A lot of things led to the Steelers win against the Jets last Sunday. It was the defense coming through and finally making some big plays. It was guys like Antonio Brown, Heath Miller, and Emmanuel Sanders keeping their high level of play going. It was Ben Roethlisberger leading with grit and resilience. It was Shaun Suisham kicking 4 field goals. It was Steeler Nation rising to the occasion.
The Steelers have some positive momentum for the first time all season along with the knowledge of squandering some winnable games in the first four weeks. There's no going back now. Those 4 games are in the past. As they keep looking forward and see where they actually sit in the AFC North race, they might get even more confident.
The division is very much up for grabs. The Browns and Ravens both lost yesterday and the Bengals are hot and cold. The Steelers find themselves only 2 games out of second place in the AFC North. The Ravens await at Heinz Field this coming Sunday, and the first four games are in the rear view mirror. The Steelers have their own destiny, and 5 remaining division games, in their hands.
Their schedule in the next stretch is pretty balanced. They face the Ravens this week and then travel to Oakland where they always have trouble. They follow that up with a real challenge at New England, followed in turn by two home games against two scrappy but flawed teams: Buffalo and Detroit.
In the AFC North, the Bengals are currently on top and they are a good football team, but they haven't been able to put their foot down. And that's been the case in this franchise for over 25 years. Their last playoff win was in 1990. The Browns are the Browns, meaning they play teams close but are pretty much 50/50. They have beaten Cincinnati, Minnesota, and Buffalo. They face Green Bay, KC, and Baltimore in the next three weeks. All could be losses for them.
It should be said that an AFC playoff push is a realistic possibility for a lot of teams that weren't very good last season. The Chiefs, Colts, Broncos, Patriots, and Bengals appear to be the locks for the playoffs right now. Who will that 6th spot go to? The Dolphins? Ravens? What about the Titans? The Steelers have a .200 record right now, but the point here is that their chances of gaining traction in the division race are extremely realistic.
The Steelers mentality right now is every game is the biggest game of the year. And that, if the team has the kind of mental makeup we like to watch in Black and Gold, could translate to great success. The team has been slowly leaning more and more on their next generation of players like Le'Veon Bell, Jarvis Jones, Vince Williams, and Shamarko Thomas to play well. It could be up these guys to make it happen. We were really impressed with the play of these linebackers against the Jets. But they haven't proven themselves against pocket passers like Flacco.. yet.
Either way, the Steelers have a clear road to the playoffs, a race in which hey are very much involved. Let's go.