Year in and year out, I am the most negative of the three SteezBros about the prospects for the Steelers. Instead of marveling at overcoming injuries and a difficult schedule to attain a 10-3 record, I focus on the team's glaring weaknesses. Instead of being thankful for owners like the Rooneys and coaches like Dick LeBeau, I cry myself to sleep thinking about the employment status of Bruce Arians and Larry Zierlein. Instead of enjoying James Harrison's MVP-like season, I'm thinking about how much we are going to have to pay him in the off season. And the list goes on.
The Steelers win over the Cowboys, while incredibly dramatic and unlikely, did more to convince me that this team is fatally flawed than that it is destined for Super Bowl greatness. However with Christmas time approaching, no one likes to read about the flaws in your favorite team. So instead of talking about how I would rather have the Ravens offense than the Steelers right now, I'm going to focus on ten positives. Here goes:
1.) I was born in the early 1980's, so I'm not comparing them to the Steel Curtain, but this defense is the best Steelers defense I have ever seen. Even when our defenses were ranked in the top 5, I've never really felt like we had an elite crew. Too many spread offenses dinked the ball down the field. Too many teams could pick on an average secondary. Players like Fred Taylor always had our number. But, this unit is elite. The 3 man line of Hampton, Smith, and Keisel stuff the running game and collapse the pocket. The linebackers have all of the skills. Harrison and Woodley are the most prolific sack duo in Steelers history. Foote is a run stuffer. Farrior is an experienced, signal caller playing at an elite level. And Timmons brings an explosiveness and ability to cover and tackle in the open field that was missing in the past. Despite the performance of this unit, it is the improvement in the secondary that has made the defense elite. Even though he has rocks for hands, Ike Taylor can take an elite wide receiver out of the game. McFadden and Gay have played very well as the number two corner and upgraded the speed of the defense. Deshea is a grizzled vet, more suited to play in the nickel than continue his run as a starter. Ryan Clark is a big hitter than rarely gets beat deep. And Troy, now that he is healthy, is the best safety in the game. Dick LeBeau has had top defenses with weak talent. With these players, you're seeing something special.
2.) Ten forced turnovers in the last two games.
3.) The Steelers are a lock for the playoffs this year. There is still a reasonable chance that the team doesn't win the division, but, barring an epic meltdown and loss to the Ken Dorsey-led Browns, you will see this team in the playoffs.
4.) If the Steelers beat the Ravens on Sunday, the AFC North and a first-round bye will be clinched. Even if the Steez lose to the Ravens, we could get a bye by winning the last two. Even if we lose to the Ravens and the Titans, we could get a bye if we beat the Browns and the Ravens lose to the Cowboys or Jags.
5.) Ben Roethlisberger's ability to engineer game winning drives has ensure that we have more W's than L's. I don't think Big Ben has received enough criticism for his poor play this year, but that is because he has managed to win us some games late in the game. Where would we be without his performances in the 4th quarter against Jax, SD, Baltimore, and Dallas?
6.) Head coaching stability. Early indications make it look like the Rooneys picked another head coaching winner. Mike Tomlin's group is playing hard and playing as a team. He will lead this team to the playoffs in his first two years. I can't imagine having to put up with coaches like Butch Davis, Bobby Petrino, Dave Campo, Nick Saban, Norv Turner, Marty Morningwig and Herm Edwards, just to name a few.
7.) The improvement of kick and punt return coverage is amazing. I've almost stopped worrying about giving up a back-breaking return. Almost.
8.) Hines Ward. Keith Rivers - enough said.
9.) Jeff Reed has turned into one of the best kickers in the league. I used to bet the older Steezbro that Skippy would miss every field goal attempt outside of 45 yards. Two years and a couple hundred dollars later, I finally trust Jeff Reed.
10.) The invisibility of Steely McBeam.
What are your positive thoughts about the Steelers?