The NFL has long made a point of packaging it's brand as a “parity driven league” where on any given year, any team could rise up to claim the title. The thing is, however, that while you do have you're occasional surprise team that makes the playoffs, the majority of teams that are truly contenders are about the same ones year in and out.
The biggest example of this continued commitment to excellence and winning, and a team that is in the hunt every year, is the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This years Steelers, sitting at 10-4, are already locked into the playoffs no matter how these last two weeks play out. With that being the case, the question shifts to whether or not they are actually good enough to win it all. Sitting here, writing this having watched every Steelers game this season, I would have to say that I'm worried they just don't have it this year.
Look, I'm never going to bet against Pittsburgh but the team I've seen this year is as vulnerable as I've witnessed them in a while. More specifically, their defense is the most vulnerable I've seen it in a long time.
In the past, when the Steelers didn't make the SuperBowl or even the rare occasions they didn't make the playoffs, it was the offense that was the blame. Now, however, I fear that the defense may be lacking in this potential postseason run. Age catches up with even the toughest players and the vaunted Pitt D is starting to show theirs as they have struggled in areas this season that is unheard of in Steelers land.
Statistically, they are still a juggernaut. Pittsburgh ranks first against the pass, allowing only 179.9 yards a game and sixth against the rush, allowing 97.2 ypg, but it's how they have been playing in big moments that raises flags. When the Steelers have needed a stop the most, their defense this season can't get off the field and if that's the case, then they are in for a tough time this postseason.
Don't get me wrong, the offense has their fair share of issues, from injuries to the inability to consistently rush the ball, but the Steelers have always lived and died from the defensive side of the ball. Looking at them unbiased this year, I would have to say that they are going to die by it.
Though it pains me to say this, I would have to list the Steelers as pretenders to the throne this season.
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