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Making the Case: Pittsburgh Steelers

Jarrett Bailey, Sports Writer

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After clinching the 6th and final playoff spot on the last day of the regular season by beating the Browns and getting some help from Buffalo with the Bills beating the Jets, the Steelers finished 2015 with a 10-6 record and are looking to make their 4th Super Bowl run in the last decade. Do the Steelers have a chance? It depends on their haves and have not’s.

HAVES:

Offense: We all know about the Steelers high-powered offense made up of the best trio of receivers in the NFL. Antonio Brown finished the year with the second most receptions in a single season in history with 136 receptions, just seven behind Marvin Harrison’s 143 set in 2002. Martavis Bryant added 50 more receptions and Markus Wheaton with 44. DeAngelo Williams was a huge boost to this team with the absence of Le’Veon Bell, finishing just 93 yards shy of 1,000 yards and a league-leading 11 TDs. Big Ben is a playoff warrior and is the man I’d pick to lead my team when it comes to Super Bowl runs.

Special Teams: The Steelers have had a late surge of help from special teams in recent weeks. Antonio Brown returned a punt for a touchdown a few weeks ago against the Colts, and the kickoff coverage unit forced a crucial fumble in the finale against the Browns to set up a touchdown from Roethlisberger to Wheaton. Chris Boswell has been a heaven-sent gift for the Steelers, who lost two kickers in the pre-season and watched Josh Scobee lose two games for them early in the season. Punter Jordan Berry has been effective this year, averaging 42.6 yards per punt and a NET of 39.1.

 

HAVE NOT’S

Consistency: One of the biggest problems for the Steelers this year is that we never know what team will show up. Will it be the team that scored 43 points against the 49ers in Week 2 or the team that lost twice to the lowly 5-11 Ravens? The team will need to start building up consistency if they plan on making a deep run. The Steelers have lacked this on both sides of the ball this season. They finished 21st in total defense, which was expected, but not going to win very many super bowls. And although the Steelers would never have gotten this far without their future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, he has been their Achilles heel at some key points throughout this season. He threw 16 interceptions in 12 games this season, compared to just 9 in playing all 16 games last season. But, that is all in the past and they must now just focus on the road ahead.

 

Ball Control: The Steelers offense turned the ball over 28 times during the regular season, which put them tied for the fourth position for most in the NFL. If there is one thing that will derail any team’s playoff run, it is giving the ball away.

 

Discipline: The Steelers have been accumulating more and more stupid penalties in crucial situations as the season rolled on. We saw it on Sunday at Cleveland when The Browns were in the red zone and James Harrison shoved Travis Benjamin to the ground after 5 yards. We saw Cody Wallace dive on a pile of Broncos and take away a big gain in effect of his 15 yard penalty in Week 14 against Denver. The Steelers must play smart if they expect a good deep run.

 

With a clean slate heading into Wildcard weekend, anything can happen, especially when you’re talking about the Steelers. Will this lead to a third Lombardi Trophy in the last decade? We will see.

 

 

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