When the Pittsburgh Steelers let Long time offensive coordinator Bruce Arians walk into “retirement” only to shortly return to the NFL there was one person in particular that took it hard. That person was Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. When they hired former head coach Todd Haley to take his spot you could almost feel a palpable tension between the new shot caller and the man who makes the plays.
Through Haley’s first season it seemed as though Big Ben and Haley were toe to toe most of the season. Between learning a new scheme and essentially forcing Ben to throw sooner the match seemed like water being thrown on a grease fire. Tensions seemed to boil over when Roethlisberger released a statement to the media after a loss saying “No idea what happened. Coach Haley is over there” and “I’m not sure why we stayed away from the no huddle since we do it so well” after an overtime loss to Dallas in 2013.
Since then the Steelers franchise quarterback and offensive coordinator seem to have gotten on the same page and that spells a deadly situation for defenses as the 2015 season proved. The Steelers are being called an early front runner for Super Bowl 51 and a lot of that pressure rests firmly in the hands of Todd Haley and the arm of Big Ben. They will be without the services of wide receiver Martavis Bryant (suspended) and the ever present safety net of tight end Heath Miller (retired). Both were huge factors last season and there is yet to be strong evidence that replacement receiver Sammie Coates and newly acquired tight end Ladarius Green can pick up the pieces. The Steelers will be getting back running backs Le’Veon Bell and Deangelo Williams and still have lethal threats in Antonio Brown, Marcus Wheaton, and Darrius Hayward-Bey. Even subtracting the players lost in the offseason the Steelers can put a deadly team of the field week in and week out. But is this team Super Bowl ready?
I would have to say yes. Yes they are. The defense is going through a rebuilding process but with Keith Butler calling the game on defense and head coach Mike Tomlin who is also defensively minded they will work themselves out. This task will be an offensive one. Roethlisberger has bought into Haley’s system and Haley has given Ben more freedom on the field. The two that seemed to be heading into a bloodbath in the locker room have come together over their last two seasons and now have a strong relationship in the heat of battle.
Sammie Coates will fill some of the void left by Bryant and Green eventually will gain the confidence of Roethlisberger. It is very possible the Bell coming out of the backfield into the flats, and if the Steelers have both backs on the field it could be either one. There are enough threats on this team to keep defenses on their toes and cause confusion in coverage as to who the main target is play to play.
If the Steelers offense is able to stay healthy (which has been a problem over the past couple seasons) there is no reason to think the Steelers won’t be able to compete and make a strong deep run at Lombardi number 7. Roethlisberger is looking for another 4000 yard season, Broen is looking to break the single receiving yards record of 1965 set in 2012 and become the first player to record a 2000 yard season, Bell is looking to try a become the hands down best running back in the NFL, while Green and Coates are looking to earn their spots in a tenacious and potent passing game.
This may be the make or break year for Pittsburgh as they stand to lose key players next offseason through free agency and the inevitable hand of Father Time. If I were any Steelers fan with ambitions of seeing them in a Super Bowl live, I would start a savings account now. 2016 looks to be a strong contender for the infamous “Stairway to Seven”