The Pittsburgh Steelers have been the most entertaining team in the NFL this season, bar none. The Steelers start with having one of the sexiest assemblages of players in the league. Starting with Hall of Fame talent in Big Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown. Multiple Pro Bowlers and Pro Bowl caliber players on both sides of the ball with that list being:
Le’Veon Bell (was, could have/should have this year)
James Connor (Savior)
Juju Smith-Schuster (Robbed of a spot this year)
Ryan Shazier (Paying respect)
T.J. Watt (Robbed this year)
And Chris Boswell (ahh the memories).
With the rest of the roster being rounded out by some talented veterans, young guys, and rookies. I can’t let out the head scratching secondary players (Hello Artie Burns). The team is clearly lopsided in talent, most of it being on the offensive side. Leading to one of the few offensive juggernauts in the league. The defense has shown both sides of what they could be this season. Having been leaky and loose in the beginning of the season to a competent and at times shut down crew more recently. That roster alone gives plenty enough reason for non Steeler fans to tune into their games.
With that compilation of players, we have been given the perfect characters for the most captivating soap opera on tv. You have their play, which has more suspense game to game than a Game of Thrones episode. The ecstasy filled highs of point piled wins (Atlanta and Carolina) and nail biters just barely pulled out (Shoutout Pats and Jags). The essence of pure frustration in the close games lost (Pretty much all 5 losses) and the unfulfilling letdown of tying a team that had Hue Jackson as a head coach. The rest of the wins feeling like a blended mess of inconsistency. Filled with optimal play in spots, followed by spans where most would be happier just shutting the game off.
Following the play, you have had the drama surrounding the team.
Positive aspects like:
1. Shazier’s Comeback
The remarkably inspiring progression made by middle linebacker Ryan Shazier. Back to running and lifting within a year of a major spine injury that happened during play last season. Shazier, having hopeful eyes on making a return to playing again, has constantly been involved with the team at practices, meetings, and games.
2. Alejandro’s Service
A truly honorable and respectable player like Alejandro Villanueva. A former Captain of the U.S. army, Villanueva served as an army ranger during his tenure in the military. He served for three tours in Afghanistan. During his service, he received a Bronze Star for Valor.
3. Connor’s Path
James Connor. A stud college running back who was drafted by the team that shared practice facilities and the stadium they play in with his college team. Is a cancer survivor who, after the events of the season, has made the pro bowl team as a top rusher his second season in the league. Interestingly enough, this was all spoken into existence by Defensive MVP candidate Aaron Donald. Donald actually messaged Connor when first learning of his diagnosis. He messaged Connor words of encouragement as well as admiration. Connor shared the image of the text on his instagram. Link below:
4. JuJu is JuJu
JuJu Smith-Schuster has been a top receiver this year. Making remarkable catches and tallying up yards. Making it arguable that the Steelers have two wide receiver 1’s starting for them. Aside from his play, JuJu is already one of the most likable athletes in the world today. An always positive person, who seems to enjoy every minute in his life. JuJu has had amazing social media interaction, dances like no other, and has a great sense of humor. JuJu has been a popular gamer joining pros to play. He has Created a popular Instagram for his dog. He’s just plain fun, and one of the most gif-able players to date.
P.S.-He is also in contention for the best touchdown celebration choreographer in league history.
4. Unity and Honor
The honoring of victims and the people involved and affected by the terrible event that occurred at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh earlier this year. The Steelers have played a large part in the healing and unification of the city during/after the mourning for the victims of the tragedy.
Then you have the nasty negative aspects such as:
1. Big Ben’s Back and Forth.
Big Ben’s bipolar approach to retiring and playing. Last year questioning if it was his last, to now saying he wants to play three or so more years. With his play bouncing between whether which one he should do. At times looking like the crafty talented veteran who may have another Super Bowl run left in him. Throwing tight spirals and deep bombs, and moving well like you hoped a slimmed down Ben would. Compared to someone who throws multiple interceptions in a game and prefers to blame his receivers for passes he didn’t make. Who you think would be better suited to former teammate Ryan Clark in the broadcasting booth.
2. Simply Le’Veon.
Le’Veon Bell’s contract holdout and social media antics. Being a certified all star with past issues of playing a full season (Injury and disciplinary) he played count and mouse week after week about returning to the team. Le’Veon teetered between seeming selfish and as being an advocate for running backs, as a whole, getting paid more. He had taken subtle jabs at the team and his teammates while also supporting them (Example: James Connor). The way this unfolded led to Connor having the opportunities he did, but didn’t much help the teams game planning and focus. Eventually leading to Le’Veon not playing a single down of football this year.
3. Chris Boswell’s Kicking Woes.
Chris Boswell’s meltdown from a Pro Bowl player to leading the league in missed field goals (7) and extra point attempts (5). Boswell had received a 4 year-20 million dollar extension before the season began, following the best season of his career. Now it’s debatable if he will make it to the end of the season. He hasn’t just missed a deep field goal here or there, but has missed crucial ones in multiple games. He has also sent extra point attempts far right and left. Boswell has even missed a game winner in a game where he missed an important field goal earlier (Raiders). His lack of performance forcing the Steelers to weigh their options and have kicker workouts in attempt to fix Boswell’s yips. Boswell made a monumental field goal against the Pats to extend the lead in the closing minutes in their last game, but he isn’t off the hot seat yet.
4. Diva Antonio.
Antonio Brown’s diva and off the field antics. A minuscule situation compared to the others on this list, Antonio Brown has complained about targets, made a large deal of making a spectacle of himself off the field, as well as getting apprehended for a large speeding violation in Pittsburgh. Antonio is a top 5 receiver in the league, and he acts like it.
5. Mike Tomlin’s Coaching.
Mike Tomlin has been a coach to debate about for multiple years now. There has been the argument that he can’t win without former coach Bill Cowher’s players. The talk of him not being fit to lead a team due to his player friendly approach. Many say he fails to prepare the team properly week to week. The team tending to lose to opponents who should be outmatched by the Steelers. He has made questionable coaching calls as well (Raiders game as of late). Tomlin’s time management in games, as well as, his challenge calls have been under fire too. There has been a buzz about whether a Coach on a coach loyal team is on the hot seat. Even though Tomlin has had a .500 winning percentage or better each season with the Steelers. There is much speculation if he is capable of leading the team to another Super Bowl after multiple underperforming seasons.
Let’s not forget the Steelers are also in a very heated AFC conference and divisional fight for playoff positioning. The Steelers are currently 8-5-1 and are leading the AFC North by half a game over their rival, the Baltimore Ravens. With a close and competitive field following in the hunt just behind every game matters for the Steelers and several other teams down the stretch. So not only does each Steelers game affect their own destiny down the stretch, but they dramatically affect the rest of the AFC’s playoff hopes. Making every game even more enticing with Pittsburgh being a wildcard each week. See the AFC playoff picture through link below:
What other team has this much going on for them in the league? What team has this many side stories, this much variation? What team this year has had as high of highs and low of lows as the Steelers this season? They have the players, the drama, and twists that keep he viewers on the edge of their seat week to week. An unpredictable team with 2 weeks left in the regular season. They are fighting for playoff contention and you need to tune in each week for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Best Show in the NFL.