To get some information on what the Rams are facing up against, I linked up with Jeff Hartman of Behind The Steel Curtain, the SB Nation community for Pittsburgh Steelers fans.
Let's start with the offense. Is there a weak point? If you were scheming to defend them, what would be the pressure points? What is the #1, or #2, thing you can't let the Steelers do well if you're going to have a shot at stopping them?
Despite what many may think, the Steelers want to be a balanced offense. Whether it was DeAngelo Williams in Weeks 1 and 2, or Le'Veon Bell's return in Week 3, the team wants to keep defenses honest by running the football. If an opponent wants to stymie the Steelers' offense they need to stop the run. If they are able to do that, it will allow the defense to put the offense in obvious passing downs and distances which can lead to pressure.
The defense who does this with consistency is the Baltimore Ravens; however, the Steelers have the wide receivers and the best pass-catching RB in the league to win through the passing game. If the offensive line can keep Ben Roethlisberger upright, it will be a tall task for any defense in the league to try and stop the surging Steelers offense.
Defensively, you guys seem more susceptible. Are you sold on the front seven and their ability to consistently get to the QB in passing situations? What should Rams fans expect from your defense?
The Steelers have invested a lot of high draft picks in their front seven, and they certainly are a unit which is improving every time they play alongside one another. Fans often forget about the youth along their front seven with Stephon Tuitt (second year), Cameron Heyward (5th year), Bud Dupree (rookie), Jarvis Jones (3rd year), Ryan Shazier (2nd year). The only truly vested veteran along the defensive front seven would be Pro Bowler Lawrence Timmons.
The Steelers defense is a mediocre unit, but as was on display in Week 2, they have a lot of potential. The weakness along the defense is in the secondary, which was exploited by Tom Brady and the Patriots in Week 1. If the Rams want to have success against the Steelers defense, they will need to control the line of scrimmage and keep the active Steelers front 7 off of Nick Foles.
Bud Dupree certainly looks like the truth. Is he the impact rookie every NFL team is hoping they get from the first round every year? What other new Steelers are making an impression through two games?
I don't know if I'd go as far as saying Dupree is the impact rookie every NFL team hopes to get, but Dupree is taking advantage of his opportunities presented to him. The biggest factor for Dupree is he is playing in a rotation at left OLB with James Harrison at right OLB. Opposing offenses are shifting their protection towards Harrison, giving Dupree more pure one-on-one matchups. However, Dupree does have 2 sacks in his first two NFL games, and his athleticism and speed is noticeable.
Dupree is still a very raw prospect, but things certainly look up for the rookie. It is rare to see a rookie defender contribute for the Steelers on the defensive side of the ball, and a lot of that credit goes to Dupree, but new defensive coordinator Keith Butler making things simple for Dupree can't be understated.
Other than Dupree, the Steelers haven't had many contributions from the 2015 draft class. If you want to talk about an impression from "new" Steelers, you'd look no further than DeAngelo Williams. Williams will provide a lethal 1-2 punch with Le'Veon Bell in the background. Stopping the Steelers rushing attack suddenly got more difficult with the addition of Williams this offseason.
Time for some big picture questions. How long can Big Ben go? Obviously, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are the two elder statesmen; Roethlisberger is in that glut of mid-30s QBs with Drew Brees, Tony Romo, Eli Manning and Phillip Rivers. Given how well he played last year, it's not unrealistic to think that contract through 2019 will actually hold up. And how tight is the argument for best QB all-time between he and Terry Bradshaw (no offense to Charlie Batch)?
Roethlisberger has proven in Todd Haley's quick passing attack he could play for at least the duration of his most recent contract extension. Roethlisberger simply doesn't get sacked as much anymore (he has only been sacked two times in two games so far in 2015 and wasn't touched against the 49ers last week), and that is the biggest difference Haley has made to the longevity of Roethlisberger's career and health. I have no doubt Roethlisberger could see himself playing into his late 30's, like the aforementioned quarterbacks.
As for the best all-time QB in franchise history, this debate has been burning since Roethlisberger won his second Super Bowl. The older fans will always side with the Blonde Bomber (Terry Bradshaw). Common arguments are how he called the plays, he won 4 Super Bowls, never lost a Super Bowl, was Super Bowl MVP twice and had an incredibly strong arm. However, the younger generation points to Roethlisberger's winning percentage, statistics, two Super Bowl victories and playing with a less than stellar offense for the majority of his career as their reason for Big Ben being tops all-time.
As for me? I am of the newer generation and think by the time Roethlisberger's career is done, it won't be such a debate anymore. No disrespect for Bradshaw, but Roethlisberger is putting up crazy statistics while winning when it matters most. If Roethlisberger wins another Super Bowl it would be a very easy decision. I'll take Big Ben in this debate.
Since 1972, you guys haven't really even known what a lack of success really looks like. I guess you could point to the last seven years of the Chuck Noll era, but even that had a playoff appearance in 1989 and it led directly into Bill Cowher's tenure kicking off with six consecutive playoff appearances and another four thereafter including the Super Bowl win. Hell, even Mike Tomlin found a way not to disappoint following those two greats. I guess my question is...eventually it has to end. Eventually, you guys are going to find a rut and suck. Right? Right?!
Well, Steelers fans hope not. If it will come to an end it will be when Roethlisberger retires. Every lull in the winning of the Steelers has been when they haven't had a franchise QB. When Bradshaw left they went through a multitude of quarterbacks until Neil O'Donnell finally solidified the position leading the team to Super Bowl XXX. After O'Donnell was Kordell Stewart followed by Kent Graham, Mike Tomczak and Tommy Maddox. Maddox gave way to Roethlisberger, and the rest is history.
Even with those mediocre quarterbacks, the Steelers have always found a way to be relevant. The Steelers are a team with tremendous stability on all fronts. From the front office, to the head coach on to the coaches and players. It is this consistency and quality drafting which has kept the team's ship afloat for years now, but all those decisions would be nothing without Roethlisberger. How important is it to have a franchise QB? Ask the Cleveland Browns what that is like...it isn't pretty. Will it end? Possibly, but don't be shocked when the Steelers draft a QB to be the next signal caller after the Big Ben era comes to an end.
Thanks to Jeff for the time.