The Pittsburgh Steelers have continually boasted one of the strongest rosters in the NFL, but have not managed to reach the Super Bowl since the 2010 campaign. In Dallas seven years ago, Mike Tomlin’s men were beaten by six points by the Green Bay Packers as Aaron Rodgers put in a quality performance to down the AFC North outfit. Pittsburgh have competed in the playoffs in four of the six seasons since their loss, but have mustered only two victories, reaching the AFC Championship on just one occasion.
Their defeat in the title game in the last campaign to the New England Patriots appeared to mark the end for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He admitted that he was considering retirement from the game, only to return to action for the 2017 season, although time appears to be closing on his career. The Steelers have recovered from an ordinary start to the term and are on course for a first-round bye in the playoffs. However, the looming presence of the Patriots in the Conference could prove once again to be the decisive factor in whether the Steelers return to the Super Bowl.
Tomlin’s men are backed at 6/1 in the bet365 NFL odds to win the Vince Lombardi trophy for the first time since the 2008 campaign. The club have assembled their best roster since their last triumph to secure the win, but cannot afford to make the same mistakes of the past. Injuries have also played their part in the Steelers’ issues in the post-season.
In the 2015 campaign, the team were looking dangerous, having defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in the Wild Card Round even without the presence of All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell. In the win over the Bengals, Pittsburgh lost All-Pro wideout Antonio Brown to a vicious hit, knocking him out of the Divisional Round. The Steelers battled on without him and had the Denver Broncos on the back foot on the road, but a key fumble from Fitzgerald Toussaint would cost them the contest.
Another injury to Bell in the early stages of the AFC Championship game last season would cost the Steelers again, despite putting forward another impressive win in the Divisional Round this time over the Kansas City Chiefs on the road. Bell’s absence allowed the Patriots to bottle up Pittsburgh’s run game, while Brown found himself double-covered. Tom Brady’s imperious record over the Steelers continued as he notched his tenth win over the franchise in his career, including an unbeaten three-game stretch in the playoffs.
Roethlisberger has been unable to match Brady score-for-score in their meetings. Brown and Bell have the talent to cause the Patriots problems should they meet in January, but whether they are enough alone to defeat Bill Belichick’s side remains to be seen. Promising rookie Juju Smith-Schuster could be the wildcard, although a lot rests on the performance of the quarterback. Roethlisberger has thrown a number of poor interceptions this term and cannot afford a similar outing in the playoffs.
Pittsburgh have a solid defense, but have the propensity to fail to stand up to the tests in big matches. It was the case in their Super Bowl loss to the Packers along with defeats to the Broncos, Patriots and Baltimore Ravens in the post-season since. The front seven is stacked with talent, while the secondary has shown signs of improvement this term. They have to be able to rise to the occasion and back up the comments of their head coach that the Steelers are good enough not just to reach the Super Bowl, but to win the Vince Lombardi trophy.