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Steelers beat Chiefs at Arrowhead, point season in right direction

Raise your hand if you played the Win-Loss-Win-Loss game with the Steelers’ schedule back in August and put Ws next to “at Chicago” and “Jacksonville” and Ls next to “at Baltimore” and “at Kansas City.”

We got it backwards.

We’re used to the Steelers failing to pick up the easy wins, but this year they’re juxtaposing those ugly losses with an impressive collection of road wins, including Sunday’s 19-13 victory over the previously unbeaten Chiefs.

It’s the first time the Steelers have taken down the league’s last undefeated team since 2004, when they knocked off the 7-0 Eagles at Heinz Field in Ben Roethlisberger‘s rookie season.

That was a week after they topped the 6-0 Patriots in Pittsburgh.

So in a sense, that makes Sunday’s win a historic one, but we also should learn from that history.

The Eagles and Patriots made the Super Bowl in 2004 while the Steelers were literally left sobbing after losing to the Patriots in the AFC championship game.

The lesson here is that while the Steelers have beaten the Chiefs in two tight games at Arrowhead Stadium in the last nine months, including last season’s divisional playoff game, it doesn’t mean the Steelers have vanquished the Chiefs for 2017.

It could mean, however, that if the Steelers do have to play the Chiefs again, they won’t have to contend with the noise at Arrowhead.

This win could come in handy when it comes to tiebreakers. The Chiefs (5-1) still own the best record in the AFC, but they’ll need a better record than the Steelers (4-2) to earn a higher seed in the playoffs. The Steelers, of course, have to stay ahead of the AFC South-leading Jaguars (3-3) because the Jaguars have the tiebreaker over the Steelers with their Week 5 win in Pittsburgh.

Yes, it’s too early to map out playoff scenarios, but just a week after this star-studded team’s 3-2 record was appreciated as if it were a pair of socks for Christmas, a first-round bye is back on the table and the Steelers at 4-2 are in a spot that seemed predictable with trips to Baltimore and Kansas City on the schedule.

But they reached this point in an unpredictable way.

Not only are the Steelers losing when they’re expected to win and winning when they’re expected to lose, but instead of their offense hiding their defense it’s the other way around.

The Steelers were going to hang 30 points on opposing defenses this year like Zorro carving a “Z” into the chest of his adversaries, but they haven’t hit the big three-oh once. They’re not even averaging 20 points a game. They’re 21st with 19.7 points per game. Meanwhile, they’re fourth in the league with 17 points allowed per game and tied for second with 20 sacks. That includes James Harrison‘s sack of Alex Smith that all but clinched the game with a minute left.

In his first significant action this season, Harrison schooled Eric Fisher just like he did in the playoffs last season, when a holding call negated a two-point conversion that would have tied a game the Chiefs lost 18-16.

Sean Davis ultimately broke up the pass on the two-point try in that game, and on Sunday he robbed Demetrius Harris of a touchdown by ripping the ball out of his hands on fourth down early in the fourth quarter with the Steelers leading 12-3.

Thanks to plays like that, nineteen points was enough for the Steelers to win Sunday’s game, and perhaps it was more important that the Steelers hit 30 in another department.

Le’Veon Bell carried the ball 32 times for 179 yards and a touchdown. It was just the fourth time he’s carried the ball 30 or more times in his career.

For the second year in a row, the Steelers turned to Bell after hitting rock bottom. Last season, they broke a four-game losing streak by handing Bell the ball 28 times for 146 yards in a 24-9 win at Cleveland. Of the seven games in which Bell has carried the ball 27 times or more, six have come since that game. The Steelers are 15-0 when Bell carries the ball 23 times or more.

Roethlisberger bounced back from his five-interception disaster in a 30-9 loss to the Jaguars by completing 17 of 25 passes for 252 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Antonio Brown did most of the work on the touchdown, turning a pass breakup by Phillip Gaines into a 51-yard score that gave the Steelers a 19-10 lead with 3:24 left in the game.

It wasn’t the type of game that will put to rest any thoughts that Roethlisberger is past his prime, but with Bell carrying the offense Roethlisberger doesn’t need to have everything that he had in 2008 or 2010.

Bell will have to stay on the field as long as his teammates do, however, if he’s going to help Roethlisberger earn a third Super Bowl ring. The next season that Bell is healthy from start to finish will be his first. The Steelers didn’t workhorse him until late November last year, and by the AFC championship game he was done. This year, his body might have to hold up through at least 10 more 20-carry games.

If it does and the Steelers do encounter the Chiefs again, and if Smith keeps missing open receivers in crunch time and if Harrison is still Fisher’s daddy (at 39 he’s literally old enough to be the 26-year-old’s daddy), the Chiefs likely will head into the 49th season since their last Super Bowl appearance.

Follow Mike @Steel_Tweets.

Is Ben Roethlisberger washed up?

Jaws dropped when Ben Roethlisberger said after the AFC championship game that he’s contemplating retirement.

After the Steelers’ 30-9 loss to the Jaguars on Sunday, their worst home loss in 11 years, Roethlisberger said something that suggests he won’t just be thinking about it after this season.

In the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he was quoted as saying: “Maybe I don’t have it anymore.”

Roethlisberger threw a career-high five interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. This game isn’t the first sign that his skills are in decline. The evidence has slowly been mounting over the last few years.

Before we crunch the numbers, let’s put everything in perspective. Rain might have fallen Sunday at Heinz Field. But the sky isn’t falling. The Steelers are still 3-2. So are the Jaguars. That makes it hard to label this as one of “those” losses in which the Steelers fall to one of the league’s have-nots.

This could turn out to be a signature win for an up-and-coming team. The Jaguars entered this game with the league’s stingiest pass defense.

Even if the Jaguars win the Super Bowl, however, this loss won’t look any better in hindsight. For the Steelers, it’s only the third home loss by 21 or more points since Bill Cowher was hired as head coach in 1992.

Furthermore, no matter how well the Jaguars defend the pass, they should meet their match against a future Hall of Fame quarterback like Roethlisberger.

Unless Roethlisberger is past his prime at age 35.

He seems to be missing on a lot of deep throws this season. The eye test suggests he can’t connect on those passes like he used to. But before saying that for sure, we need data to back it up.

