Friday, September 8, 2017

3 Rivers Rundown 9/8/17: Steelers In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

By Jaison Roberts, @Kratoslives

The object in the Steelers mirror is the 7th Lombardi trophy.

This 2017 Steelers team is on the cusp of making history or being tracked down. This may sound confusing but the Steelers have two options; win it all and be alone in the NFL history books, or move over and make room for the New England Patriots who can win their 6th trophy. Me as a Steelers fan, would prefer the 1st option and they can do it. We have a team right now that is the perfect blend of old and seasoned, with their leaders and captains.

The team is now built for multiple Super Bowl runs with the past 3 years of drafting. The team average age is 28 years old minus 8 players in their 30's. Their nucleus is all under 29 years old and they are in good position with the salary cap, with relief coming. All while being able to win and repeat as champions just as long Kevin Colbert & Mike Tomlin play their cards right. Let's look into the current state of the team starting with our QB's.

We all know the Steelers are being led by a hall of fame QB in Ben Roethlisberger. Quietly, he is back in the position as he was as a rookie. This team no longer needs Big Ben to win it all but just lead them like he did in his first 2 years. After Ben, the QB room lacks the talent to strike fear in opposing defenses. Landry Jones is a journeyman who has it from the neck up, just not physically. Josh Dobbs has both the smarts and physicality, but lacks the experience.

The running backs are led by Le'Veon Bell. The only thing he can't do so far is stay on the field for all 16 games of a season. If he can stay healthy or avoid suspension, he's a threat to all past NFL rushing records. When you look at this man, the only thing that comes to mind is, "Did Barry Sanders and Marshall Faulk combine their DNA?" After him, here comes James Conner & Terrell Watson the Steelers prototypical RB. They're big, they're fast, but the knock on them is they're green so expect some mistakes when Bell finally needs a rest.

The receivers are a pure nightmare with the talent sitting in that room, led by Antonio Brown. When you have a number one receiver in Martavius Bryant as your number two, you know your unit is a problem for the opposition. This is followed up with Darrius Heyward-Bey, Justin Hunter, Eli Rogers and Ju Ju Smith-Schuster. I guess this isn't fair but I'm not complaining. It's my team we're talking about.

The tight ends leave a semi-sweet taste in your mouth. Not just mine but the staff, which led to the team trading for Vance McDonald from the San Francisco 49ers. Jesse James and Xavier Grimble both who know the playbook, but haven't seized the #1 spot. So this may be the only weakness on the offense, but the receivers make up for it.

As far as the O-Line is concerned, there are two things; they are healthy for once and Mike Munchak. Thank you again Tennessee Titans for firing him. After Mike's arrival, the O-Line had lived up to the billing. The wild part is now injures don't phase them because of the coaching.

The defensive line is just nasty with the return of Cameron Heyward and the play of Stephon Tuitt and Javon Hargrave. This will be the best front three since Brett Keisel, Casey Hampton and Aaron Smith, who used to wreck havoc on offensive lines, which these three can do.

Now for the freaks of the defense, the linebackers are going to feast this year. With the front three so disruptive, you now have Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams, Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt hunting in your back field. All while having James Harrison resting and preparing for a strong Super Bowl run. All of this can happen while having the young guns being lead by Arthur Moats. This unit has the chance to have three people with double digit sacks.

Now here comes the black sheep of the family: the secondary.

Arty Burns & Sean Davis both had solid rookie seasons and both got better in the 2nd half, including the playoffs. However, that still didn't stop the Steelers from seeking and getting help in the form of Coty Sensabaugh, J.J. Wilcox and the big prize, Joe Haden. This unit should all thrive with the front seven pressuring the QB. Mike Mitchell should be free to help on blitzes and run support as well.

The special teams should be solid again especially if Todd Haley's offense is scoring tons of points. This team should be able to go 13-3, but I'm going with my gut with a 1 game improvement. So, I'm giving the 2017 Steelers 12-4 record with a Super Bowl win.


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