The Pittsburgh Steelers ended the 2016 regular season on an eight game winning streak, similar to the year before. As a Steelers fan, I can tell you that it’s Super Bowl or bust for the boys in black and yellow. The Steelers made it to the AFC championship game, but couldn’t capitalize this season. Mike Tomlin and the Steelers learned a lot from this AFC championship loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, and in order for the them to get ring number seven, the Steelers have a lot of work to do.
Although the defense ranked ninth in the league, they did not appear that way throughout some of the season and postseason, especially against the Patriots. The Steelers need to improve their secondary, but that starts with a pass rush. Bud Dupree returned to the lineup at the end of the season and seems to be a very promising player, and Ryan Shazier had a great season, making the first Pro Bowl outing of his young career. However, their defensive line is far from dominant. A good pass rusher on the line would not only add to the defense in the obvious way, but it would also free up the linebackers as the offensive line would get the freedom to focus elsewhere. With a good pass rush, the secondary won’t need to cover players as long and will improve. Young players such as Artie Burns and Sean Davis made a lot of mistakes, but stepped up this season and showed a lot of talent and promise. Their success in 2016 could poise them to be productive players for the rest of their respective careers. With experience, the mistakes will diminish and they will improve.
The Steeler offense may have been good, but not nearly good enough. Antonio Brown had no help from his fellow receivers starting with Martavis Bryant, who served a year-long suspension. Markus Wheaton was sidelined by injuries for most of the season and the young receivers who took their place dropped a lot of passes and did not provide enough of a distraction for defenses to feel the need to focus anywhere other than on Le’Veon Bell and Brown. With the return of Bryant, the high octane offense will continue to thrive. The young players on this team need to spend their offseason with some of the killer bees in Bell and Brown, who are known to be two of the hardest working players in the league. The biggest question mark about the Steelers’ future is Le’Veon Bell. Paying a running back a huge contract is not easy in today’s league, but he was the most productive and dominant player on the offense.
So, for the Steelers to bring the Lombardi trophy home and the hell out of Boston, they have a need a for serious pass rusher, for experience in the secondary, for Bryant to come back better than ever, and for Bell to re-sign. While this may seem like a daunting task, Pittsburgh already has most of the bigger pieces in place and could see themselves playing for a championship in the near future.