According to NFL.com’s Next Gen stats, Roethlisberger’s Average Air Yards Differential this season is minus-4.2, the worst in the league. This stat subtracts Average Intended Air Yards from Average Completed Air Yards. As NFL.com defines it, “Air Yards is the total yards gained on a pass attempt past the line of scrimmage before the ball is caught.” In other words, it removes yards after the catch from the equation and can help evaluate a quarterback’s production with his arm.

It’s not surprising that Roethlisberger is the worst in the league in this category following Sunday’s performance, but it isn’t just this game that’s dragging the number down. He’s been in the bottom five each of the last four weeks. He ranked in the bottom five in this metric only five times all of last season. For the year, his AYD was minus-2.9.

We might have seen the first signs of Roethlisberger showing his age in 2014, when his home/road splits started to deviate.

In 2012, Roethlisberger had a 97.2 passer rating at home and a 96.8 rating on the road.

In 2013, he threw 14 touchdown passes and seven interceptions both at home and on the road.

In 2014, he threw 23 of his 32 touchdown passes at home. Nothing to be alarmed about.

In 2015, however, he threw five touchdown passes and nine interceptions away from home.

In 2016, his passer rating was 116.7 at Heinz Field and 78.4 on the road.

His passer rating was 37.8 on Sunday. At home.

Maybe he doesn’t have it anymore.

He’ll take whatever he does have left to Kansas City next week. In a way, it’s fitting that the Steelers play there after failing to score a touchdown in three trips inside the red zone Sunday. They couldn’t score a touchdown at Arrowhead Stadium in last season’s divisional playoff game. It turned out they didn’t need any. Chris Boswell‘s six field goals gave them an 18-16 win.

It’s a safe bet they’ll need to find the end zone to defeat the last unbeaten team left in the league pending Sunday night’s game at Houston.

The Steelers could clean up much of the wreckage from Sunday’s disaster and reclaim their status as a Super Bowl contender by beating the Chiefs, but the Chiefs are Super Bowl contenders themselves.

There seemed to be this narrative wave that made Super Bowl favorites out of the Steelers after they advanced one round further in the playoffs each of the last three years and got Martavis Bryant back this year.

Has anyone given any thought to the Chiefs’ storyline? They made the divisional playoffs each of the last two years, coming agonizingly close to the conference championship game last year. Perhaps it’s their turn to go to the Super Bowl. Unlike the Steelers, they can beat Tom Brady in New England.

Right now, finding a way to win at Gillette Stadium isn’t high on the list of the Steelers’ problems. Their biggest problem would be if Roethlisberger’s best days really are behind him.

Follow Mike @Steel_Tweets.

 

Steelers sharpen their focus, rout Ravens

Let’s get this straight.

The Steelers lose to a Bears team that has lost its three other games by an average of 16 points, then they go and win at Baltimore for the first time since 2012.

When we print out those Steelers schedules in April, we pretty much pencil in  an “L” next to “at Baltimore” and work around it.

Not this year.

Winning in Baltimore is the kind of thing that Super Bowl-caliber Steelers teams do. They won there in 2008 and 2010. They failed to make the playoffs after Charlie Batch led them to a win at Baltimore in 2012, but remember they lost Ike Taylor for the season in that game and that’s a big reason they dropped three of their last four.

So does Sunday’s 26-9 win over the Ravens absolve the Steelers of their loss at Chicago? Or do the Steelers (3-1) still have to explain their slip-ups against weak competition?

Perhaps one reason the Steelers weren’t fully prepared against the Bears is that the national anthem controversy, to put it delicately, presented them with certain distractions that no other team had to face.

It’s not unprecedented for a Steelers team with Super Bowl talent to be preoccupied with non-football matters right before a game and come out flat against one of the worst teams in the league.

According to the NFL Network’s “America’s Game” documentary on the 1979 Steelers, the players on that team were discussing the World Series, in which the Pirates were playing the Orioles, just before taking the field to play the 0-6 Bengals in Cincinnati. They lost 34-10, but still went on to win Super Bowl XIV.

Yes, the subject matter was much lighter, but the point is that football really should be the only thing on players’ minds in the moments before a game.

It looked like the Steelers learned that lesson despite Alex Collins‘ 23-yard run on the first play from scrimmage on Sunday. They eventually forced a punt and then kept the ball for 16 plays on their first possession, which resulted in a field goal.

At the time, it seemed like the Steelers should have come away with more than a field goal after such a long drive, but their 3-0 lead was not insignificant. It was the first time they had even led at Baltimore since that 2012 game. Another Chris Boswell field goal midway through the second quarter increased that lead to 6-0. It was the Steelers’ biggest lead at Baltimore in 15 years.

That’s right. You have to go back to that magical year of Tommy Maddox in 2002 to find a Steelers’ lead of more than four points at Baltimore.

Sunday’s lead grew to 13-0 when Cameron Heyward forced and recovered a fumble at the Ravens’ 28 to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Le’Veon Bell. It was the first of two touchdowns for Bell, who finally decided to start his season in October after essentially using September for his training camp. Bell broke out for 144 yards and caught four passes to share the team lead in receptions with Antonio Brown.

Steelers not named Antonio Brown caught some passes for a change, and that helped the Steelers score their next touchdown.

Two of Martavis Bryant‘s three receptions came on back-to-back plays. The first was a 24-yard connection with Ben Roethlisberger on third-and-six from the Steelers’ 46. Bryant then caught a 19-yard pass and two plays later No. 19 made it 19-0 when Roethlisberger threw JuJu Smith-Schuster an 11-yard touchdown pass.

If opposing defenses have to start thinking twice about double-covering Brown, this Steelers’ offense might finally start lighting up scoreboards.

Not that the Steelers really were expected to break the 30-point barrier in Baltimore. These rare wins in Baltimore aren’t supposed to be pretty. That said, the Steelers looked as good Sunday as they have all season.

And since the Pirates aren’t in the playoffs, there should be nothing to divert the Steelers’ attention from the Jaguars next week at Heinz Field.

Follow Mike @Steel_Tweets.

Steelers again fail to bear down against weak opponent

Another face plant against a cellar-dwelling opponent.

Another collective face palm across Steelers Nation.

The Steelers did it again. They lost to yet another team they should have had no problem beating, upholding a dubious tradition that’s been an unfortunate undercurrent of Mike Tomlin’s tenure as head coach.

With sole possession of first place in the AFC North right there on a silver platter after the Ravens’ 44-7 loss to the Jaguars in London, the Steelers fell 23-17 to the Bears in overtime at Chicago on Sunday.

