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Article Teaser: Fans in the Steel City have been on Cloud 9 since February when the Steelers outlasted the Seahawks and clinched their fifth Lombardi Trophy. Don't expect the euphoria to last, though.

Keep reading below...

Pittsburgh Steelers - Don't Count on a Repeat

Copyright (c) 2006-2017

Fans in the Steel City have been on Cloud 9 since February when the Steelers outlasted the Seahawks and clinched their fifth Lombardi Trophy. Don't expect the euphoria to last, though.

The emergency appendectomy that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger underwent earlier this week is only the latest in a string of incidents that are making it harder for me to believe that Pittsburgh will repeat as champions. Sure, the Patriots were able to repeat a couple years ago amidst some considerable adversity, but they represent the exception rather than the rule.

Take first the ever-growing concern over Roethlisberger's ability to play the whole season healthy. He has made enormous strides since his motorcycle accident, but this latest emergency leads me to believe that not everything is in balance as it should be. More than anyone on the team Big Ben needs to be operating at his peak physical and mental condition. Even running at 90% will cost the team dearly - I imagine to the tune of 2-3 wins - and put them in a position where they again have to win tough road games to advance to the Super Bowl. Trust me, if given the chance again the Bengals, Colts and Broncos are going to come out hungry for blood.

I think it's pretty clear, too, that the Steelers will have to have a sensational game (especially from Charlie Batch) to dispose of the Dolphins on Thursday. I don't think they'll do it, to be honest. To be beaten in the first week by a conference opponent, while not crippling, will certainly test the mettle of a team very early on. The Broncos did survive a trouncing by - you guessed it - the Dolphins in week 1, but they weren't playing a first place schedule and in a division with the Bengals, either. In fact, San Diego and Kansas City did all they could to give the division away. Pittsburgh will have an even taller order, too, if Hines Ward can't go.

And what about Hines' Hammy? The guy has been totally unable to go this preseason. In an offense where timing on short to intermediate routes is so important, Ward probably won't be in rhythm until after the Steelers' week 4 bye at which point Miami, Jacksonville and Cinci will have had a shot at them. The Jaguars are stellar against the run, the Dolphins improved dramatically by the end of last season, and the Bengals shored up their run defense by adding stalwart Sam Adams (who thrived under Marvin Lewis in Baltimore). If the pass is ineffective in those games, the Steelers will face an uphill battle to move the ball in the smash mouth way they are accustomed to. Truth is, the Steelers could be 1-2 or even 0-3 going into their October 8 game on the road in San Diego.

The biggest thing this team is lacking now, however, is the emotional leader the magnitude of Jerome Bettis. There is no doubt that Roethlisberger is a fiery competitor, but I'm not sure yet whether he's a guy the entire team can rally around - especially since he all but said that his own personal whims are more important than the team. Any idiot who nearly gets their head smashed in riding without a helmet then says he'll probably ride without one again doesn't care about anybody - even himself, apparently.

Without Bettis, and with all the other petty distractions (like Coach Cower's future being up in the air) will make this season a gauntlet hard to survive. Sure, the Steelers have averaged 13 wins over the past two seasons, but while teams like the Colts (I've been hearing they're due for something like three years now) are hungrier that ever, I just don't know if the Black and Yellow can pull it together for another run.


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Mike Ricigliani is a writer for NFL Directory - a directory of NFL websites. http://www.NFLdir.com

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Internal ID: #3542
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Word Count: 641

Total Views: 2632

Article Rating: 1.14 of 5
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