If you know me, or have ever seen my shoes from the other end of campus, you’re probably aware I’m a Broncos fan. Since my team failed to make the playoffs this year, Ive struggled with who to root for, and with who I think will realistically win it all.
The Packers are supposedly the hottest team with the hottest quarterback. The Patriots are always hard to bet against, particularly due to their coaching. The Cowboys look like a ground-based team built for the playoffs. The Chiefs front office has finally mustered a true contender. The Falcons have a nightmarishly potent offensive aerial attack. And you can never count the Seahawks out.
None of these teams, however, will win it all.
The Steelers possess every quality mentioned. They have won their last eight (one more than the “hot” Packers), and Big Ben would’ve had a legitimately perfect first half against the Dolphins if not for his best receiver tipping a pass that led to an interception.
Mike Tomlin has adapted and adjusted brilliantly during the eight-game run. Le’Veon Bell has been unstoppable since his return in week four.
The Steelers have improved on defense all year. Antonio Brown looked like a man possessed in the Wild Card game against the Dolphins, and has been one of the best receivers in the game for four years now. Even while resting all three of their stars in Week 17 against the win-desperate Browns, the Steelers managed an overtime touchdown to win the game.
So who stands in their way?
First up is a meeting with the Chiefs in Arrowhead. The Steelers managed to embarrass the Chiefs earlier this year, but this game will be more tightly contested. Still, the Steelers appear to know how to beat this Chiefs team, and their hard-nosed run game will be tough for the Chiefs to stop.
Most likely the Black and Gold would then head to New England, for an extremely tough game. The Steelers would have to win this game on defense and stop Tom Brady. Without Gronk, Brady will need to rely on his receivers. If the Steelers cornerbacks can prevent big plays, their offense can certainly put up enough points to win the game.
This leaves the Super Bowl.
The Steelers narrowly lost to the NFC-leading Cowboys in Week 10, 35-30. They took the lead with a minute left on a fake-spike, and then gave the lead right back on a long Ezekiel Elliot run. If they had instead methodically drove the remaining 20 yards of the field, they may have won that game, and they could certainly win a rematch.
The Falcons have a bottom-five pass defense, and couldn’t stop the Steelers’ offense.
The Seahawks would present an interesting challenge for the Steelers, but without their free safety Earl Thomas, they would certainly have trouble stopping Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell out of the backfield.
And finally, the Packers.
The Packers would certainly give the Steelers an incredible offensive duel, but their second-worst pass defense would—like the Falcons—be unable to stop the Steelers.
In any case, I think the Steelers’ hardest game would be the AFC Championship game. You heard it here first, they will win it all this year.