The Steelers lost to a winless team (0-2 or worse) for the fifth time in the last six years. Since 2012, they’ve lost nine games to teams that have finished the season 6-10 or worse. There’s a good chance this becomes the 10th.

This has passed the point of getting tedious. What can we say now that we haven’t said after all those previous flops?

Plenty.

For one thing, Mike Glennon improved to 6-15 as a starter. Two of those wins have come against the Steelers. It was obvious early in this game that the Steelers (2-1) haven’t learned from their history against inferior teams, and history repeated itself in an uncanny way.

On the first play of the game, Ben Roethlisberger threw a deep ball that went through Martavis Bryant‘s fingers. Maybe a little overthrown, but Bryant should have had it. Like the Steelers, the Bears (1-2) went three-and-out on their first drive, but Eli Rogers muffed the punt.

Now, the Steelers are used to Bryant letting them down, but Rogers? It was a costly mistake by the reliable slot receiver, because the Bears needed just 29 yards to take a 7-0 lead on a 3-yard run by Jordan Howard, who gashed the Steelers for 138 yards and two touchdowns, including the 19-yard game winner in OT.

When Glennon and the 0-3 (and eventually 2-14) Bucs visited Pittsburgh in 2014, Roethlisberger was strip-sacked on the third play of the game and the Steelers spotted Tampa Bay a 10-0 lead in a game they eventually lost 27-24 on Glennon’s game-winning touchdown pass with seven seconds left.

Glennon didn’t have to be a hero Sunday. He threw for only 101 yards. Instead, it was Howard and Tarik Cohen, who added 78 rushing yards on 12 carries.

The Steelers’ epic fails in their run defense and on special teams almost weren’t enough to lose this game. The Bears did all they could to hand this game to the Steelers. They fumbled the ball five times, but the Steelers could only recover one of them. The Bears also pissed away four points at the end of the first half when Marcus Cooper recovered a blocked field goal and ran it back for what would have been a touchdown if he hadn’t slowed down to start his celebration before reaching the goal line. Vance McDonald knocked the ball out of his hands and into the end zone and punter Jordan Berry knocked it out of the end zone.

With the first half apparently finished, the Steelers went into the locker room, but after the play was reviewed, Berry was penalized for the illegal hit. The Bears were awarded an untimed down at the half-yard line. They committed a false start penalty and had to settle for a field goal and a 17-7 halftime lead.

If it weren’t for those three points, the Steelers would have won 17-14 because they held the Bears scoreless in the second half. Had Berry just recovered the ball in the end zone, it would have been a touchback and the half would have been over. It would have helped if Berry knew that, but it’s not exactly a shocker that someone doesn’t know the rules on a team that’s second in the league with 29 penalties, including an illegal formation and an illegal shift on Sunday and an illegal formation on a field goal attempt in Week 2.

Perhaps the players should be quizzed on the rules this week as they prepare for their game at Baltimore. A lot of the guys would be taking this quiz in the trainer’s room. Who knows how differently this game would have turned out if T.J. Watt and Stephon Tuitt were healthy and if Marcus Gilbert and Ramon Foster were protecting Roethlisberger. Foster left the game in the first quarter with a thumb injury. The other three guys were inactive.

With boys of summer Chris Hubbard and B.J. Finney trying to protect him, Roethlisberger was sacked three times Sunday. The first led to a fumble. The second came on third-and-3 with the Steelers in Bears territory with 11 minutes left in the game. The third came on a three-man rush with 22 seconds left in regulation, squashing any chance at a game-winning field goal.

On their previous possession, the Steelers had the ball at their 38 with 5:12 left and the score tied 17-17. They could have worked the clock for the game-winning score, but Hubbard was called for holding on the first play of the drive and the Steelers went three-and-out.

This supposedly explosive offense is 25th in the league with a 32 percent conversion rate on third downs and 16th with 21.3 points per game. Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and Bryant have been on the field together for three straight games. They hadn’t even played together in two straight games since 2014. The problem now is the offensive line can’t stay healthy. If Gilbert and Foster aren’t back soon, or if Hubbard and Finney don’t break through those training-camp ceilings, it’s only a matter of time before Roethlisberger misses some games and the Steelers once again find themselves having to win nine straight just to make the playoffs.

Then again, it won’t take the 1985 Bears or the 1975 Steelers to win the AFC North in 2017. The Steelers still can own first place in the division if they win at Baltimore Sunday, and at least they’re not looking for answers in the wake of a 37-point loss. The Ravens had built their 2-0 record by beating the Bengals and Browns, 0-3 both. Based on that, as well as their rendition of the London Sillynannies on Sunday, the Ravens might not be that good.

But right now, neither are the Steelers.

Follow Mike @Steel_Tweets.

Steelers can’t let Pennywise the Quarterback beat them

Normally, this is the kind of week where we wave the caution flag about a Steelers letdown.

The Steelers take their 2-0 record to Chicago Sunday to face the 0-2 Bears, who are in the bottom 10 of the NFL in points scored and points allowed.

On one hand, the Steelers have been bitten by so many underdogs over the last half-decade that it’s hard not be a little apprehensive about this game.

On the other hand, when was the last time the Steelers lost to a really bad team?

It seemed like they did when they lost at Miami, which was 1-4 at the time, in Week 6 last season. But that was the start of a six-game winning streak for the Dolphins, who finished 10-6 and visited the Steelers in the AFC wild-card game.The Steelers didn’t lose to a team last year with a record worse than 7-9, and that was at Philadelphia in Week 3. The Eagles improved to 3-0 with that win and weren’t a bad team at the time they played the Steelers.

Last season was the first since 2011 in which the Steelers didn’t lose to a team with a record of 5-11 or worse.

But just when we think the Steelers are past the point of stumbling against inferior foes at least once a year, we’re once again haunted by a face from the embarrassing past.

No, Mike Glennon doesn’t have the “It” factor as a quarterback. But his freakish height (6’7″) and cone-shaped face make him about as scary-looking as Pennywise the clown, even if the Bears were anything but penny wise in signing him to a three-year, $45 million contract.

Glennon, you may recall, led the winless Buccaneers to a 27-24 comeback victory over the Steelers at Heinz Field in Week 4 of the 2014 season. It was one of just two wins for the Buccaneers that year.

