I'm hesitant to even write about this topic for fear that my treatment of the subject will doom my other Pittsburgh sports love for the remainder of the season. If Sidney Crosby blows out his knee tomorrow night, it's all my fault.
One of the most interesting things about the Year of Champions was the close camaraderie between Pittsburgh's championship teams last year. From Max Talbot becoming a full-on Steeler fan to Casey Hampton sitting at center ice to Ray Shero and Kevin Colbert cheering each other on, the Penguins/Steelers crossover was something to behold.
There is no evidence that the Steelers are capable of running the table and securing a wild card spot. It's possible if they start to come together, but if there's evidence for anything it's that this team is about to split apart.
I'm not jumping off the bandwagon. This team is consistently "close" to being good enough, which still doesn't cut it. But sometimes all it takes is for a switch to flip and a team will go on a roll. I'd feel better about that idea if the team was mentally healthy.
Will this team remember that they're a band of brothers before it's too late?
It started to happen at the end of last season. The much-maligned, rag-tag Steelers' offensive line started to come together a little bit. First, it was a dominant run blocking performance against the Chargers in the playoffs. Next, it was a respectable outing against the always-tough Ravens in the AFC Championship Game. Finally, it was timely play to help win Super Bowl XLIII.
The good news is, the Steelers overcame a quick stumble out of the gate and enter the bye week at 5-2, which is good enough for a share of the AFC North lead. An undefeated October has propelled them into AFC relevance after they dropped winnable games to the Bears and Bengals.
For the past 23 games or so, the main article section of Monday Evening Quarterback has been predominantly focused on the Steelers' offense, and rightfully so. In that time frame, the defense deserved very little criticism, while the offense typically struggled.
A strong trust had developed. The offense could commit whatever atrocities they pleased and the defense would swoop in like a band of "cleaners," mopping up the blood and destroying the evidence. That unwavering trust is officially gone, especially late in games.