The bye week could not have come at a better time for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who finally have a chance to rest up and get healthier. The injury bug has hit them rather hard this season, ending the year for Maurkice Pouncey, Le’Veon Bell, and Shaun Suisham, while taking a portion of it away from Ryan Shazier and Ben Roethlisberger. Despite all the lost time of these key pieces, the Steelers have managed to put themselves in the drivers seat for a playoff spot, with a 6-4 record. With a much better than anticipated defense leading the way over the first ten games, the offense is finally starting to find it’s footing with the return of Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers believe that they can run the table if they can stay healthy, and keeping Ben upright is priority number one.
The last six games of the season starts with a trip out to Seattle, against the reigning NFC champions, and although the Seahawks clearly aren’t the team they were last season, they still play a very physical game. The most anticipated matchup in this game is going to be Richard Sherman against Antonio Brown. Sherman tends to get frustrated rather easily, and when he does, flags tend to fly. If Ben and Brown can win this matchup, the Steelers will leave Seattle with a win.
The last five games for the Steelers are essentially must win games, as they are all against AFC opponents. Three of them are divisional games, where the Steelers are 1-2 to this point. The first non-divisional AFC game is against the Indianapolis Colts, who will most likely be without quarterback Andrew Luck during their trip to Pittsburgh. This is a very winnable game for the Steelers provided they do not play down to the level of the competition. It’s also one which has the potential for Ben to record his third career 500 yard passing game. Deangelo Williams should be able to himself all afternoon.
Following the Colts game, the Steelers play the two toughest remaining games on their schedule, with a trip to Cincinnati followed by a visit from the Denver Broncos. The Steelers lost the first game against the Bengals 16-10, behind a rusty Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers have a better team, and this time around should produce a different result. Ben traditionally owns the Bengals, especially when there is something on the line, in this case, a playoff spot.
The Denver Broncos present an interesting matchup for the Steelers. There is a chance that the Steelers could be facing a more mobile Brock Osweiler instead of, future hall of famer, Peyton Manning. The Steelers might be better of if Manning plays. Not only has the Broncos offense been much less lethal this season, but it seems the same could apply to the defense as this season has progressed. If the Steelers can keep the Denver pass rush away from Ben, their secondary becomes vulnerable, especially to a big guy like Martavis Bryant. However this is the one remaining game with the best chance of getting away from the Steelers.
The two remaining games are against the Ravens and the Browns. The Steelers will have no problems getting up for the Ravens, because well, it’s the Ravens. They won’t let themselves be swept by what is a vastly inferior team. Besides, whenever you have the chance,there’s almost nothing better than kicking John Harbaugh when he’s down. The Steelers will win this one going away. Cleveland might represent the game with the highest potential for concern.
The Steelers have displayed a penchant for playing down to the level of competition, at the worst possible times, during the Mike Tomlin era. Up until the 30-9 win over the Browns last Sunday, the most recent games have been rather close. It might almost be to the Steelers advantage to have a playoff spot wrapped up coming into this one. If not, the Steelers very could very well end up on the wrong side of the Browns Super Bowl. As much as I’d like to see the Steelers win out, it’s more realistic thay they will finish 4-2. That should be good enough to claim a wildcard spot in the playoffs, unless both losses are in the AFC. Either way, the rest of the season is going to be exciting to say the least, and if they do run the table, the Steelers will win it all.