If “It” can come back and haunt Derry, Maine every 27 years or so, Glennon could resurface after three years and torment the Steelers once again.

Is John Fox sure it isn’t time for Mitchell Trubisky to make his debut as an NFL starter?

Better yet, how about Trubisky enters the game to replace Glennon because the journeyman quarterback is no match for the Steelers defense?

DeShone Kizer and Case Keenum have combined for 326 passing yards and one touchdown against Pittsburgh. The Steelers must continue to take advantage of the fact that they haven’t faced a real quarterback yet. If another NFL bottom feeder coaxes them into the sewers like Georgie Denbrough, they could be staring .500 in the face when they head to Baltimore.

As long as Joe Flacco is healthy, losing at Baltimore is no paranormal phenomenon for the Steelers, it’s an occupational hazard. Ben Roethlisberger is just 2-6 in his career there as a starter. The Ravens’ home-field advantage will be a little compromised this year because they’ll be coming off a game at London on Sunday. They asked the league not to give them the customary bye the week after their London game, but they probably didn’t think about the possibility of the Steelers awaiting them after their trip across the Atlantic.

Still, we can’t count on wins at Baltimore when trying to map out the course of a Steelers season. The Steelers have lost there four years in a row, and if a loss there this year drops them to 2-2, they’ll look like just an ordinary team and not a Super Bowl contender.

For that matter, wins at Chicago can’t exactly be penciled in on the rare occasions that the Steelers play at Soldier Field. They’re 7-18-1 all-time against the Bears, their lowest winning percentage against any NFL team that still exists (they lost their only game against the St. Louis Gunners in 1934), and they’re 1-11 at Chicago.

The Steelers’ only win in the Windy City came in 1995, 37-34 in overtime. The players held hands on the sidelines when Norm Johnson kicked the winning field goal. It was the second of eight straight wins in a year in which the Steelers reached Super Bowl XXX.

The Steelers should win their 10th straight regular-season game Sunday without any hand-holding. This isn’t the Losers’ Club. There should be no need to stand in a circle holding hands vowing to reunite if Glennon ever again becomes the stuff of Pittsburgh nightmares.

If history tells us that it takes Super Bowl-caliber talent for the Steelers to win at Chicago, well, the Steelers can provide more evidence that they have just that.

Follow Mike @Steel_Tweets.

Steelers 21, Browns 18: Ugly Steelers win is nothing to worry about

On the surface, the Steelers’ 21-18, season-opening win in Cleveland Sunday was a lot more interesting than it had to be.

The Browns encapsulated nearly two decades of misery into the first seven minutes of the game. Their first possession ended with a punt that was blocked by Tyler Matakevich and recovered in the end zone by Anthony Chickillo for a touchdown and a 7-0 Steelers lead.

Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer was sacked twice on the Browns’ next series, and it looked like Steelers fans could once again start laughing at the Browns.

It turned out to be no laughing matter, however. The Steelers needed nearly 58 minutes to secure this win over a team they normally have no trouble beating. Does this mean that we need to pump the brakes on the lofty expectations we’ve set for the Steelers? Does this mean the Steelers aren’t Super Bowl material?

No, it doesn’t.

Steelers wins at Cleveland have pretty much been a given. The Steelers are 15-4 there since the franchise re-joined the NFL in 1999. But it doesn’t mean that a Dawg Pounding is a prerequisite for a championship season. In 2008, the Steelers squeaked past the Browns 10-6 and went on to win the Super Bowl.

No, the Steelers didn’t dismantle the Browns Sunday. They just did what they had to do to win a division game on the road, and that’s just as much a mark of a title contender as a dominating performance.

The Steelers didn’t have their best stuff. They had to reach deep into their toolbox to find what they needed to put together this win. The only Steeler to find the end zone aside from the aforementioned Chickillo was Jesse James, who caught two touchdown passes from Ben Roethlisberger. The second one didn’t exactly look planned. Like a kid trying to skim rocks on Lake Erie, Roethlisberger sidearmed the ball to the tight end from two yards out to give the Steelers a 21-10 lead in the third quarter.

James’ two touchdowns are a career high and his six receptions tied his previous mark. It would have been understandable if James were tempted to ask Mike Tomlin “Is that varsity enough for you?”

Chickillo had two sacks to accompany his touchdown. Playing in place of an injured Bud Dupree, Chickillo excelled in a next-man-up role. Newly acquired cornerback Joe Haden also had a sack in his revenge game. Any sack from a cornerback is a nice little bonus.

The Steelers also had contributions from a player who they hope is a consistent source of production. T.J. Watt became the first Steeler with two sacks and an interception in his NFL debut. Watt still needs 74 sacks to pull even with his brother’s career total, but he’s already matched J.J. Watt‘s one interception, although the latter has one pick in a playoff game.

It’s too early to tell if T.J. Watt is anything close to his brother, but one player who has proven to be just as valuable as J.J. Watt is Antonio Brown. The guy who embarrassed the Steelers on Facebook Live in January saved them from an embarrassing loss Sunday with 11 catches for 182 yards.

The Steelers were mired in a 7-7 stalemate when Brown jump-started the offense with a 50-yard reception late in the first half. It was the Steelers’ first play of 20 or more yards. Five plays later, Roethlisberger threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to James to give the Steelers a 14-7 halftime lead.

The defense couldn’t close the deal on this win, allowing the Browns to pull within 21-18 on a Kizer touchdown pass to Corey Coleman and a two-point conversion with 3:40 left in the game. So Brown was the closer, with the help of an offensive line that gave Roethlisberger enough time on the play to keep pondering retirement.

Brown caught a 38-yard pass in triple coverage that essentially burned the Browns’ last two timeouts with two and a half minutes left. After stopping the clock, Hue Jackson unsuccessfully challenged Brown’s catch. Then it was kneel-down time after Le’Veon Bell‘s 15-yard gain before the two-minute warning.

That was Bell’s longest run of the day, and his rusty performance is one of the reasons the Steelers had to fight tooth and nail for this victory. Bell gained 32 yards on 10 carries and earned a knuckle-lashing from a ruler-wielding nun at Saint Vincent College for missing training camp. Another authority clad in black and white — the officials — punished the Steelers for their 13 penalties, docking them 144 yards.

Assuming Bell regains his sea legs and the Steelers clean up their play, they should win games a lot more convincingly.

