The Pittsburgh Steelers have started the season 0-3 and they are now off to London later this week to play the winless Minnesota Vikings. While an 0-3 start is normally a death sentence, I do believe there are some reasons to be optimistic moving forward and here they are in the form of bullet points.
- Getting out of the country is perhaps just what this team needs right now and they will be playing a team Sunday that has had offensive problems of their own. Sure, the media will be tagging along, but at least they don't have to listen to all of the doom and gloom on the local airwaves for a few days.
- According to Jay Glazer, rookie running back Le'Veon Bell will make his debut Sunday and that certainly can't hurt the running game. We will have to wait and see if cornerback Cortez Allen will also be ready to return from his ankle injury, but even if he doesn't, William Gay has played well thus far in his absence. This will also be the second game for tight end Heath Miller, who played nearly 60% of the snaps Sunday night in his first game back. In other words, this team is finally getting healthy.
- Assuming they beat the Vikings, they will at least go into the bye week with a little momentum. After the bye, they get to play the New York Jets and rookie quarterback Geno Smith prior to facing the Baltimore Ravens the following week.
- The play of Marcus Gilbert against the Bears wasn't bad at all and David DeCastro now seems to be out of his fog. Fernando Velasco will also have another week underneath his belt and has really played well all things considered.
- Despite turning the football over five times against the Bears, the offense managed to have 11 explosive plays of 20 yards or more and the running game at least showed enough of a heartbeat to make that possible.
- Cornerback Ike Taylor is off to a great start.
- Troy Polamalu is very healthy after three games as is LaMarr Woodley.
- While the defense has only registered three sacks so far this season, they are getting pressure. If the offense can stop turning the ball over and actually let the defense play with a lead for a change, I think the sacks and turnovers will start coming. Opposing offenses really haven't had to force things in any of the first three games.
- While certainly not dominant, the defense has played surprisingly well when you consider that Jarvis Jones, Kion Wilson, Vince Williams, Shamarko Thomas and Robert Golden have all played quite a few snaps.
- Special teams actually look special so far this season.
- The AFC North will more than likely be won by a team with nine or ten wins. The Steelers still have five divisional games left on their schedule and going 4-2 in the division is not out of the question just yet. Both Baltimore and Cincinnati are beatable and they absolutely should sweep Cleveland.
If the Steelers are not 2-3 heading into the game against the Ravens, I give everyone permission to jump off the bridge. Coming out of that Ravens game 3-3, however, will at least keep the division hopes alive with four divisional games left to play. The Patriots aren't as dominant this year and there is no reason to look ahead to the game against the Packers just yet.