Inside Look at the Steelers: AFC still goes through Pittsburgh?

Inside Look at the Steelers
The Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers had fallen somewhat under the radar after a 1-2 start, but not anymore. Winners of five straight and on the heels of a dominating 28-10 victory over the Denver Broncos, the AFC still goes through Pittsburgh.
What do all of the true AFC Contenders (Indianapolis, New England, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati) have in common?; a franchise quarterback.
The Steelers offensive attack has the ability to match their top counterparts in the AFC and the vibe around the team is that the Steelers offense is not even close to reaching their potential.
We know what Ben Roethlisberger brings to the table but running back Rashard Mendenhall is getting better every week. What was impressive about his outing Monday night (155 yards on 22 carries), was his patience and ability to hit the open holes.
Roethlisberger has the most weapons around him than he has had at anytime during his 6th year career.
The Steelers offense still has some work to do in regards to consistency but they can beat you in so many ways and like all great teams, can over-come costly turnovers and still win.
Any concern surrounding the Steelers once vaunted defense has been put to rest. The leagues No. 1 rated defense in 2008 has 18 sacks and 11 takeaways during their 5 game winning streak.
The Steelers are making the needed adjustments and are getting to the quarterback, which wasn’t happening the first couple weeks of the season.
Observations
2009 1st round pick Ziggy Hood was disruptive Monday night, getting to the quarterback and that’s a good sign for the Steelers moving forward.
The defense was dominant against the Broncos but there continues to be concern regarding cornerback

William Gay. Coming into last night’s game Gay was targeted 39 times and the result was 27 receptions. The Broncos targeted him early and were successful.
Gay was exploited against Minnesota and will continue to be exploited against top tier quarterbacks.
Gay was very productive as a nickle back last season and he doesn’t have the look of a starter. The problem for the Steelers is that they don’t have any other options to make a change and put Gay back into a nickle back role.
Deshea Townsend is not a starter in this league anymore and rookies Keenan Lewis and Joe Burnett are clearly not ready for significant minutes. Keiwan Ratliff isn’t even an option.
The Broncos signed Ty Law last week and he performed well for his first game action of the season. The Broncos are paying him $200,000 (pro-rated) this season. The Steelers did not consider signing him.
The Steelers made some changes on their special teams units.
Keenan Lewis was active along with Carey Davis and Limas Sweed. Lewis and Sweed were gunners on punt returns and Davis was brought in to play special teams but he was injured in the game.
AFC Outlook
Sunday’s showdown the Bengals is not only important for winning the AFC North but also getting a first round bye.
Indianapolis is sitting atop the conference at 8-0 while Pittsburgh (6-2), Cincinnati (6-2), New England (6-2) and Denver are all 6-2
Pittsburgh should be pulling for New England to lose this week at Indy and fall to 6-3. The Colts schedule is weak the rest of the way after their week 10 showdown with the Patriots.
The Colts likely have the top seed locked up barring a late season collapse. Pittsburgh is a better team than New England but if New England and Indianapolis claim the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, it will be a tough road ahead for the Steelers to repeat.
Getting that first round bye is the key.
Current Playoff Seedings as of 11/10/09
1. Indianapolis (8-0)
2. Denver (6-2)
3. Cincinnati (6-2)
4. New England (6-2)
5. Pittsburgh (6-2)
6. San Diego (5-3)

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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