By: Zach Metkler, The Burgh Blog Writer
In 2014 and 2015, the Steelers were a few untimely injuries away from making a serious run at another Super Bowl for the Steel City. In both seasons, the Steelers exited the playoffs earlier than they would have liked and left empty-handed yet again. Heading into 2016, there is much promise for the team to bring home a 7th Lombardi Trophy. In this 2 part series, I will be highlighting why I believe the Steelers are (and are not) primed for another Super Bowl Championship. Now comes the one fans will hate the most: 5 reasons why the Steelers WON’T win Super Bowl 51 (cue boos).
Note: I honestly believe that the Steelers are one of the teams to beat in the NFL this season. While they are strong, there are definitely some points that should worry Steelers fans.
1. The Steelers end up being unable to overcome the season-long suspension of WR Martavis Bryant.
Since being selected in the 2014 NFL Draft, Martavis Bryant has become one of the most electrifying deep threats in the league. Anytime Bryant has the ball in his hands, he is a threat to make a big play or score a touchdown. Unfortunately, the Steelers have already seen what life without Bryant can be like, as he served a 4-game suspension at the beginning of the 2015 season. In 2016, however, the Steelers will be without their young star as he serves a season-long suspension for violating the leagues substance abuse policy. The Steelers boast a deep and extraordinarily talented group of receivers, highlighted by Antonio Brown. After Brown, there is the veteran Markus Wheaton that finally started showing promise last season. Beyond that, Darrius Heyward-Bey is the only receiver with any true experience. Many fans (including myself) believe that 2nd-year receiver Sammie Coates is primed for a breakout season. While Coates has shown flashes of excellence and the ability to develop as a player, there is no guarantee that he will make the jump this season. If injuries take place throughout the course of the season, losing a talent like Bryant could come back to haunt them. I believe the team has the ability to overcome the loss of Bryant but if they can’t, it might be a long season for the Steelers receivers.
2. For yet another season, injuries pile up and become insurmountable for the Steelers.
Let me make up a list for you all:
- Le’Veon Bell
- Antonio Brown
- Stephon Tuitt
- James Harrison
- Maurkice Pouncey
- Ben Roethlisberger
- Ryan Shazier
- Matt Spaeth
- Shaun Suisham
- DeAngelo Williams
- Vince Williams
- Jarvis Jones
- Landry Jones
- Bruce Gradkowski
- Shamarko Thomas
The players above all missed at least 1 game or more over the past 2 seasons (most of them missed at least 1 game during BOTH of the past 2 seasons). There are some pretty important players on this list that make up the core of the team. Over the past 2 seasons, the Steelers have made early exits from the playoffs largely due to complying injuries that the team simply could not overcome. Now hear me out. I am not saying the Steelers didn’t win the Super Bowl strictly because of injuries. Every team in the league faces injuries. But untimely injuries have the ability to completely derail a team and this proved to be evident last season. Without a healthy Bell, Brown, Williams, Pouncey, and a Roethlisberger that was far from 100%, it should come as no surprise that the Steelers were unable to claim victory against the Broncos and make the Super Bowl. If the Steelers have the same poor luck this season, it could be yet another early exit for the Black & Gold.
3. The secondary ends up being unable to make progress, even with the addition of young talent.
Contrary to popular belief, the Steelers have talent in their secondary. Players like Mike Mitchell and William Gay are true starters in this league and both have proven to play consistently at a high level. But these 2 players aren’t the problem. At cornerback, 24-year old Ross Cockrell is the 2nd most experienced player with just over 700 career snaps. That is a scary thought. Beyond Cockrell, a trio of young corners make up the remainder of the group: Senquez Golson, Artie Burns, and Doran Grant. All 3 of these players have great potential and will look to make huge strides this season. At safety, the team selected Sean Davis in the 2nd round to compete for a starting spot next to Mitchell. The Steelers expect big things from these young players, but will any of them make the impact necessary to help the defense grow? My gut says yes. I love Burns and Davis and am very anxious to finally see Golson play this season. But if these players are unable to show their potential on the field, the secondary will not grow at all. This could be the difference between a Lombardi Trophy and leaving the season empty-handed.
4. The Steelers play down to their competition throughout the season.
Last season, the Steelers played every team that made the playoffs except the Green Bay Packers. With all of the injuries that they had and still competed well against such top competition, the Steelers proved that they are not a team to mess with. Next season, the Steelers will only play against 3 teams that made the playoffs last season: the Patriots, Bengals, and Chiefs. But here is a fact that is hard for most Steelers fans to accept: the Steelers have lost 7 of their past 12 games against teams under .500. As it currently stands, the Steelers are early favorites to win all but one of their games (the Patriots are the one projected loss). The team will still likely finish above .500 this year (and probably back in the playoffs) but how many sub-.500 teams will they lose to this season? If history indicates anything, it will be that the team has the potential to lose some heartbreakers to teams they have no business losing to. For the sake of everyone, I hope that this doesn’t happen. But each season, the Steelers consistently play down to competition, especially early in the season. With this year’s easy schedule, it might be a hard pill to swallow for most Steelers fans, but expect the team to drop some games most people wouldn’t except the Steelers to lose.
5. If history repeats itself, the Steelers won’t make the playoffs for the 3rd consecutive year.
Here is another fun fact: the Steelers haven’t made the playoffs for 3 or more consecutive seasons since 1992-1997 when they made 6 consecutive playoff appearances. Every season since 1997, it has been 2 playoff appearances in a row and then missing them during the 3rd season. Now while this Steelers team has the potential to break this trend, it is definitely something to consider for this season. With the AFC North being always competitive and many teams being considered up-and-comers, this season could spell doom for the Steelers. The 3rd time is not always the charm.
Check out “5 Reasons Why the Steelers Will Win Super Bowl 51“!