When the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2017 regular-season schedule was released, like almost everyone reading this article, I looked at the first half of the season and saw plenty of winnable games for the Black-and-gold.
In fact, to anyone that would listen, I said the Steelers should be 6-2 or better heading into the bye-week, which just happens to be the exact midway point of the season. To be completely honest, I didn’t see the Steelers losing to the Bears in Week 3 and the Jaguars in Week 5, but a 6-2 record is a 6-2 record, no matter how you slice it.
It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Steelers are sitting atop the AFC North with a commanding lead, and they’re currently tied for first place with the best record in the AFC.
What more would you ask for as a Steelers fan?
Sure, the offense could be better, but the defense is playing better than anyone expected in almost all facets. The one aspect of this 2017 Steelers team I find refreshing is how the team can still improve in so many areas.
The offense can improve by leaps and bounds and, although having them look like the juggernaut fans expected might seem out of the picture, vast improvement in areas like the red-zone aren’t out of the picture.
The defense gave up a lot of passing yards in Week 8, but even after stoning the Lions in the red-zone, the team’s red-zone defense has been an issue throughout the first half of the season.
There is plenty more to improve on, other than the aforementioned issues, but the greatest part of this is how the team is winning throughout these on-field issues. The game in Week 8 against the Lions on Sunday Night Football would have been the textbook deflating loss just a year or two ago, but instead it was a gritty victory which moved the team’s winning streak to three.
The off-field issues have been exhausting to say the least, but is it possible the distractions of Le’Veon Bell missing the preseason, questioning the game plan, Antonio Brown throwing a Gatorade jug, Ben Roethlisberger saying he isn’t sure if he still has “it”, Martavis Bryant requesting a trade and then throwing his teammate under the bus, have brought this group closer together? When everyone thought it would tear the team apart, could it galvanize a team which seems as close-knit a unit as Pittsburgh has seen in the past few years?
Count me as someone who thinks it has done just that, and this speaks directly about the head coach. Not every NFL head coach is equipped to handle these types of distractions and keep their team winning at the same time, but Mike Tomlin has done just that. Time to give credit where credit is due. Say what you want about Tomlin as a coach but, when it comes to managing his team, there’s no one better in my opinion.
So, what to make of this team as a whole? After being wildly inconsistent to start the season, both the offense and defense are starting to find their groove, and just at the right time. Following the bye-week, the Steelers will have tough tests ahead with the Tennessee Titans, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots and the rest of the teams who call the AFC North home.
Not an easy row to hoe by an means.
Nonetheless, the team is in a great spot, with plenty of improvement left to be seen, and fans should extremely happy with their favorite team as they head into the bye-week.