Sometimes, however, you just have to win ugly, and that’s what the Steelers did Sunday.

Follow Mike @Steel_Tweets.

Predicting each game of the Steelers’ 2017 season

The Steelers already are entering the 2017 season with high hopes, and what we saw on Thursday night did nothing to diminish those expectations. We caught a glimpse of an AFC landscape in which the Patriots aren’t invincible.

Now that the countdown to the Steelers’ season opener can be measured in hours and not days or weeks, it’s time to take a look at each game and predict a win or a loss.

In other words, it’s time for The Win-Loss Game.

The consensus has been a lot more wins than losses for the Steelers in 2017, and a few more wins in January. But there are a few “ifs.”

The Steelers’ offense will be just about unstoppable if Martavis Bryant can stay clean. The defense will be better if Artie Burns, Sean Davis, Javon Hargrave and T.J. Watt turn out to be good draft picks and if Ryan Shazier can stay healthy.

Some unexpected holes forced the Steelers to acquire cornerback Joe Haden, tight end Vance McDonald and safety J.J. Wilcox in last-minute moves.

The Steelers are sure to face other unforeseen hurdles in their quest to win their seventh Super Bowl, but at least they didn’t have the top overall pick in the draft and use that pick on a player who will miss the first few weeks of the season with a high-ankle sprain.

And that brings us to …

Week 1: at Cleveland

Myles Garrett will have to wait a little while before he can “chop down” Ben Roethlisberger as he vowed to do after the Browns took him with the No. 1 pick in the draft. DeShone Kizer, however, will make his debut. The Steelers didn’t fare well against rookie quarterbacks last year. Unless Kizer is another Dak Prescott or Carson Wentz, however, the Steelers should have little trouble in their season opener. Look for a pick-six from Joe Haden in his revenge game.

Steelers, 27-14 (1-0)

Week 2: Minnesota

The Steelers go from facing a rookie quarterback in Week 1 to Sam Bradford in Week 2. It won’t always be this easy. In general, the opposing quarterbacks will get tougher and tougher as the season goes on.

Steelers, 31-23 (2-0)

Week 3: at Chicago

It was Week 3 when Carson Wentz and the Eagles shredded the Steelers last season. Mitchell Trubisky probably won’t be starting by Week 3, so the Steelers should improve their all-time record at Chicago to 2-11 against Mike Glennon.

Steelers, 19-17 (3-0)

Week 4: at Baltimore

The Steelers go to Baltimore after their first 3-0 start since 2010. It was the Ravens who foiled their first 4-0 start since 1979 with a 17-14 win in Week 4. Jeremy Maclin is now paired with a quarterback who knows how to throw the ball down the field. That spells trouble for the Steelers.

Ravens, 17-16 (3-1)

Week 5: Jacksonville

The Jaguars’ defense could surprise some people this season, and they keep this game close. Let’s not forget that Blaine Gabbert and the 5-11 Jaguars came within a Hail Mary of beating the Steelers at Pittsburgh in 2011.

Steelers, 16-13 (4-1)

Week 6: at Kansas City

In the divisional playoffs at Kansas City in January, Chris Boswell kicked six field goals and the Steelers won. This year, he’ll kick seven field goals and they’ll lose. Or maybe the Steelers will just score three touchdowns.

Chiefs, 23-21 (4-2)

Week 7: Cincinnati

Marvin Lewis is entering his 15th season as the Bengals’ head coach. Yes, you read that right.

Steelers, 35-17 (5-2)

Week 8: at Detroit

From Joe Flacco to Blake Bortles to Alex Smith to Andy Dalton to Matthew Stafford. Even if the Steelers’ defense starts to fulfill its potential by this point in the season, it will have its hands full. This will just be the Steelers’ fifth trip to Detroit since Chuck Noll was hired. They’re 2-2 in the previous four with both losses coming on Thanksgiving. This will be two days before Halloween. Fans will be treated to a Sunday-night shootout.

Steelers, 43-38 (6-2)

Week 10: at Indianapolis

The Steelers will come off their bye week and face the Colts for the third straight season. In three of their last four games against them, they’ve faced Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter, Matt Hasselbeck, Charlie Whitehurst and Scott Tolzien. Andrew Luck could miss a few games to start the season, but chances are he’ll be back in time to face the Steelers for the second time in his career. The Steelers won 51-34 at Heinz Field the previous time in 2014. Get ready for another shootout.

Steelers, 41-35, OT (7-2)

Week 11: Tennessee

If Marcus Mariota proves that all the offseason hype was warranted, this will be no reprieve for the Steelers’ defense after facing Matthew Stafford and Andrew Luck. But the offense will score 40 for the third straight week on Thursday Night Football. It’s a short week for the Steelers, but they play just two more road games the rest of the season.

Steelers, 41-21 (8-2)

Week 12: Green Bay

We’ll see just how much this defense has grown when Aaron Rodgers comes to Heinz Field for a Sunday-night game. The Packers won at Pittsburgh in each of Chuck Noll’s first two seasons as Steelers coach. They’ve lost all four of their games in Pittsburgh since then, but they won’t lose this one. Including Super Bowl XLV, these teams have averaged a combined 66 points in their last three meetings.

Packers, 35-31 (8-3)

Week 13: At Cincinnati

The Steelers return to AFC North play for a couple of weeks and get a semi-breather in terms of opposing quarterbacks. This is the fourth straight year the Steelers visit Cincinnati in December. Steelers wins at Cincinnati have become just as much a part of December as egg nog and reindeer.

Steelers, 13-9 (9-3)

Week 14: Baltimore

The Steelers eliminated the Ravens from playoff contention in Week 16 last year. This win might do the job in 2017.

Steelers, 24-21 (10-3)

Week 15: New England

Unless what happened on Thursday night is the first sign of a decline, Tom Brady will be the final exam for the Steelers’ defense, at least for the regular season. The No. 1 seed in the AFC could be at stake here. The last time the Steelers beat the Patriots was the last time LaMarr Woodley had two sacks in a game. That’s how long it’s been. Once again, the Steelers will probably have to win at New England in January to get to the Super Bowl.

Patriots, 27-21 (10-4)

Week 16: at Houston

Santa Claus will deliver sacks of toys to children all over the world, and the Watt brothers will be reunited on Christmas Day. Speaking of sacks, it might be too much to ask T.J. Watt to have as many sacks this season as his big brother, J.J. Watt. But it’s realistic to expect T.J. Watt to match in his rookie season the six sacks that another J.J., Jarvis Jones, had in his entire career. The Steelers might need this game to clinch a first-round bye. They’ll have to grind out a win against this defense.

