Steelers are serious dark horse Super Bowl contenders

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 5-0 and off to their best start since the 1978 season.

It’s been more than 40 years since this proud franchise won its first five games. And in a division that features the 5-1 Baltimore Ravens and the 4-2 Cleveland Browns, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been perfect to date — even if they haven’t looked dominant throughout the year.

But on Sunday, Mike Tomlin’s club sent a bigtime message within the AFC North in terms of the style of football they are capable of playing. The Steelers scored 38 points and gained only 277 yards of total offense. Keith Butler’s defensive unit mauled Browns’ quarterback Baker Mayfield to the tune of four sacks and two interceptions — the first returned 33 yards for a score by safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. The club held the league’s top rushing attack to just 75 yards on 22 attempts.

Meanwhile, James Conner hit the century mark once again, totaling 20 carries for 101 yards and one score. Rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool and improving wideout James Washington scored on the ground and through the air, respectively. Veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for only 162 yards and one score. But for the second time in three games, Tomlin’s team did not turn over the football.

Could suffocating defense be enough to carry the Steelers to the Super Bowl?

It’s safe to say that this is a formula for success. Of course, five games is still a small sample size. The Steelers have had the benefit of playing their last four games at home, for what that is worth in today’s NFL. Starting Sunday, the Black and Gold hit the road for three straight weeks against the equally 5-0 Titans, Ravens and Cowboys, respectively.

The front seven is loaded with Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt and outside linebackers T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree. The latter had two of the club’s four sacks vs. the Browns. But the news wasn’t all good as second-year inside linebacker Devin Bush, who reportedly tore his ACL (via Pro Football Talk’s Josh Alper) and is expected to miss the rest of 2020. That’s sobering news for a team getting ready to face Titans’ workhorse Derrick Henry on Sunday.

In 2018, Roethlisberger led the NFL in passing yards and the club spiraled out of the control and missed the playoffs after a 7-2-1 start. These Steelers have rediscovered a true winning formula — defense and a balanced and efficient attack. The next three weeks will tell everyone a lot. But the foundation is being built in terms of a championship campaign.

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