Wondering if and how your NFL team can make the playoffs in the coming season? Adam Rank and Marc Sessler have you covered in this ongoing series, as they provide five reasons why each of the league's 32 teams will make an appearance in the 2018 postseason. Today, Rank examines the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers are going to the playoffs. Feel like I can say that with relative certainty, no? And it gives me the same (fatigued) feeling I get watching Roman Reigns. I'm kind of sick of Roman Reigns. Not because he's terrible or anything. But I've seen it. I would like to see something new. But there is no doubt in my mind right now that he's going to be headlining WrestleMania next April. Again. I know you Steelers marks will decry this comparison and say it's the Patriots who are most like Reigns, but no: The Patriots are John Cena -- the "screw you" champion we have long hated, now sort of admire and respect, but yet still love to see lose in the big championship match. Or game, if you will. But I digress ... The Steelers currently have the second-longest playoff streak at four -- OMG, Roman Reigns has headlined four straight WrestleManias!! -- trailing only the Pats. And like the Patriots, even when the Steelers aren't good, they are good. Pittsburgh hasn't been under the .500 mark since 2003.
1) Hey, look -- Ben Roethlisberger isn't threatening to retire!
It was refreshing to have an offseason free of Big Ben's retirement musings. I have long perceived Roethlisberger as that friend of yours who will always hit "maybe" on an Evite, even though you know damn well he (or she) is going to attend. He just wants people to beg him to go. Or, in this case, stay. Not this year, though! Roethlisberger is actually really eager to be back at quarterback for the Steelers this year. There are two big reasons why ...
For starters, the team drafted Mason Rudolph as a potential heir apparent. And this really bothered Roethlisberger, who has threatened to make Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers' relationship look like Augustus and Agrippa by comparison. (Ugh, read a book. Fine. Like Woody and Buzz. Happy?) Which is completely ridiculous, because first, don't be a jerk. And second, Roethlisberger clearly isn't immune to injury -- guy's missed some games over the years. Why not aim for a viable backup who could pitch relief and save home-field advantage? Furthermore, Rudolph's a third-round pick. The Steelers drafted value. It's not like they traded up for Josh Rosen. Roethlisberger's anger would be understandable in that scenario. Like if the girlfriend you've threatened to break up with suddenly starts working a lot, then hanging out with her friends (not you) on the weekend and updates her Match profile. That's the time to worry. The Steelers are merely looking up their exes on Facebook to see what they are up to at this point.
2) Randy Fichtner is now the man in Big Ben's ear
The Steelers didn't bring back Todd Haley, promoting longtime quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner to offensive coordinator. If he's anything like William Fichtner -- the greatest character actor of our generation -- things will be fine. I mean, seriously. It's not like the Steelers grabbed a guy like Matt Nagy or Matt LaFleur or something. Ben wanted a guy who would condone all of his behavior. Like when you're going out to a ballpark and want to hang out with your buddy who isn't going to talk you out of that third chili dog, even though everyone knows damn well you'll inherently be up all night with heartburn. But this is fine. You want Roethlisberger to be happy.
3) You have the best WR in the game -- maybe the best running back, too
And then you have Bell. Or at least you figure Bell is going to be in the mix. He's in the middle of a contract dispute at the moment. But we've seen this before. He holds out. You panic. He returns and dominates. Bell has averaged 129 scrimmage yards per game since he entered the NFL in 2013 -- that's the highest figure in NFL history for a guy who's logged at least 50 games. So, if he's not the very best in the game right now, he's at least in the conversation. And for legitimate reasons. I mean, you could have a conversation about the best running back and include Matt Breida. You could do that, but you wouldn't have any credibility. So don't.
4) Morgan Burnett to the rescue!
Speaking of the Packers, though, you did take away Burnett. So that was good. Also good for the Steelers. I found this stat on Pro Football Focus and thought it was pertinent to mention here: Since 2012, Burnett has now racked up a whopping 93 run stops when lined up in the box, which is tied with Kam Chancellor for the most among safeties in that span. Good news for the Steelers, who desperately needed help in the secondary.
5) At least they fixed that catch rule
Is it too soon for that kind of humor? But the Jesse James non-catch would have stood as a touchdown -- and you likely would have ended up with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Which would have been great. Although, it probably saved you from the Patriots winning on your home field again. Or worse, the Jags beating you in the AFC Championship Game -- like they did in the Divisional Round.
But this exercise is about your Steelers making the playoffs. And there is no doubt they should make it again. I mean, you play in the AFC North. Two games against the Bengals. Two against the Browns. There's four wins. I know the rivalry with the Ravens was something a few years ago, but there's another two. So, you start the season with a guaranteed six wins. Nobody gets that kind of love. I know you're about to say the Patriots, but realize: The Pats seemingly always lose in Miami. You don't even have that trap game. Congratulations, Steelers. You are in.