The Pittsburgh Steelers are approaching the end of their run to claim a Super Bowl with their current roster of talent, making the 2018 campaign a do-or-die mission for Mike Tomlin’s men.
Last season ended in disappointment once again for the Steelers. A defeat at Heinz Field at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars ended their quest to add a seventh Vince Lombardi Trophy to their collection.
The loss was humbling on home soil as Blake Bortles and the Jaguars defense were able to put 45 points on the board to send Doug Marrone’s team through to the AFC Championship Game.
Tomlin has come under pressure in the off-season for his coaching methods, failing to get the best out of a talented roster. Although he won the Super Bowl in his second season in Pittsburgh and reached another in the 2010 campaign, the club have not been able to return in the seven years since their last appearance.
The age of Ben Roethlisberger along with his attitude are a concern. His reaction to the selection of quarterback Mason Rudolph was not one of encourage, but it could be the spark to ignite a fire under the veteran. Contract issues with Le’Veon Bell has resulted in the running back refuse to report for training camp.
Antonio Brown remains one of the leading wideouts in the NFL, while Juju Smith-Schuster displayed a lot of promise in his rookie term. Outside of the duo there are uncertainties. The defense also has issues, starting with Ryan Shazier and his availability not just for 2018 but the long-term picture.
With all of their talent available, the Steelers remain arguably the most potent offense in the NFL. The ‘Killer B’s’ are the best trio of players in the league as a unit, with Roethlisberger, Brown and Bell putting in outstanding performances of the past four seasons. However, it has not ended with the ultimate success. It has been due to health, form and a portion of bad luck. At the age of 36 time is beginning to run out for Roethlisberger. Although he is five years younger than Tom Brady, he has taken more knocks than the New England Patriots quarterback over his career.
Roethlisberger does not exude the same vitality for the game as his rival, although the drafting of Rudolph could inspire him to greatness. Brady was spurred on by the Patriots’ selection of Jimmy Garroppolo, and the same decision could bear fruit for the Steelers. Roethlisberger threw five touchdowns in his side’s Divisional Round defeat to the Jaguars. Remaining at that level throughout the 2018 campaign is a must for the team given their reliance on the offense.
Brown remains at the peak of his powers, although at the age of 30, time is running out for the Steelers to capitalise on his elite window. He has notched five-straight 1,000-yard seasons, scoring 52 touchdowns in that period. At his best he is uncoverable, handing Roethlisberger an open target on almost every play. Pittsburgh will need him to lead the way once again, although the rise of Smith-Schuster should ease the burden if he continues his upward trajectory.
Bell’s situation is complex. The Steelers have not handed him a long-term deal, forcing the back to play under the franchise tag for the second-straight season. Bell has not reported to camp and was slow getting out of the blocks last term due to the same issue. His future appears to lay away from Pittsburgh, but Tomlin will be hopeful that he can squeeze one last effort out of one of the NFL’s leading running backs.
The Steelers were rocked by an injury to Shazier near the end of the 2017 campaign. There were initial fears that the linebacker would not be able to walk again. However, Shazier was a spectator for the club’s remaining matches of the term. He has been present at training camp, but will not participate in the season, and doubts remain whether he will be able to return to the field at all.
Vince Williams played alongside Shazier in the middle of the defense and formed a strong tandem. Without Shazier, Williams will have to raise the level of his game as the Steelers added only Jon Bostic to their linebacking corps in the off-season.
The defensive line is set with Javon Hargrave, Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward. They will offer strength and a formidable pass-rush for Tomlin. More will be expected of TJ Watt in his second season after several promising displays in his rookie term. Bud Dupree has been solid during his three years at Heinz Field. He needs to become a real force off the edge to turn the defense into a formidable unit. When at their best the Steelers have had talent coming off the edge. Watt and Dupree have to dominate in 2018.
Terrell Edmunds was a surprise selection in the first round of the 2018 Draft. The Steeler chose to clean out the veterans in their secondary. Mike Mitchell, William Gay and Robert Golden were all released. Therefore Edmunds needs to hit the ground running alongside Sean Davis. The secondary has been a weakness for Pittsburgh, but has to improve for the club to return to the Super Bowl.
The Steelers are a Super Bowl contender, but the challenge will be getting past the Patriots, who hold their number. They’ve not beaten New England since 2011 and need to end their drought to reach the Super Bowl. It will be a challenge, although they do have a home match against them.
It proved to be crucial last season when Roethlisberger’s late interception handed the Patriots the win and by default home-field advantage in the post-season. Should Pittsburgh get the home game this time around it could lead the AFC Championship at odds of +550 with BetOnline. Anything can happen in the Super Bowl and their odds are decent at +1100 with TopBet.
A money-making punt will be backing Tomlin’s men to reach the playoffs at -500 with 888Sport along with a season with over 10 wins at odds of -133 along with the AFC North crown at -300 with TopBet. The motivation of Rudolph could spark Roethlisberger into MVP form, take him to win the award for the first time at odds of +3500 with TopBet. The 36-year-old has been in great form over recent seasons, but take the under on 4,499 passing yards at -120 with BetOnline. However, take him to notch over 28 touchdowns at -115 .
Bell’s absence from training camp may affect his early-season form. Therefore the under on 1,325 rushing yards should be taken at -115 with BetOnline and 12 total touchdowns and under at odds of -115 . Brown should be in line for another strong seasons, but due to his age and the rise of Smith-Schuster take the under on 1,499 receiving yards at -115 and under 10 touchdowns -115 with BetOnline.
Pittsburgh Steelers To Win AFC Championship
Pittsburgh Steelers To Win AFC North
Pittsburgh Steelers To Win Over 10 Games
Ben Roethlisberger To Throw Under 4,499 Passing Yards
Le’Veon Bell To Rush For Under 1,325 Yards
Antonio Brown To Record Under 10 Touchdowns
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