Here are four words that every NFL fan loves to hear; “the preseason is over.” Here are four even more important words for fans of the Black and Gold; “the Steelers are healthy.” With the preseason gone and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ key players in good health, this team is ready for a quick start and that’s exactly what Mike Tomlin wanted.
The combination of little preseason game action for guys like Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and DeAngelo Williams and wanting to get a hot start was not just something that “happened.” If you look back over the last five seasons under Tomlin, his charges have never started the first quarter of the season better than .500.
Steelers’ First Four Games Over the Last Five Seasons
2015 2-2 (Final record 10-6)
2014 2-2 (Final record 11-5)
2013 0-4 (Final record 8-8)
2012 2-2 (Final record 8-8)
2011 2-2 (Final record 12-4)
During this five year stretch of relatively futile starts there are of course other factors to consider. Strength of opponents… Injuries to key players and suspensions… But at the end of the day few people take those things into consideration.
Mike Tomlin wouldn’t make excuses for starting 2-2 or worse in the last five years and we aren’t going to either. This season the Steelers will start the first quarter of their four quarter journey with three playoff teams from last season and two games at home and two on the road.
While Tomlin has rested his top players in the preseason before, there’s no question that this season has been the most rest they’ve ever gotten. The three guys mentioned above plus Le’Veon Bell who will miss the first three games due to suspension, saw action in just one game of the preseason.
The potential downside to Tomlin’s plan is that these guys could be rusty and trust me, fans will be waiting to jump on this if it becomes the case in week one. The good news is that in limited action against New Orleans, Big Ben and AB looked like they hadn’t missed a beat. That was all Tomlin needed to see and for the time being, made his master plan look good.
We already know the Steelers can finish well and that is typically more important than how you start. Coach Tomlin would like to see success in all phases however and in a month, we’ll know whether the plan has paid off.