Frank Doyle reckons the path to the Lamar Hunt trophy goes through Pittsburgh. Just like always.
It’s hard to conceive of now, but for the first forty odd years of their existence the Steelers couldn’t win a ham at a Christmas raffle. They were lousy. Year in, year out. And then Franco Harris scooped up the Immaculate Reception against the Raiders two days before Christmas of 1972 and things have never been the same since.
Pittsburgh sets the gold standard right now in how to be consistent in the NFL. Every year, they play the same game and get results. When Pittsburgh comes to you town, you know exactly how the Steelers are going to play. You either deal with that or else you get crushed as the Steelers rumble on towards another playoff appearance.
And even with that annual consistency, the current Steelers are particularly good. Pittsburgh has been to the Super Bowl for two of the past three seasons, beating Arizona and losing to Green Bay. The Steelers are a +500 shot to make that three of four, behind only New England on the AFC board.
It begins with the defense. Top five in the League for the past five years, and looking good for six. James Harrison might not have made it in the diplomatic service but he is one hell of a football player, and he’s got company – Woodley, Farrior, Keisel, Polamalu.
On the other side of the ball, the Steelers have one of the more under-rated quarterbacks in the league in Ben Roethlisberger. They haven’t quite replaced Jerome Bettis in the backfield and trading Santonio Holmes mightn’t have been the smartest front office move in history, but Roethlisberger can work with what’s there.
The offensive line has been porous but Roethlisberger can take much more punishment than a lot of quarterbacks because he’s so tough. He’s had his issues off the field but on the field, the man is a player.
The team is getting older, and the secondary suddenly looked mortal when the Packers exposed it in the Super Bowl, but there aren’t that many teams like the Packers in the league. The Steelers will continue to play their game and it’s up to the opposition to deal with it. The Steelers are an NFL betting favorite to retain their AFC North title, and there’s no good reason why they shouldn’t be. The path to the Super Bowl goes through Pittsburgh, just like always.