We are nearly three months into the 2017 fiscal year for the National Football League. It’s safe to say we have seen plenty of player movement via free agency and trades. And in late April, a total of 253 players were selected in the NFL draft. So as teams get ready for mini-camps and OTAs, we figured it was a good time to have some fun looking (and learning) at the significant numbers – both in regards to the past and the present – for each of the 32 franchises. You can play catch-up by clicking here. Now it’s time to check out the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Only Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (107) caught more passes than Pittsburgh Steelers’ playmaker Antonio Brown (106) in ‘16. It marked the fourth consecutive season that the All-Pro performer reached the century mark when it came to receptions. The seven-year pro is in the midst of a remarkable run. Dating back to 2013, the former Western Michigan product has totaled a combined 481 grabs for 6,315 yards and 43 scores in 63 regular-season games. He’s the clear leader of a wideout corps that may be the NFL’s best. Along with Brown, the Steelers feature Martavis Bryant, Eli Rogers, Sammie Coates, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Demarcus Ayers. And there’s now free-agent newcomer Justin Hunter (Buffalo Bills) and rookie Juju Smith-Schuster (2-USC).
When the regular season was over, the Steelers looked like an improved team on the defensive side of the ball (although you may dispute that given the loss to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the AFC title game). But youth would eventually be served on this side of the ball. The club’s top three draft choices in 2016 – cornerback Artie Burns, strong safety Sean Davis and nose tackle Javon Hargrave – all worked their way into the starting lineup slowly but surely. And the numbers for this team got better as the season wore on. During the club’s shaky 4-5 start, Pittsburgh totaled just 13 sacks and forced only 10 turnovers. But during the team’s last seven regular-season outings, there were an impressive 25 sacks, to go along with 13 takeaways.
It’s not the number of prolific quarterback Ben Roethlisberger that is the focus here. Rather, the fact that head coach Mike Tomlin is entering his 11th season as the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He owns a 103-57 regular-season record in 10 campaigns. The team has reached the playoffs each of the past three years and a total of seven times under his command. He owns a so-so 8-6 mark in the postseason which has seemingly made him the target of criticism from some. Warranted or not, he begins his second decade on the job with a talented team capable of making a third Super Bowl appearance under his guidance.