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SteelCrazy
12-26-2011, 08:32 PM
Experience, explosiveness make Steelers team to beat in AFC

After watching nearly an entire season of football, I'm convinced the Pittsburgh Steelers are the team to beat in the AFC.

The Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots will certainly dispute that notion based on their regular season accomplishments, but they are flawed squads with glaring deficiencies that could be exposed under the bright lights of the postseason.

The Patriots have been able to hide their 32nd-ranked defense behind an offensive juggernaut that rolls up 30.9 points per game. Tom Brady and Co.'s ability to seemingly score at will forces opponents to abandon their traditional game plans. However, the Patriots' inability to get stops in critical situations raises serious doubts about their title chances.

The Ravens feature one of the league's most feared defenses, but their offense has been sporadic behind the maddeningly inconsistent Joe Flacco. He has continued to struggle from the pocket and his inability to carry the offensive load could be problematic in the playoffs.

That's why the Steelers should carry the flag as the AFC favorite despite potentially entering the postseason as a lower seed. Here are four reasons why I see Pittsburgh as the best bet to represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLVI:

1. The Steel Curtain is still championship-caliber. A defense deemed too old and slow prior to the season has continued to rank as one of the league's stingiest units. The Steelers lead the league in total defense and pass defense, while allowing the second-fewest points.

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has been instrumental in the unit's superb play by tweaking his blitz-heavy tactics to feature more man pressures with press coverage to suffocate opposing passing games. With their corners aggressively jamming receivers at the line, the Steelers have been able to disrupt the timing of the routes on the outside and give their dynamic rush tandem of James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley more time to wreak havoc off the edges. As a result, the Steelers are only allowing 5.7 yards per pass attempt, which leads the league. More importantly, they have the ability to create negative plays off sacks and pressures that ultimately alter the game.

If the Steelers' suffocating pass defense isn't enough to sway the argument, the thought of facing their punishing run defense should swing the vote in their favor. The Steelers only allow 101.7 rush yards per game, and they've held their last 11 opponents to an average of 94.7 yards.

2. Big Ben is clutch. In a quarterback-driven league, it is essential to have a signal caller who can win games on the strength of his arm, and few in the league are better than Roethlisberger. While his style is far from what we are accustomed to seeing at the position, Roethlisberger's masterful improvisational skills in the pocket frequently produces big plays. His knack for eluding oncoming rushers on blitzes while keeping his eyes focused downfield puts defensive coordinators in a quandary when creating game plans for the Steelers. If they sit back in coverage, Roethlisberger is capable of picking them apart with pinpoint throws to receivers sitting down in open areas. If the defense opts to pressure, his ability to escape and create with his feet or arm leads to game-changing plays.


Roethlisberger has directed 26 game-winning drives in his career, including 20 fourth-quarter comebacks. Tom Brady has 34 game-winning drives and 24 fourth-quarter comebacks in his 12-year career. With Brady as the only other established clutch performer in the AFC field, it is hard to bet against Roethlisberger leading the Steelers to a win with the ball in his hands and the game on the line.

3. The Steelers' offensive personnel is capable of thriving in any style. Pittsburgh can spread the field with four- and five-receiver sets that feature two of the most explosive playmakers in the league (Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown). Wallace, with 71 receptions, 1,182 yards and eight touchdowns, is the vertical threat capable of blowing the top off coverage, and Roethlisberger loves to target him on early down situations to take advantage of single high safety looks. Brown, who has 63 receptions for 1,018 yards and two touchdowns, is a terrific runner in the open field, and the Steelers feature him extensively on crossing routes and quick screens. In addition, he gives them an added weapon in the kicking game with his electrifying return skills.

With Hines Ward, Jerricho Cotchery and Heath Miller able to do the dirty work over the middle, the Steelers' stable of receivers has the potential to take over games when opponents have problems defending their bunch and empty formations.

