It’s game day, and there’s no better way to get an inside scoop on the Pittsburgh Steelers than to go to someone who is an expert on the black and yellow.
That’s why I asked Craig Gottschalk of Nice Pick Cowher about the Steelers’ biggest weakness, their injury concerns, and how far this team is expected to go in the playoffs.
Now let’s go Inside the Villain’s Venue with Nice Pick Cowher.
Q: The Steelers are a hobbled bunch right now. Does that concern you heading into the team’s first playoff game?
A: The only one that concerns me is Roesthlisberger and his ankle. The guy can fight through just about any injury. But I think that even a high ankle sprain is a bit too much for him to fight through. It’s preventing him from scrambling and stepping into his throws. That’s a huge problem as we say in the San Fran game and even the game against the Browns. It’s been reported this week that he may have tweaked it a bit more on Sunday against the Browns. Hopefully, he’s able to heal up better this week and hasn’t tweaked it to the point of being worse off than before the Browns’ game. I think the rest of the team can overcome all the other injuries in each area. As Mike Tomlin always puts it – the Steelers don’t have backups, just ‘starters in waiting.’
Q: It’s obvious that the Broncos are essentially playing with one hand tied behind their back offensively without a passing game. The Steelers are No. 1 against the pass. Have there been any teams that have been able to thrive against your secondary this season, and how did they do it?
A: Not really. The Ravens are about the only ones who have had the most success as far as an ‘overall’ passing game. And, most of that came from week 1. The thing that is concerning is that the Ravens were able to use the passing game at the end of their second venture against the Steelers and win it in the final moments of that game. But, everyone including myself attributed that to some poor coaching decisions by LeBeau.
Q: Fill in the blank. The Steelers biggest weakness is _________.
A: Lack of fullback. It’s obvious to say the offensive line. But I think it’s taken an entire season to see the true value of having a full back. Just about any team that has a traditional one has better rushing stats than teams that don’t. David Johnson is a fine player and is managing this dual role of TE/FB. But, he is more of TE than FB. His pursuit of a block isn’t as good as what a traditional FB has. He’s getting better, but it’s hurt not just Mendenhall’s numbers, but the entire running game as a whole.
Q: How far do you think the Steelers will go in the playoffs this year?
A: I think they make it to at least the AFC Championship game. The Steelers will go to the Pats, unless the Bengals can beat the Texans. They’ve beaten the Pats once this season and have everyone in place to do it again to advance to the AFCC game. It also depends on Ben’s ankle. The defense may be #1, but if the offense can’t produce any points then what’s the point? I would love for them to make it to the Super Bowl and rematch the Packers (let’s face it, those guys are too good, although they could lose to the Saints or Giants). It will just depend on how the offense performs each weekend.
Q: What’s your prediction for Sunday’s game?
A: The Steelers D will have Tebow’s number, but not until after the 1st quarter. I think the Broncos actually jump out to a lead at first, but then the D will clamp down and the offense will start scoring points little by little. It won’t be pretty for either team. I think Tebow will have a point in the 2nd half where he will have a critical drive that could turn the game and momentum, but will fall short.
Steelers – 24 Broncos – 13.