It’s been three weeks of football action, and with all that’s been swallowed and chewed, we have three teams standing undefeated thus far. Those three teams include the Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Bears, and the team with the most Vince Lombardi trophies—the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Each of those three teams is rather a surprise to most. The Steelers are without two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Chiefs were pathetic last season and currently only one win away from tying their wins from last season. Chicago went 7-9 and everyone in town wasn’t pleased with their new quarterback.
Of those three, the Steelers are the only ones with a legitimate chance to win the Super Bowl. Let’s take a look at what has unfolded so far this season.
Prior to the start of the season, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was suspended six games, later reduced to four, for basically being a huge creep. What ensued was a competition between back-up quarterbacks Dennis Dixon, Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich.
Speculation followed about the record Big Ben would inherit when he came back Week 6. Experts and analysts reiterated a common theme of 1-3 or 2-2 in the first four games. So Big Ben would then have to take an average team and improve them drastically to have a shot at the postseason.
Here we are today, and boy, were the critics wrong. The Steelers have not only started off well, but have started off better than anyone else in the National Football League. The coaching staff has this team winning on the defensive side of the ball and wearing down opponents with their running game.
The void at quarterback has been filled for two games by Dennis Dixon and the remaining third game by Charlie Batch. Both have played well, but nothing overly exceptional. In three games combined they’ve completed 39 of 60 pass attempts for 465 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions.
Solid, but not-so-special production from your clipboard holders.
They’ve used their stud running back Rashard Mendenhall a lot, pounding away with 64 carries averaging 5.2 yards, 332 total yards, and a pair of touchdowns, including the overtime, game-winning, 50-yard run against the Atlanta Falcons. The Steelers' defense held the Falcons' offense to only nine points.
While the offense has been solid, the defense is winning them ball games.
The defense has been great thanks in large part to Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu. Polamalu is this team's most-valuable player and arguably the best defensive player in the league.
Last season Polamalu missed significant time due to a left knee injury. But in the five starts with Polamalu last season, the Steelers were 4-1 and Pittsburgh held opponents to 13.8 points per contest.
The one loss saw Polamalu leave the game due to injury in the very first quarter against the Bengals.
Without Polamalu, things were drastically different as they gave up 23.2 points per game and recorded a record of 5-6. Plain and simple: this defense is dominant with Polamalu on the field and lost without him.
With their star safety, the Steelers have returned to form that won them Super Bowls in 2006 and 2009. Their defense has held opponents to a league best 11 points per game. They’ve recorded 10 sacks, thanks to the likes of outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, and have a plus-six turnover ration with five interceptions (two belonging to Polamalu) and five fumbles recovered. The opponents they have faced have seemed frightened and shaken offensively.
Their opponents aren’t low-caliber units, either: Two playoff-contending teams with the Atlanta Falcons and the Tennessee Titans and a young Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that stood 2-0 at the time the Steelers dismantled them 38-13.
Against two of the best running backs in the league—Michael Turner (ATL) and Chris Johnson (TEN)—the defense allowed under 2.2 yards per carry. The turnovers forced from Vince Young got the 37-year-old quarterback benched.
Leading the NFL’s best defense is coordinator Dick LeBeau. Regaining his MVP on defense from last season has helped this team rediscover their swagger. Soon, the defense won't be the only side of the ball to have rhythm.
Now we find ourselves only one game away from Ben Roethlisberger's return. Already a proven winner, Big Ben will be walking into a perfect situation, with the load of pressure lightened upon his arrival.
It’s early in the season, but right now in the National Football League there is not one team ahead of the Steelers that is a fitting pick to win the Super Bowl.
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