Rashard Mendenhall is the X-factor who gives the Steelers offense the balance that others in the AFC lack. With 890 yards, he is within reach of his third straight 1,000-yard season, and is coming off an 18-carry, 116-yard effort that suggests he is beginning to kick it into high gear heading into the postseason. In the playoffs, an offense must have the ability to generate points from the passing game, while running out the clock with a punishing ground attack. The Steelers might be the only offense capable of doing it consistently in the postseason.

4. The Steelers' playoff experience gives them a significant advantage. The fact that the Steelers have been to three Super Bowls in the past six years is a tremendous asset. The veteran core has experience making title runs from a lower seeding, which will give them confidence if they are unable to secure the second seed in Week 17. The prospect of winning three road games will not appear as daunting a task, as the Steelers did just that in 2006 when they entered the postseason as the sixth seed. Roethlisberger, Ward, Troy Polamalu and a handful of other veterans played prominent roles on that squad, and they will be able to relay their experiences to the younger players.

Those younger Steelers can learn from their Super Bowl run last season. Playoff wins are hard to come by, and the value of understanding the thin margin of error can be a huge benefit. With all that playoff experience to draw from, there is no doubt Pittsburgh has an edge over its AFC counterparts heading into the playoffs.

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/09000d5d8 ... eat-in-afc (http://www.nfl.com/news/story/09000d5d8256f81f/article/experience-explosiveness-make-steelers-team-to-beat-in-afc)

flippy
12-26-2011, 08:55 PM
I think we have a fighter's chance with Ben, Troy and Harrison. I wouldn't want to see the Steelers in the playoffs if I was any other team.

But I think Baltimore has the better team overall. As hard as that is to admit. But Flacco negates all that is good in Baltimore.

And I'd hate to see Brady again. He's got that same puncher's chance that we do.

The AFC field is wide open imho. No clear favorite really. Every team is good and every team has its issues.

The edge we have is Ben, Troy, and Harrison. I think those are the top 3 players in the AFC and we got em. For that, I'm glad.

skyhawk
12-26-2011, 08:59 PM
Did this writer forget that Ben is hurt, so is Pouncey, and the OL is porous at times?

I think those three three things greatly hinder the Steelers' "explosiveness". Being in the last third in the league in PPG also tells us this hasn't been the case all season.

buckeyehoppy
12-26-2011, 09:38 PM
In theory, I would tend to agree with this guy. But, if we don't get that first round bye this guy might as well be talking out of his @$$. We need that week off worse than perhaps any other team headed to the post season.

steeler_fan_in_t.o.
12-27-2011, 02:44 AM
FWIW just another opinion. Just like the "idiotic" opinions that everyone complains about here when a writer chooses another team.

I would not fear Houston, the AFC West champ, or the #6 seed - be it Cincy, Denver, or Oakland.

IMO there are three teams in the race - Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and New England. Each of the three has their share of strengths and weaknesses and question marks. I believe that a valid argument could be made in favor of any of those three, regardless of which AFCN team gets the bye.

My heart is on the Steelers, but my head tells me that there is a three horse dead heat at the moment.

Keyplay1
12-27-2011, 06:49 AM
Wow! It's very rare this guy is so favorable to the Steelers. I think I've seen a number of his articles on that nfl.com site. He usually skips on by the Steelers.

Hey! Like one of the posters said, if the Steelers get healthy people just might start hearing footsteps.

SidSmythe
12-27-2011, 09:09 AM
The only serious threats to the Steelers would be New England and Baltimore.
We're probably the only team that could go on the road and beat both of these teams.

NorthCoast
12-27-2011, 10:50 AM
The only serious threats to the Steelers would be New England and Baltimore.
We're probably the only team that could go on the road and beat both of these teams.

The only serious threat is .... any team we play. We barely beat Cinci in Rd 1 and Houston matches up very well with our strengths, and they don't seem to have fallen off that much without their QB.
The Steelers might be favored against certain opponents, but I would be shocked if it was more than 3 or 4 pts. Remember, they seem to play down to their competition.

fezziwig
12-27-2011, 11:09 AM
Maybe it's because I follow the Steelers each week and not the other teams that gives me my doubts. I see all their flaws and their good points where, I only see the other teams standings/record.

