Steelers need this time off

by F. Dale Lolley

Many of the Steelers said there is no such thing as a bad week to have a bye. For this particular team, the bye could not have come at a better time.
After playing New England, Baltimore and Cincinnati in consecutive weeks, the Steelers need a breather.

That Pittsburgh went 2-1 in those games is a plus.

Coming out of the bye, this team should be healthier.

The Steelers haven't been at full strength all season. Early in the season, there were injuries nearly every week on the offensive line. Then, players started going down on the defensive front. Finally, the wide receiver position was beset by injuries.

When the Steelers line up to play at Kansas City Nov. 27, they will be as healthy as they've been since August. Linebacker LaMarr Woodley and wide receivers Hines Ward and Emmanuel Sanders are expected back.

"Once we can get everybody healthy, we don't have to have guys playing 65 to 70 snaps and can keep everybody fresh," said head coach Mike Tomlin.

That could be key heading into the playoffs.

Yes, it's OK to start talking about playoffs with this team.

At 7-3, the Steelers are tied with Houston for the best record in the AFC. They will remain in a tie for that spot coming out of the bye because Houston also is off. The Bengals and Ravens, both 6-3, play each other in Baltimore.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suffered a fractured thumb on his throwing hand during last Sunday's 24-17 win over the Bengals, an injury similar to the one he suffered in 2005.

But it won't cause him to miss any time.

The schedule gets considerably easier coming off the bye week. Of the remaining opponents, only the Bengals and 49ers have winning records.

All the teams in the AFC have their issues. The Steelers, with a so-so offensive line and lackluster running game, are among them.

Are Pittsburgh's flaws any worse than those among the other contenders?

New England's secondary is awful. Baltimore can't get any consistency from quarterback Joe Flacco. The same goes for the Jets with Mark Sanchez. Cincinnati is inexperienced, though improving. And Houston just lost quarterback Matt Schaub for the season to a broken foot.

Getting healthy in time for the stretch run is key. Often, it's not the best team, but the one that is healthiest, that wins the championship.

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