Their 21-0 pasting of the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday with three Pro Bowlers on the bench certainly showed that the Steelers are a team to be mentioned among the top ones in the NFL.
But, not to spoil any early Super Bowl plans, the following are an attempt to keep everything in perspective:
n The fast start was predicted by many because of the Steelers’ early-season schedule. With three home games among the first five and two road games against teams with 2006 losing records, some suggested a 5-0 start was possible.
Two of the Steelers wins came against NFC teams that had to travel from the West Coast, and another win came against a banged-up Buffalo Bills team.
They were also able to play in Cleveland while the Browns still had Charlie Frye as their quarterback.
The toughest assignment the Steelers had to date — playing in Arizona — they lost.
n The Steelers play in the same conference with the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts.
If the Steelers were in the NFC, it would give people a better reason for hope. But as good as the Steelers have looked at times, they are still not quite at the level of the Patriots and Colts.
Ultimately, they’ll have to continue to improve because they may have to beat both of those juggernauts on the road in January to reach Super Bowl XLII.
n The Steelers’ schedule gets increasingly difficult after the bye, starting with a game in Denver against a Broncos team that will have much to prove after getting crushed last Sunday by San Diego.
The Steelers also still have two games each with division rivals Baltimore and Cincinnati, as well as one in New England. A home game with Jacksonville won’t be an easy task, either.
They also have a game in St. Louis, which is 0-5 now but will be in better shape health-wise by mid-December.
n The Steelers’ offensive line needs to get better. The unit has done a good job and has exceeded expectations, but it can’t rest on its laurels.
Too many times, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has had to shake off pass rushers. He’s done a good job of it, but sooner or later he’s going to take a big hit. The running game has also been fine but usually takes at least a quarter in games to get going.
The Steelers have every reason to feel good entering their bye week, but for reasons such as the above, they need to be reminded they really haven’t accomplished much yet.
NFL Week No. 6
Game of the week: New England (5-0) at Dallas (5-0), 4:15 p.m. Sunday (CBS).
Upset special: Washington (+5 1/2) at Green Bay.
Fantasy tip: With Atlanta at home Monday night against a soft Giants defense, it may be a good week to start some Falcons offensive players.
Buck Frank can be reached at 946-7461 or firstname.lastname@example.org.