2016 was a building year for the Pittsburgh Steelers. They made it to the AFC Championship Game where they ultimately fell short against the New England Patriots, losing 36-17. It sucks for any team to make it that far and lose in the fashion they did, but we only saw the beginning of this team, and the Steelers are destined for greater things in 2017.
Midway through last year, Pittsburgh changed their identity to a run-first team, riding the wheels of star running back Le’Veon Bell. This move proved wonders for the Steelers as it led them to turnaround their season and go on a ridiculous nine game winning streak. We still haven’t seen what Pittsburgh can do for a full year under this style of play. The Steelers-Bills game last year was a good example of how the Steelers played their second half last year.
The Steelers also had to deal with their fair share of injuries and suspensions last season. Wide out Martavis Bryant missed the entire season due to suspension, and he is back in 2017. Star defensive end Cameron Heyward missed the whole second half of the season and whole postseason from being injured, and he’ll return in 2017 as well. These are very key players to the Steelers and weren’t there for Pittsburgh when they needed them most.
With all of those players returning, and adding an intriguing draft class to the team, Pittsburgh is destined for a Super Bowl run in 2017. The only team possibly stopping this from happening is the New England Patriots, and this should be the year Pittsburgh is finally able to defeat New England.
Pittsburgh should have the most explosive offense in 2017. With Ben Roethlisberger calling the shots as always, you will always have a chance. This year, he has the most help around him he’s ever had. Superstar receiver Antonio Brown, 6’5 speed demon Martavis Bryant, a young and improving slot receiver in Eli Rogers, and the best back in the game with Le’Veon Bell. Marcus Gilbert, David DeCastro, and Maurkice Pouncey will all help hold down the offensive line, which has been up with the league’s best the past few years.
The offense was never in question for the Steelers. Everyone pick on their defense, as that has consistently been the reason the Steelers have lost games throughout the last few years. Last year, however, this defense showed life. They ranked 12th in yards per game, 10th in points per game, and 5th in red zone defense. Those are huge strides for a defense that would previously be near the bottom of the league in these categories. Ryan Shazier, Artie Burns, and Sean Davis are a few players who have improved a tremendous amount throughout this past season. The beginning of last year, Burns and Davis really struggled. Those two made their way into the starting lineup for good by the end of the year, and proved they did belong in the league. Ryan Shazier came into last season as a solid player, and he as an upcoming star.
Pittsburgh should be the number-1 seed in the AFC next year, second at worst. Without a doubt, the Steelers offense will carry them, while the upcoming defense should continue to make strides during 2017. Look out, Patriots fans, as the Steelers should be the team representing the AFC in the Super Bowl in 2017.