The Pittsburgh Steelers are entering the playoffs winning only one out of their last five. Expectations for this team are at an all-time low for this season after starting out 11-0. However, in the last two weeks the Steelers showed some promise that they might be able to get back to their previous form. For Pittsburgh to make a run in the playoffs they need a few things to happen.
To start, Ben Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Randy Fichner need to scheme up and take deep shots to keep defenses honest. Before the Colts game, defenses were sitting on the underneath passes and preventing the Steelers offense from sustaining drives and scoring. However, in the second half of the week 16 contest against the Indianapolis Colts, Roethlisberger started to throw the ball deep which helped the Steelers overcome a 17 point deficit. Pittsburgh has a bunch of quality receivers and if the offense plays to their strength the Steelers can be dangerous.
Another aspect of the Steelers offense that must do well is their offensive line. If the offensive line can play like they did in the final two weeks of the regular season, Pittsburgh will have a chance to make a run in the playoffs. While the run game is basically a lost cause at this point, it is key that the offensive line can protect Roethlisberger and give him time to survey the field and take deep shots. If the offensive line cannot do this, the Steelers will be in for an early exit from the playoffs.
Turning to the defensive side of the football, Pittsburgh is finally beginning to get (somewhat) healthy again. After a few weeks with only one pure inside linebacker they will have basically everyone back except Devin Bush for the playoffs. This will be huge for their ability to stop the run and even play coverage as Robert Spillane has filled in well, but has been out for a few weeks.
Even while missing players, the Steelers defense still performed well. In addition to getting Spillane back, if the Steelers win their first round against the Cleveland Browns, they may get their number one cornerback Joe Haden back for the divisional round. After a “slump” in play towards the end of the season, the defense may finally get back to where they were midseason.
It will obviously be a tall task for the Steelers to make a deep run in the playoffs as the AFC is extremely deep this year. Pittsburgh is still a good football team though, and as shown earlier in the season, if they get hot they are very dangerous.