates Martavis Bryant. Just look at the roster, with everyone healthy: Ben Roethlisberger, Martavis Bryant, Antonio Brown, Eli Rogers, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Sammie Coates, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner, Le’Veon Bell and a ridiculously good offensive line. Some might consider the tight end position to be the weakness of the offense, but the fact remains if the team has their weapons on the field the tight end position should be easily filled with those currently on the roster.
3. Defense will only improve
The Pittsburgh defense improved in 2016, but there is plenty of room to grow, and that is exactly what should happen in 2017. Sean Davis, Artie Burns and Javon Hargrave all have a tremendous amount of experience under their belts, then throw in names like Ryan Shazier, Stephon Tuitt, Cameron Heyward, Mike Mitchell and Ross Cockrell and you have a defense which should be vastly improved this year. Will it be good enough to win a Super Bowl? That might be the biggest question of the offseason, but they certainly have improved their overall speed and athleticism. Look for the defense to take a step forward this year.
4. Youth is served
Who can forget Warren Sapp’s remarks about the Pittsburgh defense? “Old. Slow. It’s over.” There was a time when the entire team could have fallen under that criteria, to a certain extent, but the Steelers are a younger team now, and their speed and athleticism should benefit from it. Sean Davis, Artie Burns, James Conner, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Cameron Sutton and T.J. Watt will all factor into the team’s philosophy in some way or another. For some it could be as role players, while others will be much larger parts of the overall picture for the 2017 Steelers. Either way, the youth movement could make the Steelers a more viable threat this upcoming season.
5. Do it for Dan
I’m not one for the emotional aspect of sports, but with the passing of Dan Rooney, you can imagine just how motivated the players are to win a Super Bowl for their late owner. The Steelers haven’t been without Dan Rooney since their inception in 1933, and the team could honor Ambassador Rooney the best way possible — by winning Super Bowl 52.