Rarely are seasons made by Week Seven, but that might've been the case had the Steelers not taken advantage against the Ravens on Sunday. They did, creating 2013's first winning streak which coincided with an evening up of the loss columns with Baltimore and Cleveland. A horrible punt by the Lions gave the game to Cincinnati keeping the Bengals up on everyone in the division. But the Steelers' first divisional win helps knot things up as much as we could've hoped after the 0-4 start.
There will be a school of thought among fans that blames the defense for giving up a late TD in a critical spot to allow the tying score…I will not be among those. That was the first TD given up in nearly eight flawless quarters dating back to late September against the Vikings. The timing of it stunk, but I can forgive them for giving up only five FGs in the previous seven+ quarters.
Ben: Only 160 yards passing but done so on 17 of 23 passing. And that neat little shovel pass TD to Heath Miller early in the game. Ben did damage on the ground, picking up 25 yards on three carries with a long of 19 that made him look about six seasons younger. It was a second straight game for Ben without a turnover, something that desperately needed to happen coming out of the bye week. He was one of the only bright spots on the team through four games, and that was with plenty of turnovers. Cutting down on those really streamlines his efficiency. Bits like that really help him stand out even when his glory stats aren't otherworldly. 4 of 5 motorcycle helmets.
Le'veon Bell: The Steelers were averaging 61 yards rushing a game this season before Le'veon Bell saw that number and tackled an addition 50% on for 93 yards on the ground against the Ravens. It's a sign of progress towards an eventual 100-yard game…something the Steelers haven't had in a while. Upwards trends are always appreciated. Le'veon looked rather comfortable running the wildcat/read-option with Ben flanked out wide and Antonio Brown motioning towards the snap. Having a talent like Bell really highlights just how junky the options were when you basically settled on Redman, Dwyer and whoever-else junking it up in preseason. Guys like Dwyer and Felix Jones came through in big spots on Sunday, but Bell is showing why he's the guy. 4 of 5 motorcycle helmets.
Defense: Continuing my thought from above, for as much as the defense was problem number one in losses to the Bears and Vikings, they've rebounded nicely against the Jets and Ravens. Two FGs allowed to the former and 3 to the latter before the late Ravens TD drive. Sure, last week's two forced turnovers stands out as the exception to the rule with the Steelers not taking a ball away against Baltimore, but no harm no foul when you win. Ray Rice was mostly held in check…45 yards on the ground and 37 via the air. I'll take a point off for that late TD drive because I'm rational, but I do so with great prejudice. 3.5 of 5 helmets.
Suisham: He's now 14 of 14 on the season, including Sunday's game-winner. Yes, the offense has settled for FGs more often than we all would like, but Suisham isn't missing when given a go and points are critical in tight games like those against the Ravens. He more than covered for that late Baltimore TD. 4 of 4 on FGs, 5 of 4 motorcycle helmets in the MMCNY recap. Don't try to figure it out you'll give yourself a headache.
Steelers fly out to California to face the Raiders next week, and such games have usually been a thorn in the side of consistency for Pittsburgh. Cincy's win over the Lions means the room for error is still exceptionally thin.
(thanks to Doug for the banner pic)