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Insider Only Monday Buzz Column: Steelers a legitimate Super Bowl Contender in the making or a second tier team that may have peaked?



So, now what?

The Steelers were bounced out of the playoffs again and, even though they did win their first post season game in five years this time around, that win was about as fluky as a win can get.

Do you think they would have beaten the Broncos with Antonio Brown?

Maybe, but they couldn’t beat the Cincinnati Bengals with him.

Brown was gone when the game winning field goal was kicked and there almost certainly would not have been a game winning field goal if not for the historic stupidity of Vontaze Burfict and Pacman Jones.

It took what may go down as the greatest gift ever given to an NFL team in a post season game for the Steelers to avoid the longest post season win drought since Chuck Noll showed up in 1969.

So, are the Steelers a couple of good breaks away from being a Super Bowl team or are they a second tier team that may have peaked?

Ben Roethlisberger is still a franchise quarterback. But when Super Bowl 51 is played in February 2017, he’ll be a month from his 35th birthday.

And, after what he went through this season, should the Steelers have to deal with admitting that their franchise QB is injury prone?

Antonio Brown will be the best wide receiver in the league – if not the best player – when he comes back next year and everybody knows the Steelers are loaded with good, probably about to be great, young wide receivers.

If the getting-kind-of-old-maybe injury prone quarterback can stay upright, they’ll be in the top three in passing yards next season

Heath Miller is still a good NFL tight end but he’s no longer great and he’ll turn 34 a few weeks into next season.

Finding a young stud, pass catching tight end in the draft might be a good idea. You couldn’t ask for a better mentor than Miller.

Nobody knows if Le’Veon Bell will be the same when he comes back from serious knee surgery and DeAngelo Williams had a better year than any 32-year old running back has the right to have, but can he do it at 33?

Does anybody really want to go into next season with Landry Jones backing up the possibly injury prone franchise quarterback?

Bruce Gradkowski has played in six games since the 2011 season. He’s thrown 32 passes (including playoffs). He’ll be 33 next week.

Mike Vick turned out to be one of the worst signings in Steelers history. He was brought in because the coaching staff knew that Roethlisberger to Jones was too big of a drop off and he’ll be 36 in June.

Gradkowski might be a good number three but finding a backup quarterback has to be a priority and the time to draft Roethlisberger’s successor may have arrived.

On defense, the young linebackers seem to finally be starting to come around, and they have an All-Pro in Cam Heyward and a future All-Pro, Stephon Tuitt on the defensive line.

James Harrison was still making big plays (7 tackles, sack, 3 TFL) Sunday in Denver, but everybody has an expiration date and, if he decides to go one more year, he’ll be 38 when he reports to mini-camp.

Plenty of NFL teams would love to be where the Steelers are going into the 2016 season, but most of them are just happy to make the playoffs and that’s never been good enough here.

The Rooneys, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin now have the next three months to determine in which direction this team is headed. Should it be looked at as a Super Bowl contender that might have made it there if not for injuries?

Or should it be looked at as a team that was lucky to make the playoffs.

They faced six backup quarterbacks in a row in games 12 through 17. (counting A.J.McCarron, who replaced Andy Dalton in the first quarter of Game 12.)

They couldn’t beat a bad Ravens team in Game 15 to clinch a playoff spot and needed the Bills to beat the Jets to get in.

They may have faced a washed up quarterback in Game 18.

Was it an example of a team overcoming adversity and overachieving?

Or was it a team that advanced further than it deserved?


–It may not be fair to judge Peyton Manning based solely on his passing numbers in Sunday’s game. For one thing, his receivers had a serious case of the drops.

And, as Mike Tomlin pointed out, Manning is about so much more than passing. He’s all about reading defenses and making changes before the snap. There was a lot of that going on during the Broncos winning touchdown drive.


—The good news about the Steelers not playing the Patriots in the AFC Championship game is that we will not be exposed to as much “Tom Brady is the best quarterback of all time” BS.

Because he’s not.

People love to throw it around a lot and some of those people have no interest in discussing it.

Yeah, he’s “won” a lot of games, but as an old college quarterback friend of mine said to me a couple of days ago, “Unless it’s singles tennis or golf, I really don’t want to hear about a player’s won-loss record. If there is more than one other player involved, it’s a team record.”

If Brady is the best ever, that would mean he would have started for the Steelers and Terry Bradshaw would have been holding a clipboard in Super Bowls XIII and XIV.

Not a chance.

Would Joe Namath have been his backup in Super Bowl III?


Who would have been his backup when Dan Marino and Joe Montana’s teams faced each other in Super Bowl IX?

Who’s holding the clipboard when Brett Favre’s team played John Elway’s?

Brady is a great quarterback.

He’s not the best ever. He’s just not. So, please stop.

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About The Author

John Steigerwald

TIOPS Columnist

John Steigerwald, a life long Pittsburgher, has been covering PITTSBURGH sports since 1977 as a TV anchor/reporter, columnist radio reporter/commentator and talk show host. He is also the author of one of the best selling local books in Pittburgh history, "Just Watch The Game."

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