The other teams all have their flaws such as the Patriots can't really stop anyone. The Ravens are the group that worries me the most. They really have it out for our Steelers and if they would beat us in the playoffs and have another game to play, I see the Ravens losing. They put so much into playing us they seem not to be able to rally fast enough after a big win.

If we did make it to the Super Bowl I would rather have us face Green Bay rather than the Saints. That being that I only watched the Saints once this year and that was last night. They seem to have a better defense than the Packers.

I still think the AFC is open for the Steelers, Texans, Ravens and Cheats to make it to the Super Bowl. The Texans I doubt will do well with a young QB but, I've been wrong before.
In any event if the Ravens and Cheats do make it to the Super Bowl I hope they lose. If the Texans make it I hope they win.
Obviously I want the Steelers to win it all.

Question: Would you rather see the Steelers make it to the Super Bowl and lose or not make it to the Super Bowl at all ?
I'd rather see them make it to the SB and win but, it was just a question I had for you all.
Last year Ryan Clark said he would have rather not went to the Super Bowl if they couldn't win. I thought that was odd that he said that but, I can understand his view. I know he took the loss pretty hard.
Me, I think I'd rather not see them go to the SB if they couldn't win. Maybe that's because we won so many before or knowing the hurt after a loss.

RuthlessBurgher
12-27-2011, 11:14 AM
Defensive coordinator bad word LeBeau has been instrumental in the unit's superb play by tweaking his blitz-heavy tactics to feature more man pressures with press coverage to suffocate opposing passing games. With their corners aggressively jamming receivers at the line, the Steelers have been able to disrupt the timing of the routes on the outside and give their dynamic rush tandem of James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley more time to wreak havoc off the edges. As a result, the Steelers are only allowing 5.7 yards per pass attempt, which leads the league. More importantly, they have the ability to create negative plays off sacks and pressures that ultimately alter the game.


Wait...I thought Old Man LeBeau keeps doing the same tired things over and over again, is failing miserably, and needed to be replaced several years ago? Man, I need to stop reading this board so much...

NorthCoast
12-27-2011, 12:05 PM
Defensively, I think we are fine for the playoffs. I think they can hold their own. The offense is another matter. They have been less than advertised coming out of preseason. The Steelers had the 22nd ranked strength of schedule and yet their offense is only 20th in pts/gm. I am a realist, this offense is really only slightly better than average. It doesn't put up the kind of pts we all thought they could based on talent. It seems every time we go away from an even 50-50 pass/run split we seem to slide in offensive efficiency. This season is no different. Being able to run the ball takes a huge load off the QB, especially those games where he might struggle. You cant expect the QB to have a stellar game every single weekend, but the Steelers have not been able to establish that balance that made them oh-so-tough to beat in the days of Bettis & co.

fezziwig
12-27-2011, 12:32 PM
I think the offense has under achieved in a big way this season especially with all the weapons we have.

The defense is decent and having a healthy defense they could be over the top in my opinion.

Do you guys think our defense is better at zone or man defense ?

DukieBoy
12-27-2011, 12:45 PM
Going into the playoffs, concerns I have for our Steelers:
Injuries.
Turnovers.
Recent history of coming out flat, not sharp.
We don't measure up in the trenches on either side of the ball to the Ravens, maybe also a disadvantage against some other teams.
Playcalling on offense.
Probably no home-field games.

That said, I think one of three AFC teams will go to the Super Bowl and the Steelers are one of the three (w/ Ravens & Cheatriots***). Each of the three teams likely will have to beat the other two to go to the big show.

fezziwig
12-27-2011, 12:55 PM
What gets me, I believe we are better than what we have been playing.

flippy
12-27-2011, 01:21 PM
The favorite in the AFC is likely the #1 or #2 seed that doesn't play Pittsburgh or Baltimore in the 2nd round of the playoffs.

ie. if the Steelers and Ravens play each other in the second round of the playoffs, I'd give the Pats the edge over the winner who got beat up by the loser in the prior week.

pittpete
12-27-2011, 07:27 PM
Only team that scares me is NE