After watching all three opposing AFC North teams win their respective games while the Pittsburgh Steelers were on a bye in Week 6, we needed some encouraging news. This team was decimated by injuries early in the season. Back in Week 1, Diontae Johnson and Cameron Heyward both landed on IR with soft tissue injuries, and we have felt the impact of these losses early in the season.
Fortunately, we learned early this week that the Steelers are getting back most of their injured players. According to Brooke Pryof of ESPN, tight end Pat Freiermuth is expected to play in Week 7 against the Los Angeles Rams. Meanwhile, DeMarvin Leal has cleared concussion protocol and Dan Moore Jr. is returning from an MCL sprain.
In addition, Diontae Johnson recently insisted that he will be ready to go against the Rams this week. It's also encouraging that we might only be a few weeks out from a Cameron Heyward return as well.
The Steelers are finally starting to get healthy, and these additions could certainly prove to help the team. Sadly, all of the good health in the world won't matter if Pittsburgh intends to move forward with its outdated game plan.
Steelers current game plan cannot win them a Super Bowl
I've been stressing for years now that the Pittsburgh Steelers need to get with the times and change their winning philosophy. It's naive to believe that an NFL team today can simply play good defense and limit risks on offense well enough to become Super Bowl champions.
This approach may only work if the team that tries to execute this plan is overflowing with talent (i.e. the San Francisco 49ers). Sadly, the Steelers have numerous glaring holes on both sides of the football, and there's no reason to expect big changes after the bye week.
After electing to make no significant coaching or personnel changes during the Week 6 bye, we shouldn't expect much to change for Pittsburgh in this long stretch of the season. Entering Week 7, the Steelers have managed just 12.4 offensive points per game when trying to play conservative football.
Admittedly, their approach has been good enough to get them to a 3-2 record so far on the season. However, this came on the backs of their defensive stars, as Pittsburgh scored two touchdowns on defense and made clutch plays in the waning moments of the game.
Without these plays, this team could very easily be 1-4 right now. In fact, if you just look at how the Steelers have been performing on paper, a record this poor would make sense.
We have seen in the past that playing ball-control offense with a tough defense can get a team to a winning record. It might even be good enough for a playoff appearance. However, there is no evidence to suggest that this is a winning formula when it comes to legitimately competing for a Super Bowl.
It's great that the Steelers are finally getting healthy, and getting some of their starting players back will no doubt give them a boost. Unfortunately, as long the coaching staff remains inadequate and the game plan doesn't change, neither should we expect a significant change from one of the most underwhelming teams in the NFL.