Steelers, 16-10 (11-4)

Week 17: Cleveland

Hopefully, the Steelers won’t need to win this game and we see lots of Landry Jones and James Conner. That would mean Myles Garrett might have to hope Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t retire before he gets his chance to chop him down.

Steelers, 24-7 (12-4)

Playoffs

Divisional round: Oakland

We’re going to take a stroll down Narrative Street here to create more text so it’s harder for the eye to look down and take a peek at the result.

First, the non-spoiler stuff. The Steelers finish 12-4 for the first time since 2011 and get a first-round bye in the playoffs for the first time since 2010. In this scenario, they get the No. 2 seed and host the third-seeded Raiders in the divisional round. Despite wins over both the Patriots and Steelers, the Chiefs have to settle for the No. 5 seed because the Raiders win the AFC West.

Starting with the Immaculate Reception, the Steelers and Raiders faced each other in the playoffs six times in a 12-year period, but this will be their first postseason meeting since 1983.

Let’s face it. Steelers fans are spoiled. The Steelers have had a lot of success but also a lot of breaks. The biggest break of them all was the aforementioned Immaculate Reception. It’s been 45 years since Franco Harris scooped up the ball and scored the game-winning touchdown against the Raiders to give the Steelers their first-ever playoff win, and it can be argued that the Steelers have had a legitimate shot at winning the Super Bowl in at least 30 of those seasons. This is one of those seasons.

Fueling the optimism is the fact that the Steelers have advanced one round further in the playoffs in each of the last three years. There’s also a sense that as long as Ben Roethlisberger is around it’s only a matter of time before the Steelers get back to the Super Bowl. They haven’t made it in seven years, but that still gets overshadowed by the three Super Bowl appearances they made in Roethlisberger’s first seven seasons. Among the breaks they’ve had this century is that other teams have taken care of the Patriots every year they’ve made the Super Bowl.

Will that happen again this year? It won’t matter, because the Raiders will take care of the Steelers in the divisional round. The storyline just seems too tidy and too good to be true for the Steelers to go from the wild-card game in 2014 to the divisional round in 2015 to the conference championship last season to finally conquering the Patriots and getting to the Super Bowl this season.

Heck, even the 12-4 regular-season prediction assumes that Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell stay healthy. Those are far from givens.

Ten years ago, the Steelers overcame a 28-10, third-quarter deficit only to fall to the Jaguars 31-29 in a wild-card game at Heinz Field. That Jaguars team was coached by current Raiders coach Jack Del Rio. The Raiders are a team on the rise, and as Roethlisberger again ponders his future, Steelers fans might have to come to grips with the fact that 2005, 2008 and 2010 was as good as things will get during the Roethlisberger Era.

Raiders, 28-24

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Steelers will need Le’Veon Bell if Ben Roethlisberger retires

Le’Veon Bell has generated a lot of debate over the last few months, but at this point everyone can agree that he was a steal in the second round of the 2013 draft.

However, the Steelers might have been too smart for their own good when they used the 48th pick on Bell. It’s nice to have the best running back in the NFL, but it creates a sink-or-swim situation.

Bell has helped make the Steelers championship contenders, but he hasn’t finished any of the last three seasons healthy. When he’s gone down the Steelers’ title hopes have gone down with him.

If the Steelers had more of a committee approach at running back, they wouldn’t be so dependent on Bell. On the other hand, who knows if two or three running backs can average 157 all-purpose yards per game like Bell did last year. That’s the third-highest average for a running back in NFL history.

Bell’s pay in 2017 will reflect that when he signs his franchise tender. He’ll make $12.1 million, more than any other running back. He could get a lot more than that on the open market if he remains healthy for as long as the Steelers play this season.

In a perfect world, the Steelers would play until Feb. 4 and win Super Bowl LII. Then they could set themselves up for the same kind of sustained success the Patriots have enjoyed by letting another team give Bell the megadeal he wants and start building a running back committee with James Conner as the first building block.

Sure, the Patriots won the Super Bowl last year with LeGarrette Blount running the ball 299 times for 1,161 yards and a league-leading 18 touchdowns. But James White was the man in the Super Bowl, and the Patriots already have re-made their backfield by letting Blount go in free agency and adding Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee.

Just about any backfield philosophy can work when Tom Brady is your quarterback, and it seems like Brady can play forever.

It doesn’t look like Ben Roethlisberger will play forever, though, and that’s why running Bell into the ground this year and letting him become a free agent might not be wise.

There was a lot of optimism about the Steelers’ championship prospects heading into this season, but their defensive showing during the preseason has tempered those expectations.

Whether the Steelers win the Super Bowl or not, it wouldn’t be entirely surprising if Roethlisberger retires after the 2017 season. If that happens and Bell leaves in free agency, an offense that’s supposed to be lighting up scoreboards will barely be able to light a match. The Big Three of Roethlisberger, Bell and Antonio Brown would become The Big One, and Brown has caught just 24 passes with no touchdowns in five games without Roethlisberger since 2015.

Unless Landry Jones or Joshua Dobbs are ready to sit at the grown-ups table if and when Roethlisberger retires, the Steelers’ offense will have to revolve around Bell until they find their next franchise quarterback.

Even though Roethlisberger is signed through 2019, it’s hard to see him playing three more years the way he’s been flirting with retirement. The Steelers are 2-3 in the five meaningful games Roethlisberger has missed over the last two seasons. Their championship window would slam shut if he retires without a ready-made successor, but Bell would at least give the Steelers a shot at respectability in a post-Roethlisberger world.

If it weren’t for Bell, the Steelers would have been no better than 1-4 in those games without Roethlisberger. He single-handedly won the game in Week 5 at San Diego in 2015 with his goal-line stretch out of the wildcat as time ran out.

The Steelers seemed to recognize Bell’s importance when they offered him a five-year contract worth more than $12 million a year before the July 17 deadline. Bell turned down that deal, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, because as he expressed in a rap song last year he wants $15 million a year.

