And so it begins. The stairway to seven. One for another thumb. The march to Minneapolis.
That’s about the best I can do for whatever it is you want to call the quest on which the Pittsburgh Steelers are about to embark. Winning a seventh Vince Lombardi Trophy in the franchise’s history—a goal the team had from the start of the season—now begins with Jacksonville coming to town next Sunday for a 1 p.m. kickoff.
There’s no need to rehash the crazy season that just happened. It was quite a wild ride. From all of the tabloid nonsense to a stolen bike. From trade requests and Instagram meltdowns. New Year’s Eve scuffles and shattered hips aside, you can know that this team is about to make good on winning it all.
Yep, I said it.
Please keep in mind I wrote about this before the start of the season. Go back and find it in the archives if you wish. I know—I’ve driven some of you mad with my thoughts on several hard topics as the season unfolded.
The job of writing opinion pieces on sites of this nature is tricky. Sometimes things have to be said, and fans don’t always want to hear the truth.
Well, let me say it again.
The Pittsburgh Steelers will win Super Bowl LII.
Now I have to admit the team’s biggest hurdle will come in six days. Jacksonville is a rugged team. That defense is tough. It’s fast and young. They play aggressively and they’re coming each and every play. Their weakness is their quarterback, Blake Bortles.
But the Jags don’t need Bortles to win the game. They just need him to not turn the ball over, unless it’s to rookie RB Leonard Fournette, who had his best game as a rookie in that 30-9 debacle back in October vs. the boys in black-and-gold.
Let’s not relive that nightmare.
And the Ben Roethlisberger bashing.
But let’s talk more about how much the Steelers’ run defense needs to have a big day against the Jags, who didn’t throw the ball well in their 10-3 win over the Buffalo Bills. Bortles was 12-of-23 for 87-yards through the air, but ran for 88-yards on 10 carries to lead his team in that department as Buffalo shut down Fournette.
In fact, by the numbers, the Bills outgained the Jaguars, possessed the ball longer and had more first downs. But they lost the turnover battle and never found the end zone. In football, that’s a winner winner, chicken dinner.
So really what we’re talking about here is stopping the run to beat the Jaguars. That’s what this boils down to. As I look at the Steelers’ run defense since the loss of Ryan Shazier, it isn’t as good, since teams are gaining nearly six yards per rush. They gave up 130 yards to the Bengals, 152 at home against Baltimore and 176 at Houston.
When you lose a player like Shazier, you can’t replace his talent. You can move another player into his role, but to expect said player to produce like the guy he replaced just isn’t realistic. Now the Steelers find themselves in a position where their opponent, who they’ve already faced and lost to, is playing well and is capable of running all day long to avoid making their quarterback have to win the game.
Cam Heyward and that front three must play the game of their lives. The linebackers will need to fill the gaps and stuff anything that gets to the second level of the defense. I can’t see the Jags wanting to throw the ball very much. If Bortles goes past 25 attempts, it’ll be a good sign that things are going the Steelers’ way.
If Roethlisberger can just keep the turnovers down (to like, oh I don’t know...zero) and Antonio Brown returns healthy, good things will happen.
Get excited Steelers fans! Start planning your trip to Minnesota. The Steelers will win this year’s Super Bowl, and the party kicks off this Sunday with a win over Jacksonville.
John Phillips is the author of this article, as well as being a secret member of the Galactic Empire. When he’s not chasing down Jedi Scum in the Galaxy, he’s writing columns for BTSC, a job he’s held since 2014.