By Jeremy Hritz
Sure, the ankle of Ben Roethlisberger is hurt. Probably even more so than it was last week. Yes, Rashard Mendenhall is done for the year, and possibly until October. Correct. The up-and-coming corner Cortez Allen is out, and Keenan Lewis, though he will play, is dealing with a hamstring. Combine all of this with the return of Doug Legursky and LaMarr Woodley, both who may still have lingering effects from their injuries, and what you have is a recipe for Mile High loss, right? Wrong. The Pittsburgh Steelers of 2011 are a team who have, won in the face of adversity and overcome their fair share of obstacles to not only finish with a 12 and 4 record, but also with the number one ranked defense in overall yardage, passing yardage, and points allowed, not to mention two young wide outs both with over 1,000 yards receiving, and a quarterback with a trifecta of injuries (thumb, foot, ankle) who endured a relentless pounding who still managed to throw for over 4,000 yards and 20 touchdowns. Imagine if he had been healthy and actually had some consistency on the offensive line? He would probably have joined Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Matthew Stafford as a 5,000 yard passer. The bottom line is that this is a Pittsburgh team that has demonstrated that in the face of never-ending injuries, bad early season losses, and an over-eager officiating NFL to put themselves in a position to make a deep playoff run. Though the post-season itinerary most likely will not make any stops on the North Shore, the Steelers have what it takes to make it to the Super Bowl and win it. The NFL playoffs are a test of a team’s ability to respond to adversity, and those that can rise above it ultimately will earn a spot in Indianapolis come February. If this season has proven anything about the Steelers, it is just that: nothing is too big for them.
We can stop now with any anxiety of losing to the Denver Broncos. Sure, they will play in front of a home crowd; yes, they have two tremendous pass rushers in Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller, and Tim Tebow seems to have a knack (however ugly) in the 4th quarter. Yet the bottom line is that Denver is just not an overall great team, not even a good team. The Broncos are offensively challenged, averaging only a hair over 18 points a game since Tebow has started, and while their running game is the best in the league, their passing game under Tebow is abysmal and ineffective (see 48% completion percentage). This is also a Denver team that has given up more than 29 points 6 times in 2011 and 32 points to a terrible Minnesota team and 40 to a below average Buffalo squad. Their inability to score points and their ability to keep opponents from scoring creates a more-than-favorable match-up for the Steelers.
Believe it. This is a Pittsburgh Steelers team with all of the potential to win their 7th Super Bowl trophy. They are adversity-tested. They are a 12 win team despite the dearth of turnovers and an excess of injuries. Come Sunday, expect the Steelers to play their best game of the season thus far and emerge with the win making all those fans on Sunday wearing purple and black cheering on the orange and blue more than a little uneasy. Here we go…