A player who has been suspended twice, sits out the preseason and raps his contract demands isn’t exactly face-of-the-franchise material. But without Roethlisberger, the Steelers won’t have a quarterback who’s worth the industry standard of $20 million a year. It would free up the cash to give Bell the money he wants. It would be an expensive pill to swallow, a pill that wouldn’t ease the headaches that Bell would probably still cause.

Since Roethlisberger won’t commit to more than a year at a time, the Steelers can’t base their plans for Bell on Roethlisberger. They just have to realize that at this time, they’re not prepared for life without both of them.

Follow Mike @Steel_Tweets.

Six former Steelers we didn’t know were still in the NFL

How many times have you heard an NFL player’s name and thought to yourself, “I didn’t know he was still in the league.”

It turns out there are plenty of former Steelers who are now toiling in obscurity for other teams. It’s not like the Steelers made a mistake letting any of these guys get away, but considering their lack of an impact in Pittsburgh it’s hard to believe they’re still getting an NFL paycheck.

Tony Hills

Who would have thought that the last remaining member of the Steelers’ 2008 draft class would be Tony Hills?

An offensive tackle drafted in the fourth round, Hills signed with the Lions this month. Left tackle Taylor Decker could be out for most of the season after a standout rookie year, and the Lions are bringing in just about any live body they can to create a competition to replace Decker.

The Lions, according to MLive.com, are Hills’ 11th team. He’s only appeared in games for five of his previous 10 teams. He didn’t get on the field for the Steelers until 2010, when he played in four games. Hills played in one game for the Broncos in 2011 and made his only career start for the Colts in 2012. He was a Cowboy in 2014 and made it into 19 games for the Saints in 2015 and 2016.

The Steelers needed offensive line help in the 2008 draft, but chose Rashard Mendenhall after he unexpectedly dropped to No. 23 in the first round. Then they thought they were getting a steal in the second round when they drafted Limas Sweed. He was a flat-out bust. In the third round, they were enamored with linebacker Bruce Davis and his 24.5 combined sacks at UCLA in 2006 and 2007. He never started a game in his four-year career.

The 32-year-old Hills has outlasted them all and holds the torch for the Steelers’ worst draft of the Kevin Colbert era.

Evander Hood

Evander “Ziggy” Hood wasn’t exactly a bust, at least not as much of a bust as Jarvis Jones. Hood had 11.5 sacks in five years for the Steelers while Jones, who’s now a Cardinal, had six in four years.

Hood never missed a game during his Steelers career. He was drafted with the last pick in the first round in 2009. He started 30 games in 2011 and 2012, but was never anything special.

Two years after drafting Hood, the Steelers drafted another defensive lineman late in the first round and that time got it right. Cameron Heyward eventually made Hood expendable and in 2014 Hood signed with the Jaguars. He faded into oblivion after going on injured reserve in 2015 and getting released. Hood caught on with the Bears in 2015 and appeared in two games, then landed with the Redskins last season.

Hood played in the season opener last year against the Steelers and started 14 games. Despite being one of the worst run defenders in the league last year according to Pro Football Focus (h/t Rotoworld), Hood was re-signed for another year.

A first-round draft pick needs to be more prominent than Hood has been less than a decade later.

A.Q. Shipley

The Steelers knocked it out of the park when they drafted Maurkice Pouncey in 2010, but the only other center drafted by Mike Tomlin also was a starter in the NFL last season even if his journey to a starting job was a lot longer than Pouncey’s.

A.Q. Shipley was drafted in the seventh round by the Steelers out of Penn State in 2009. His short arms, which are less than 30 inches long, is one of the reasons he lasted that long, and that “short-armed” label has followed Shipley throughout his career.

Shipley spent 2009 on the practice squad before the Eagles picked him up and put him on their practice squad in 2010 and 2011. He finally got on the field with the Colts in 2012. He was traded to the Ravens in 2013 then picked up by the Colts after the Ravens released him in 2014.

As he is wont to do, Bruce Arians picked up a former Steeler when the Cardinals signed Shipley in 2015. He won the starting job in 2016 and played all but five snaps.

The 31-year-old’s performance earned him a two-year contract. If he plays for another year or two like he did last year, it will be hard to forget he’s still in the league.

Chris Scott

Not only is it easy to forget that Chris Scott is in the NFL, it’s easy to forget he was ever a Steeler.

The Steelers drafted the guard in the fifth round in 2010 out of Tennessee.

Scott played in two games, both on special teams, in 2011 and was released that season. He surfaced with the Bills in 2012 and has been with the Panthers since 2013. He started eight games that year and four last season.

The Steelers really didn’t need Scott because his former teammate, Ramon Foster, has worked out just fine at guard after going undrafted in 2009.

Chris Carter

Chris Carter‘s most memorable play as a Steeler is one he didn’t make.

A linebacker taken in the fifth round of the 2011 draft, Carter started the first three games of the 2012 season in place of James Harrison, who was recovering from knee surgery. In Week 3 at Oakland, he could have intercepted a Carson Palmer pass in Raiders territory with a legitimate shot at a pick-six, but the ball bounced off his hands. The Raiders, who finished 4-12 that year, won the game 34-31.

The Steelers finished 8-8 that season, two games out of a playoff spot. Had Carter held onto that pass, it doesn’t necessarily mean the Steelers would have made the playoffs. It probably would have changed his history more than the Steelers’, because he’s still looking for his first interception. And his first sack.

Carter was released before the 2014 season and since then has played primarily special teams for the Colts, Bengals and Ravens. A player termed “Von Miller Lite” by Rotoworld when he was drafted could only get a one-year deal with the Redskins for 2017.

B.W. Webb

B.W. Webb was a fringe player on the 2014 Steelers, and he’s still hanging on in the NFL.

The cornerback wasn’t good enough to crack the rotation of a secondary that ranked 27th against the pass. He played just four snaps on defense that year and 35 on special teams.

A fourth-round pick by the Cowboys in 2013, Webb will play for his fifth team in five years this season. He has two career interceptions, one with the Titans in 2015 and one with the Saints last year. He also broke up 11 passes last season after breaking up just three in his career before that.

Webb was signed as a free agent by another defensively challenged team, the Bears. It’s the first time since 2013 that he’s joining a new team in the spring instead of being picked up after getting cut just before the season.

It would be nice to think that every cornerback that makes the Steelers’ 53-man roster this year is better than Webb, but considering the riff-raff that has populated that position in recent years, that’s not a guarantee.

Follow Mike @Steel_Tweets.

