It’s do or die time for Mike Tomlin as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Blessed with enough quality to win multiple Super Bowl titles, Pittsburgh have underwhelmed in recent times, and poor coaching on Tomlin’s part has been a key factor in those struggles. But there will be no excuses if the Steelers fall short this time around; the blueprint for success in 2018/19 is there.
Offensively, the Steelers are up there with the strongest teams in the National Football League. In Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh have enough quality to blow most defensive units out of the water. Brown finished as the leading wide receiver in yards (1,533) and Bell ended up with the second-most scrimmage yards (1,946). Both men are capable of turning a game on its head.
Roethlisberger is the weak link here; he isn’t getting any younger and the Pittsburgh quarterback was prone to individual errors in 2017. The Steelers may look at the upcoming NFL Draft for the chance to add a quarterback to the roster but Big Ben will almost certainly be their main man next season barring a major setback. Roethlisberger did end up with 4,251 passing yards though; his highest tally since 2014.
Scoring points came naturally to the Steelers in 2017 – Pittsburgh ended the regular season as the fifth highest scoring team. Their record at Heinz Field was considerably better than on the road though; TeamRankings.com recording the Steelers as averaging 29.8 points per game at home whilst mustering just 22.5 in their eight road fixtures. That record away from home simply must improve in 2018/19.
As of March 3rd 2018, Pittsburgh are valued at around 10/1 to win the Super Bowl with most high street bookmakers. The Steelers conceded 45 points to the Jacksonville Jaguars in this season’s playoffs and that may worry a few punters. It would be foolish to think too much about that defeat but there are a few offers available via Oddschecker for those who aren’t confident enough to stake actual funds on a Pittsburgh win.
With Todd Haley, Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator from 2012 to 2017, now in Cleveland, the Steelers could be much more consistent – especially on the road. At times, Haley was reckless with his play calling and most Pittsburgh fans were relatively happy to see him leave at the end of the campaign. The Steelers had plenty of offensive success under him but, time and time again, Haley’s decisions would come back to haunt them.
Joe Haden’s return after his injury struggles will give the Steelers secondary a boost. The former Cleveland Browns cornerback was regarded as one of the top options at his position a mere two years ago; at Pittsburgh, he can get back to his brilliant best. Artie Burns, criticised by some in his rookie season, is maturing into a reliable figure alongside Haden – Steelers fans will be happy with that combination.
A strong front seven can be the difference between success and failure and Pittsburgh have plenty of quality on both lines. Protecting Roethlisberger has to be the primary objective for the offensive line this year whilst the defence need to try and force more turnovers. If there is one criticism you could make it’s that the Steelers didn’t turn the ball over enough last season. They managed just 22 all year; 13th in the NFL.
There’s an old adage in American football; defense wins championships. For the Steelers to shine in 2018, focusing on defensive stability is key. Pittsburgh were fairly solid in 2017 but were they good enough to win a Super Bowl? Probably not. Tomlin knows that the Steelers have to get everything right in this offseason to stand any chance of competing for the NFL’s biggest prize.
The NFL Draft isn’t going to make or break Pittsburgh but it is important – especially for the future. Looking directly at this season, going all out for the Super Bowl should be Tomlin’s main aim. Anything less than the Vince Lombardi trophy and he could be out of a job. This side is far too talented to keep on falling short in their pursuit of glory.