 

Steelers 2017 draft report card

The 2017 NFL draft is in the books, and the report cards are in.

This is the first time the Steelers’ 2017 draft will be graded. It could take five years or longer before we can give this draft a final grade in ink.

Based on what we know know, these grades are penciled in for each individual pick and the Steelers’ overall draft.

(NFL.com, NFL Draft Scout and Pro Football Focus were used for scouting information.)

Round 1 (No. 30)

T.J. Watt, OLB, Wisconsin

The Steelers go defense in the first round for the fifth straight year, tapping into the Watt bloodlines and drafting T.J. Watt. The younger brother of J.J. Watt had 11.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss in 2016. The bad news is that was Watt’s only injury-free season at Wisconsin. A converted tight end, the 6’4″, 252-pound Watt missed the 2014 season after having surgery on his right knee, then injured his left knee in the spring of 2015 and had just seven total tackles, 1.5 sacks and two passes defended. In his breakout 2016 season, Watt had a 17-yard pick-six, four passes defended, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He placed in the top three among outside linebackers at the combine in the vertical leap, broad jump, 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle. He was the top outside linebacker in the 60-yard shuttle. Is he a workout warrior? Is he a one-year wonder? We do know he’s a hard worker and a team player, and if he takes those traits into the NFL he’ll have a chance to become a finished product.

Grade: B

Round 2 (No. 62)

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC

Not surprisingly, the Steelers make a “We don’t trust Martavis Bryant” pick. It is a little surprising, however, that they drafted a receiver this early. Even though Bryant’s been reinstated, the Steelers keep the supply lines moving at wide receiver with JuJu Smith-Schuster. It’s the fifth year in a row the Steelers have drafted a receiver, but the first time they’ve taken one in the second round since Limas Sweed in 2008. How’d that go? The Steelers must really like Smith-Schuster if they put their need for a cornerback on hold to take him. He has the potential to be a bigger, more physical version of Eli Rogers.

Grade: B

Round 3 (No. 94)

Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee

The Steelers had to get a cornerback in an early round. They need cornerbacks who can cover man-to-man, and Sutton can do that. He intercepted seven passes and broke up 30 in four years at Tennessee. He also made 13 tackles for loss even though he’s not the most physical tackler. Run support isn’t his strength. Then again, Artie Burns wasn’t strong against the run and his career is off to a nice start. Sutton was durable in his first three years at Tennessee then missed six games with an ankle injury last season. He recovered enough to impress at the Senior Bowl. NFL.com’s comparison to B.W. Webb is a little bothersome. Webb has played for four teams in four seasons. Sutton had career highs in interceptions (three) and passes defended (13) in 2014. The Steelers better hope that wasn’t his peak.

Grade: C-plus

Round 3 (No. 105)

James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh

James Conner was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in December of 2015, overcame it and returned to rush for 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. The 6’1″, 233-pound Conner broke Tony Dorsett‘s school record for touchdowns in a single season with 26 in 2014. Conner ran for 1,765 yards that year. The first player the Steelers have drafted out of Pittsburgh since Hank Poteat in the third round of the 2000 draft, Conner is a physical runner who’s hard to bring down. He has a chance to fill the Steelers’ need for a productive backup to Le’Veon Bell or be part of a committee behind him.

Grade: A-minus

Round 4 (No. 135)

Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennessee

The Steelers need to start investing in quarterbacks, because whether or not Ben Roethlisberger retires will be the hot topic every February and March until he actually does retire. The 6’3″, 216-pound Dobbs has the huddle presence and intelligence (he majored in aerospace engineering) that teams want in a quarterback, and he can work through his progressions. Not every rookie quarterback can do that. Dobbs threw 42 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions in his two years as a starter. His yards per attempt went from 6.7 in 2015 to 8.3 last season. He also ran for 1,502 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2015 and 2016. Dobbs uses his feet fine when he runs with the ball, but his footwork and passing technique are the reason he’s pegged as a developmental quarterback with a ceiling as a backup in the NFL.

Grade: B-minus

Round 5 (No. 173)

Brian Allen, CB, Utah

This is the sixth time the Steelers have drafted a cornerback in the fifth round since Mike Tomlin became head coach in 2007. The only one that has worked out is William Gay, who was drafted in 2007. Will Brad Allen be the latest in a long line of fifth-round busts that includes Joe Burnett, Crezdon Butler, Terry Hawthorne and Shaquille Richardson? The 215-pound Brian Allen is one of just four 6’3″ cornerbacks in the draft class. He had four interceptions and six passes defended last year, but he only started playing defense in 2014 and is still raw.

Grade: C

Round 6 (No. 213)

Colin Holba, LS, Louisville

Colin Holba must be a damn good long snapper if the Steelers drafted him. But he is just a long snapper. How about a tight end? How about some offensive line depth? How about another cornerback dart throw? For this pick to be worth it, Holba will need to be a reliable long snapper for the next decade after Greg Warren retires.

Grade: D

Round 7 (No. 248)

Keion Adams, OLB, Western Michigan

The Steelers double up on their two biggest needs, taking two cornerbacks and two outside linebackers. The 6’2″, 245-pound Adams had 7.5 sacks, 18 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles in 2016. He’s a seventh-round pick for a reason, however, and he’ll have to make an impression on special teams to make the Steelers as a rookie. The grading curve gets a little easier for late-round picks.

Grade: B

OVERALL

The Steelers covered a lot of bases in this draft. Half of their picks were used on their biggest need, outside linebacker and cornerback. They drafted a wide receiver because even though they have Martavis Bryant back, the depth chart consists of Antonio Brown, Bryant and a bunch of fourth and fifth receivers trying to fill the No. 3 role.

James Conner can compete with Knile Davis as Le’Veon Bell’s relief pitcher. If the Steelers get for an entire season what they got from Bell in the second half of last season, they can think about a first-round playoff bye. But Bell needs to be healthy for the playoffs and needs a breather every now and then.

Joshua Dobbs is the fourth quarterback the Steelers have drafted since they drafted Ben Roethlisberger and the first since Landry Jones, who was also taken in the fourth round in 2013. The best the Steelers can hope for in 2016 is that Dobbs turns out to be a better No. 3 quarterback than Zach Mettenberger.

It would have been nice to see a cornerback drafted a little earlier and someone who plays offense or defense drafted instead of a long snapper.

Grade: B-minus

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